Old-timers will remember the term three-on-the-tree. In older vehicles with manual transmissions, some had the gearshift knob in the same location as most automatic transmission handles -- attached to the steering column. The thinking at the time was that it was best to keep both hands on the steering wheel when shifting gears. The shift pattern was forward-up was first gear, forward-down was second, back and up was third gear, and back and down was reverse. 

The linkages worked well for most of the time, but some models did have instances where the vehicle wouldn't go into gear because something made the holding collar get slightly cocked or someone dropped something into the mechanism.

The origin of the term came from "three", referring to the three forward gears, and "on the tree", which meant it was on the steering column instead of on the floor between the passenger and driver.

Iron Noder 2017

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