Motivating the shiftless

I prefer to drive a car with a manual transmission. Shifting my own gears makes me feel one with my car and the road, and makes even routine trips a lot more fun.

I’m no fanatic; I don’t hate automatics. But for top driving pleasure, I’ve got to have a stick. I’ve had three manually shifted cars: an underpowered Renault, a dented Chevrolet, and a look-at-me red Toyota. These cars stir more good memories and star in more great stories than any of the automatics I’ve owned.

If I hadn’t found myself suddenly carless after wrecking my last car, I would have taken the time to find one with a manual transmission this time, too.

You see, it isn’t easy to find cars with clutches anymore. Most of those available are bare-bones entry-level models, so spare that nobody wants them. Just try to find a manually shifted car with a V6 or a V8, leather, power seats, dual-zone climate control, and a navigation system. Unless you’re willing to drop serious coin on something made in Munich or Stuttgart, you can’t. My brother, a fellow stickshift aficionado, spent weeks last year trying to find a decently optioned five-speed Honda Civic. A Civic! He managed it, but it was touch and go.

It’s a sorry state the driving world finds itself in, and Car and Driver magazine has decided to do something about it. They have launched a crusade called Save the Manuals, dedicated to putting more manual transmissions on the road. I hope you’ll join it. I hope lots of people join it, and automakers take notice! For one day I will want to trade in my automatic, and I will want to drive away rowing through my new car’s gears.

I don’t, however, wish for a return of manual brakes (as in my old Pinto) or manual steering (as in my dad’s old Chevy Van).


10 thoughts on “Motivating the shiftless

  1. Pretty selective about your retro-features, eh?

    (Took my first driver’s test in car with oar-on-the-floor, mechanical brakes, and muscle-powered steering. ’36 Ford.)

  2. vlgonvalcyte says:

    This is why I drive old Porsches….aside from the not so popular sportomatic……Manual is a foreign word. Difficulties do arise when I drive the old ranch trucks and RV. I am always stumped when the thing (all vehicles are “things” if they are not A Porsche) does not move, or worse moves in the wrong direction. I can not seem to manage that device that looks like a shishkibob (sp?) on the side of the steering wheel. I cannot phathom not being able to push a car to get it going if the starter goes out. You and your Bro are NOT alone!

      • vlgonvalcyte says:

        That would be a level full of elightenment, adventure and enthusiasm on roadtrips with a mixture of chaos, neurosis and breakdowns on the Horizon. This is why I not only bring my Labrador with me on all roadtrips, but also a briefcase stuffed with Self Help Porsche manuals and books, as well as a Bible.

  3. I learned to drive a stick shift on F250, driving from Tennessee to Indiana (Clinton) Many, many years ago. I feel in love with stick shifts. My first vehicle after I left home was an f 100, with 3 on the tree, not as good as 4 on the floor…but still better than automatic.

    In the past few years I have come to not mind automatics…yet when I drove my daughters V8 Mustang, I did have a pang of longing for the old days. (It was a 2002GT, had a stick shift, leather interior…)

    One reason I don’t mind automatics is I like going for drives, creeping along on lonely country roads and pausing to take photos…sometimes it is very handy to just have an automatic….can hardly believe I am saying that….

    • Heh, I used to live just south of Clinton in Terre Haute. I can only imagine what driving a 3-on-the-tree truck is like!

      Certainly, driving an automatic demands less of you, which can sometimes be a blessing. But it’s also boring more often!

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