March 27, 2012

"I don't want to live in that world, to tell you the truth..."

"It's a world without guys building treehouses for their kids. It's a world without train sets. It's a world without fun."

A man bemoans the loss of...


... manual transmissions.

82 comments:

Kevin said...

I have had a string of 5 speed manual transmission cars over the last 40 years of driving. I consider having a 5 speed manual a form of theft deterrent, as few can reliably handle one.

The Farmer said...

Ridiculous. He can keep his nostalgia, I'll take the automatic transmission. And still build a damned tree house. Unless I can get a pre-fabbed one put in the tree for me.

Methadras said...

I was just going to mirror Kevin's sentiment. Plus, manual transmissions still make up a bulk of the rest of the worlds vehicle stock. I taught my daughter how to drive a manual because I told her that if she can do that, she can drive any car in the world without issue. At first she moaned and groaned, but after a day or two, she became a master. She doesn't have a manual anymore, but she can still get by if she had to.

Lyssa said...

I drive a Mustang, but the last few people who have gotten into it have expressed surprise that it was a manual. Why on Earth would you drive a Mustang that didn't have a manual transmission?

I love my Mustang.

Original Mike said...

Amen. I hate automatics.

Hagar said...

"The single working woman's car."

David said...

Problem is, for all except professional level drivers, the new automatics are more efficient and faster than the manuals.

I drove manual transmission cars until I moved to Chicago. Too much of a pain in that traffic so I went to automatic and won't go back.

It's also a great test of a woman. Women who can drive stick shift and back up a trailer are generally keepers. I married one. Can't beat the farm girls.

Sorun said...

There's always motorcycles.

Sorun said...

I used to have a truck with manual. They suck in stop n' go commuter traffic, which is what we got here.

Kit said...

We've had a couple sticks - I loved them - gave you something to do when you drove, plus they were great for winter weather

chickenlittle said...

5-speed stick shift diesel TDI Golf here. I'd upgrade to an Audi if I could afford it.

Rusty said...

Methadras


Word.
Both my girls can drive a manual transmission.
The older one has a Honda 2000S with a stick. Needless to say her men friends are impressed.

bagoh20 said...

A stick is definitely fun, but incompatible with coffee, cell phone and a sandwich, which I ain't giving up.

And nothing is worse in city traffic than driving a stick.

A stick IS preferable for driving, but only a small part of my attention in my car is devoted to driving. I'm busy in their at 5 MPH.

edutcher said...

Not a big car guy, but I thought automatics were the option and the stick standard.

PS My mother got her first car in the Depression when you only had a stick and never stopped raving about how wonderful it was when she could have an automatic.

Original Mike said...

"Problem is, for all except professional level drivers, the new automatics are more efficient and faster than the manuals."

Don't care.

They do suck for stop-and-go traffic, which I rarely find myself in.

Superdad said...

Missing manual. Learned to drive in a Ford F-100 with a "three on the tree"

Patrick said...

The first car I bought - $350 - was a 75 cutlass, 3 on the tree. It stuck frequently, so I'd have to get out, and manually pull the lever at the bottom of the engine to get it unstuck.

It was a reliable indicator for dating. If the girl got too disgusted at the car she wasn't worth the effort to date for any length of time.

My wife absolutely insists we keep a manual around. Ours doesn't get stuck, but I know she'd be right there with me, getting it unstuck.

rhhardin said...

Things actually started falling apart when they put nosewheels instead of tailwheels on airplanes.

Tibore said...

Yeah, I can drive a stick. Sure, I admit, I don't do it *well*; I learned it on a three-quarter ton pickup body converted into a "box truck" for an old job, and those old F-350 7.4L diesels plus those old Ford manuals are very damn forgiving of bad technique. It's impossible to deny that I stink with anything less forgiving (like an old friend's Cavalier... I'm still technically banned from it, even though he got rid of it over a decade ago ;) ), but still, the point is I can do it when needed.

That said, I'd rank the importance of the auto vs. manual debate as being somewhere below the 1,000,000 mark. It's simply not that important in life either way.

Patrick said...

I can however, easily think of a world where I don't drive a manual, but still build tree forts.

kimsch said...

I learned on stick, then automatic. My first car was a Dodge Dart Sport automatic. My second a Ford Maverick "three on the tree."

I injured my left leg though, and driving stick is physically difficult and painful now so I am very happy with automatic.

