MasterShift: Gearshift software wins top award

By Sam Logan: 

MasterShift, bump-shifting, SEMA show, paddle shifter systemMasterShift, a Fallbrook, California company won this year’s SEMA Best Engineered New Product award for their innovative manual electronic paddle/bump-shifter system.

These systems operate on most vehicles particularly street machines, track-day cars, road race and drag race vehicles. The system MasterShift displayed at the 2012 exhibition was designed for the new Tremec T-56 Magnum.

In bump-shifting, which is described as sequential electronic shifting, the driver simply pulls a lever backwards to up-shift or pushes it forward to downshift. According to Louis Zember, head of MasterShift, “This concept, which uses the clutch pedal to activate the shift, appeals to those who enjoy reaching forward and grabbing a lever.”

In contrast, the higher-tech paddle shifter replaces the gear lever, which is removed entirely, and the gear changes are performed on the steering wheel. The chief advantage is obvious: it allows drivers to maintain both hands on the wheel at all times. It also performs gear shifts on manual and automatic transmissions faster. The average shift time is 250 milliseconds (one quarter second) to 350 milliseconds, and because it is electronically controlled it always shifts to the correct gear. Like the bump shifter, the paddle mechanism relies on clutch operation with each shift.

Best Engineered New Product, MasterShift paddleThe installation usually involves placing the electronic controller like Microplex in the trunk away from any heat source and running the cables from it to the shift lever on the transmission. The controller contains the electronics and the gear-driven motor. Automatic transmissions use a smaller controller with one motor. Manual transmissions use two motors to power the gear selection longitudinally (through the fore and aft gates) and laterally (through the neutral gate). Additionally, Mastershift’s kit easily adapts to any existing cable-driven system.

These systems do not require any internal modifications to the transmission and still use the factory clutch to retain full control of power to the wheels. Furthermore, both manual and automatic systems feature safety measures that protect the engine from over revving and isolate the transmission from severe shock loadings. In addition, a safety device prevents the engagement of reverse gear (or Park) unless the vehicle is completely stopped.

MasterShift already has paddle shifter kits available for Tremec’s T-56, T-56 Magnum, TR-3650, TKO, T-5 and most cable-shifted transmissions as well as all automatic transmissions— electronic and non-electronic.

Currently working in conjunction with Pratt & Miller, they are engaged in developing new kits for street-going Corvette models C5, C6, ZO6, and ZR1. Though Mastershift has won this prestigious 2012 SEMA award, they have been developing paddle and bump-shift systems for 10 years and have been in production for the past seven.

For further information contact:
MasterShift Electronic Paddle Shifters
(888) 658-2727


For those with a G mail account, load software onto PC with Windows 7, 8, or 10 via this link using Serial – USB converter – PC /  Mac 1M, which is supplied with driver CD. 

For access to Mastershift program files on Google Drive click here: 


  1. I am building a 1965 Corvair mid-engine LS3 (525HP) with a Mendola 5-speed transaxle. Will your electronic shifter work with this combination?

    • Bill, My apologies, for we have been unable to reach Louis Zember, phone numbers and email to no avail. Sorry

      • Hey Vic, sorry to jump in on Bill’s question. I have this set-up in a brand new race truck we just finished. I bought the complete assembly years ago and just put it on the shelf… Now it’s installed, we need someone adept at programming it. I have the original serial port cord, CD program and instructions (that aren’t great). Any contact info regarding a capable programmer for this system would be awesome! My problem begins at the very beginning from having the laptop recognize the serial port to the MasterShift box.

        Tony (602) 688-7613

        • Hi Tony,

          Mastertech: I have the exact same problem. I’m from Australia and purchased the Mastershift setup 4 years ago and have been building a show car in these intervening years. Now everything is complete except the Mastershift; the car is painted, the interior is finished, the engine started but my auto electrician has no idea as to how the Mastershift kit works. It’s a massive problem. I might have to redo half my interior if I can’t get it to work. If you manage to find anyone that is willing to help (I’m happy to pay), can you please pass their details on to my email below too? It would be GREATLY appreciated. (my transmission is the TH400 automatic)

          Thank you

        • Hi Tony,

          Is there any chance you could email me a copy of the files that are on the CD? Am I correct in assuming it is the program/software? My box didn’t come with a CD, only an instruction book that stipulates downloading the software from the website (which I can’t because it’s now defunct). If I could have a copy of that CD/Software, I have a knowledgeable guy on standby ready to start programming my unit and playing around with the parameters. I’ll be happy to share that knowledge.

