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my shifter has always been pretty loose since i got the car over 2 years ago. i've looked into getting a new bushing, but since it never affected my driving i decided it could wait. today, out of the blue, my car refused to shift into first. i had a real hard time slamming it even into second to start driving. at different points today i had trouble getting it into first, sometimes second, sometimes neither. i really don't have any idea where to start troubleshooting.
 

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Here is where I would start.... First check the fluid level in the tranny. This is a chore requiring lifting out the speedometer pick-off, which is often stuck in the tranny case.
Then....
With the engine shut off, see if its equally hard to put into first or second as with the engine running. You may need to rock the car a little.
If it is just as hard as with the engine running, the problem could be in the linkage, including the bushing at either end of the rod that runs from the tranny back to the shifter. This rod moves forward and back - to go into 1st versus 2nd, 3rd versus 4th. It rotates slightly to select the 1/2 gate, or the 3/4 gate, or the 5th/reverse gate.
There is a second rod running from the tranny back to the base where the shift lever goes. That is to keep the distance the same for shifting. It compensates for the twisting of the motor under acceleration. That can have a bad bushing at the tranny, or a loose or broken bolt too.
Of course I suppose it could be something loose in the tranny, but hopefully not. (Can only be reached after dismantling the tranny)
If the car is easy to put into 1st or 2nd with the engine stopped, but hard to do with the engine running, you could have a clutch that is dragging, or a throwout bearing that isnt doing its job. This could be a lack of adjustment (the slave cylinder is supposed to be self-adjusting), or loose bits of lining material that came loose in between the pressure plate and driven disc, even a leaking slave cylinder. It could also be because the synchromesh on 1st and 2nd are worn out. The synro gets a lot more wear in 1st and 2nd than in the higher gears - especially if someone had been shifting it without depressing the clutch all the way.
If oil gets on the clutch it can cause this, but would also be likely to cause very uneven clutch engagement - what is called 'juddering'.

On your shoes I would hope it was the fault of the bushings in the shifter mechanism. When they get oil soaked they get softer and mushier.
 

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New guy here, first post and everything. I hate to butt in on this thread, but my gf's '91 GT just developed an issue quite similar to this. Since I know very little about this car, I just want to check with some experts before I go randomly ordering parts for it (she paid $1200 for it last summer and other than this issue, it's been a terrific little gas sipping car.) The shifter is EXTREMELY loose. The entire "housing" has dropped a couple of inches out of the 'hole' where it normally sits. I crawled under the car, and other than the rod coming from the transmission that locates the shifter mount into the hole in the tunnel, I cant see anything that should hold it in place. Is the bushing on that rod the only item that keeps the shifter "in the hole" (for lack of a better term) in the tunnel? The shifter still works fine, but it feels really ~bad~ now that it isnt in the proper location, and is actually at times resting on the top of the shield over the exhaust.
 

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Possible Pilot

Just finished answering another post where a guy with similar trouble had a messed up pilot bearing and I was explaining how a 'dragging ' pilot bearing could cause a hard time getting into gears , especially when stopped, as the input shaft needs to stop to go into gear and although the clutch disk is fully releasing the bad 'dragging ' pilot bearing in the end of the crank is still trying to turn it.
 
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