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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.

Inside the Renault. The dog couldn't work the clutch.

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).

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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.)

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  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!

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      • 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.

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  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….

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    • 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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