          • Hi Josh, yes I will get a copy of that disc and get it to you. Here is my email.

        • Hi Tony,
          I have the same problem, I live in Australia and purchased the Mastershift 14 years ago at SEMA and I do have the disc that came with the shifter. I have a T400 reverse-pattern 3-speed gearbox, and I need a hand in preparing the shifter box in the next few months. I have seen some of your videos that Joshua for Australia sent me, and I was just wanted to know if it’s ok to ring you when its time to put the shifter in? Lastly, do you have more videos on trouble-shooting you could send me?
          Thanks for your help you can offer.

          Joe Esposito (

    • I, too, have one of these paddle shift systems. It’s in my Pro Street drag car, and it works when it’s cold but lately when it’s warm it doesn’t change gear sometimes. I wonder why that is.

  2. Hi guys

    Vic has asked me to add a few thoughts here, but before I do, here’s the disclaimer…

    I’ve never actually seen a Mastershift unit and I haven’t had a play with the software. My knowledge is limited to the info on this forum and this Youtube video:

    And I’m in the UK where the Mastershift never made an appearance as far as I know!

    However I did spend most of my career selling and working with software utilites for all kinds of hardware setup, and in most cases you can generally succeed if you have the User Manual and the right software (that will open up OK) to connect to whatever black box you are trying to set up.

    It may be that you are all ahead of me already, but just in case it helps, this is what I thought after watching the video…

    The fact that the kits are produced for specific gearboxes suggests to me that as well as the hardware being bespoke to the ‘box in question, the default setup values will also be correct. If so, then all the installer has to do is connect up a laptop to the ECU, select Tremec T56 (or whatever) and press enter. That will tell the control unit where the gears are and how much movement is required in each plane to select them – which is the only bit that really matters. I’m guessing that a mission critical issue will be setting the cables correctly to set the gearbox in neutral (Y axis) with the stick probably in the 3rd/4th plane (X axis). Something like that anyway. There will also be a default to match the ECU with the chosen shifting mechanism – paddles or whatever – but again these are likely to be proprietary items so it should just be a matter of selecting which manufacturers paddles are being used and which way up you want them to work.

    The defaults will also load sensible values for sensing the clutch pedal movement, reverse lockout pause and rpm/speed numbers for each gear etc etc. I could be wrong, but I’d be surprised if any major setup input is needed to get the package working. There will be plenty of tweaking that you can do to optimise stuff, but that can be done slowly and carefully whilst the installer gets used to the software interface. The important bit is to get it basically functioning, then confidence levels can start to rise.

    Hopefully this isn’t all wishful thinking…

  3. Hello, I have installation manual now, so can you guys give me an idea of what problems you are having?
    Are you having communication issues between a pc and control box?

    • Derek, My issue is that the installation book specifies logging in as a user via the website to download the software. But the website is no longer available, so I can’t log in to download the software for Mac OS or Windows. I don’t know how to post photos on here to show you, but if someone emails me I can email you.

      Did anyone manage to download the software first? I am will to pay for it

    • Hi Derek, Yes that is my first problem: the comm. between the pc/control box. I have the original serial port cable they sent me with the kit that they say “WILL ONLY WORK WITH THAT CABLE” but still can’t get it to communicate. I know the serial port works on the PC because I have programmed the Racepak dashes through it.

      • I have just emailed you Tony. As soon as I get that disc/software/program, we will be able to troubleshoot together. In the meantime–check out Powertrain Control Solutions. Paddle shifters and push button shifters, this is my back-up plan.

  4. Ok, has everybody that is having connection problems studied the troubleshooting section of the installation manual? Are you certain the controller has power? There is a passage in the trouble-shooting section to check this? Has anyone been able to connect to the controller at all?


