Patrick – Hi. It’s been a while since I looked at a stock Ford shifter, but I don’t think you will damage anything if you put the lever in backwards. There are three longitudinal gates in the shift mechanism – 1st gear/2nd gear, 3rd gear/4th gear, and reverse gear. When the lever is installed correctly the pawl prevents moving the shift lever into the reverse gate. If the lever was reversed you would need to lift the the pawl to engage 3rd or fourth gear instead. You could easily confirm this without needing to start the car.

I think the pawl just acts against the metal body of the shifter. I can dig my shifter out of the parts pile and confirm it for you if you’d like.

Gary Corbett