    • Hi Derek, for me yes, I have power to the shift box. In fact with my ignition on, my gear indicator comes on in the center of the steering wheel and is set from the factory when you hit the paddles (either one). It will shift the arm in the control box one way, and the buttons on the steering wheel (either one) will shift the arm in the control box the other way. When I plug my factory supplied serial port cable into the shift box/laptop (after loading the software into laptop), no information appears that is discussed in the troubleshooting guide on page 44. I’m hoping its just something I’m missing on the computer side as far as program set up.

  5. Update:
    I now have a copy of the Mastershift software utility and I can report that it loads and opens correctly on both W7 and W10 platforms in the UK. The fact that it loads but doesn’t open on US and AUS Windows is likely to be a function of the subtle differences Microsoft like to engineer into their product for different territories. Go figure.

    I am pretty sure the problem lies with the Microsoft .NET framework which the Mastershift software requires before it will run. The install program loaded this as a separate action automatically on both my PCs but may not do so elsewhere. If this is the issue it’s easily solved as .NET is present on both W7 and W10, but usually not enabled. I’m doing a bit more research, but if enabling .NET resolves the problem I will post instructions on how to do this as soon as I can.

    • Thanks Bill, that sounds about right. Of my two laptops, one of them opens everything no problem, and when you download the software for MasterShift programmer can we leave it opens and download software. But my original laptop will not open the .net software, so I guess you’ve answered one of my many questions. I just need to determine how to go into Windows on my original laptop and enable it to open and download software. I also have that USB to RS 232 serial adapter on its way and should be here today complete with CD and drivers on it.

  6. OK – here is a possible solution for those of you trying to get the program to run on W10. This is predicated on the following facts that have been established so far.

    1. The Mastershift program loads and runs on W7 & W10 PCs when tested in the UK.
    2. The Mastershift program loads and runs on W7 PCs in other territories and loads onto W10 PCs but does not run.
    3. The install process includes the loading of Microsoft .NET 1.1 onto the target PC, or at least it did when I loaded it onto both platforms.
    4. It seems highly likely that this does not happen on all PCs, this may be territory related or settings related.
    5. The version of .NET loaded by the Mastershift install process is ancient, and both W7 and W10 have newer versions pre-loaded but not necessarily enabled. .NET is (at least in theory) backward compatible and therefore enabling the resident version on W10 (and indeed W7 if necessary) should make the Mastershift program run correctly.

    This is what you do (this is the step by step version – use the quicker way if you know how!):

    Click the Windows icon bottom left
    Type ‘Control Panel’ and select this app from the popup
    Select ‘view by large icons’
    Select ‘programs and features’
    Click ‘Turn Windows features on and off’ at top left
    The.NET framework options will be at the top of the list that appears. You will probably see .NET 3.5 and .NET 4.8
    All you need is .NET 3.5, but enabling both will do no harm
    Click in the white boxes to the left of the tree so that they turn black. Your PC may need to be connected to the web for this to work, depending on the .NET pre-install level.
    Click OK to save

    To be sure the changes are recognised it’s a good idea to reboot at this point before trying to open the Mastershift program again even if the PC doesn’t ask you to do so – which it probably will.

    If the boxes are already black, then there is something else going on, and that is difficult for me to troubleshoot because I can’t replicate the problem.

    Anyway – this is worth a try!

  7. Thank you, Bill, for the step-by-step instructions, VERY helpful. I was able to navigate right to the correct file; however, I believe my luck has run out for now. My boxes were already black. To determine the problem, I’ll take this laptop to a computer guy today.

    Thanks again,


    • Bill, here is an update on my dilemma. To shorten a long story, my technician believes it’s a processor and driver issue because this particular laptop is too old.

      I don’t know if you received the video I sent yesterday, which demonstrates that my other laptop finds and assigns the serial port conversion plug but will not read the shift box or locate it. When I enter Device Management it confirms the com-port is working properly. Is there something else that could possibly be blocking the ability for data to transfer through the computer to the shift box? I have studied the troubleshooting part of the manual for this exact problem, and all seems correct per the few things they designate to check.


      • Great video. I doubt if it’s a laptop issue – much more likely to be the port parameters. I’m not quite sure how the Mastershift software configures the port as I cannot find any reference to this in the documentation. However, a COM port has the following variable parameters:
        Baud rate (speed)
        Data bits (7 or 8)
        Stop bits (1 or 2)
        Parity (odd even or none)
        These have to match for a link to be established. My suspicion is that the software configures the port to its required parameters by overriding the Windows defaults, but that this isn’t working with the USB converter. If you go to the Device Manager page and open COM3 you will see one of the tabs is ‘Port Settings’ and this will tell you what the port setup is.

        Because we don’t know what the settings should be for the Mastershift connection to work, we don’t know whether what you find is correct or not. Time for some educated guesses. A good starting point is 9600 baud as that was a common port speed at the time the box was designed, so if you manually set the port to this speed and then try all the combinations of parity, data bits and stop bits you may find the right combo eventually. But if the speed is wrong you won’t.

        It’s unlikely (but possible) that the box uses a higher baud rate, but if you can’t get it to work on 9600 I would try 4800 next before perhaps trying 2400 and then 19200. This is clearly a graunchy job and unfortunately there is no guarantee of success, but one thing is for sure – unless the comms parameters match at both ends of the cable, the software cannot communicate. It’s very strange that Mastershift do not include the correct parameters in their documentation, so maybe I have just failed to find it and it’s in there somewhere. It would be massively helpful if it is, but if not the trial and error method should get there sooner or later.

  8. Thanks Bill for the update! I haven’t been on the site for a few days, so I’ll try your recommendation tomorrow and let everyone know.

    Thanks again,


  9. Hey Bill, thanks for the info! I tried it all including attempting to run the program in Windows 7 as an administrator/compatibility and troubleshooting that the computer walked me through. I was unable to get the shift box in the vehicle to be located by the Mastershift program.

    I talked to a guy in California who used to work with a few race trucks back in the day. He said he had nothing but problems trying to get this old program to work through a RS-232 cord. So, I’m back to waiting for my new Toughbook laptop to appear complete with an actual 9-pin serial port. It should be here by the end of the week; I will let you guys know.

  10. 26 Sep 2020 update: My new “refurbished” Toughbook laptop from OC Rugged Laptops arrived (Cf-31. Core i5, 8MB ram, 32-GB 320HDD, 64bit Windows 7 platform). I loaded the CD into the CDROM and loaded the program (started with the setup.exe and it basically loaded itself). Then, I opened the configuration on the desktop and the program activated the set-up page with the tabs across the file. The laptop recognized and marked the 9-pin serial port as COM1. I then plugged into the shift box mounted in the vehicle, and the computer located that as well and uploaded the firmware and serial number. As of now, I can run through all the tabs, and it allows me to start programming the shifter. The only remaining impediment is when searching for or clicking on the drop-down box in the “select a transmission”. My shifter has only one transmission in the selection and it’s not a Turbo 400. My guess is that I will have to go into the custom tab and make my own det1-7 PRN321. This has been a tedious business but prospects are brighter!

    • 5 Oct 2020 update: My programming was successful after understanding the shift box and shift linkage. It takes about 10min to program from scratch, which I’ll explain in this update. On You Tube you’ll find a few videos of this install which include the obstacles. There were several hardware difficulties with the original push buttons on the steering wheel. So, I contacted a gentleman who’s familiar with off-road wiring and he recommended They supply high quality sealed buttons which are direct replacements for the originals. I then upgraded some of the factory wiring to military spec that eliminated the buttons miss-shifting. The system is now working well with the exception of one final hurdle. The steering wheel mounted gear indicator panel doesn’t align with the correct gear (the gear the transmission has engaged). For example, TH400 with reverse valve body like mine is PRN123. However, my gear indicator reads Pn541. I have tried undoing the linkage in the Mastershift box and manually moving the lever that has a potentiometer connected to it. This sends the signal to the steering wheel indicator but I can only get it to read the Pn541 sequence. This is how it takes only ten minutes to program the shifting. I have altered all factory settings (multiple times) and reprogrammed the TH400 with the same result. Everything works now except the gear indicator. I believe this to be another program Mastershift had that was probably set at the factory and works with the program they sent to their customers. So, for now I will just pay attention to my gear positions while racing and hope to find someone with knowledge of this final remaining issue.

  11. Does anybody here have the manual shift software? I have the box that is setup for a four-speed but I want to use it on a five-speed. Any help would be gratefully received.
    Thanks Billy


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