Another automatic I won't do without is automatic headlights. I won't buy another vehicle without them. You'll never see me driving down a dark road with just my parking lights on because I can see my dash...

Patrick said...

Bagoh, back in the days before distracted driving was the issue it was now, I drove a manual, with my right arm in a sling, and still drank coffee. It's all in the timing, even on City roads! No cell phone, but I did change tapes in the tape deck. Not very safe in retrospect, but I was young and foolish.

Original Mike said...

We just bought a new truck; Toyota Tacoma. The morning we picked it up, I lost track of the number of dealer service guys who came over and "congratulated" us on buying a stick.

Original Mike said...

I drink coffee and drive a stick. I won't use a cell phone, however, and it has nothing to do with the stick.

bagoh20 said...

Better yet was the world when kids built their own tree house. I do really feel sorry for kids today. They miss so much adventure under our obsessive protection, and direction. All of my best memories are completely devoid of adult involvement in the planning and execution.

Bob_R said...

I think I can remember the last time I drove for fun. It was some time in the mid '80's. We've had automatics since the mid '90's. So the fun stopped before the stick left. I wish all the gear heads well, but I don't ever see myself getting back in that mode.

Tibore said...

Grrr... I take issue with a line out of the linked NPR article:

"And when Ferrari failed to offer a manual option for the new 458 Italia, he said, enough's enough. Basta."

The paddle-shift F1-style transmission control on the 458 is semi-manual. While there's an automatic mode, it's not a "3 on the tree" type of atrocity from an old 60's Chrysler land yacht, and the driver still has manual control over the shifts.

Sure, I know it's not the clutch and stick-shift through the gates setup that old Ferrari's had, but if it's good enough for Shumacker, Barrichelo, Massa, and Alonso (the respective former and current drivers for Ferrari's F1 teams), why wouldn't it be good enough for dour codgers like Alterman? Remember: Ferrari's entire paradigm is around putting race technology in their street cars. When you complain about not having the old stick and clutch pedal setup in a Ferrari, you're sort of missing the point of the company's entire existence. How in God's name does the freakin' editor of Car and Driver miss that point?

garage mahal said...

Going down to Chicago to look at a 540i 6 speed this weekend. Cannot effing wait! Pure sex.

Chip S. said...

Wow-->90% of new autos have automatics, but over a third of Althousians seem to drive manuals. Seems like a sociology thesis in there somewhere.

The only real downside to a stick for me is that I don't trust parking attendants to be able to drive my car properly. Luckily I'm pretty good at finding on-street parking--and also willing to walk a couple of blocks to the destination.

Scott M said...

I had an '84 Grand Prix with 3-on-the-tree. It's still the oddest manual I've ever driven.

Given my heavily congested commute, though, I can't see going back to a manual for any reason unless I had some serious "screw you" money.

chuck b. said...

I learned to drive on a stick and drove one for 10 years, but my last couple cars have been automatics. A couple years ago I had to drive a friend's Mini Cooper w/ manual transmission across San Francisco. It was like some comedy routine with me folded up in that little clown car stalling out at every stop sign and lurching and jerking the rest of the way.

Patrick said...

Garage, is there ANY chance that having seen it, you won't also buy it?

John Burgess said...

@edutcher: For US-made cars, manual transmissions -- if available -- are often an extra-cost option. Sports cars, obviously, are an exception.

edutcher said...

kimsch said...

I injured my left leg though, and driving stick is physically difficult and painful now so I am very happy with automatic.

That's The Blonde's problem.

She loves a stick, but too many knee and foot injuries have forced her to go to automatics.

Curious George said...

"garage mahal said...
Going down to Chicago to look at a 540i 6 speed this weekend. Cannot effing wait! Pure sex."

I'm a 3 series guy (95' 325is in Hellrot) but the E39 is the most beautiful sedan ever built. The 540/6 is fast, but go M5.

~N. said...

I learned on a car with a manual transmission, still have one, although our main car is a big automatic transmission sedan (my husband never learned how to drive a stick).

Not only are most European cars manual, it's much cheaper to rent a manual in Europe than an automatic.

The farther removed we are from manual transmissions being the norm, the more people think it's a difficult skill to learn. It's not. Like everything else, it's just practice, and once you get it down, it becomes second nature pretty quickly.

Scott M said...

Going down to Chicago to look at a 540i 6 speed this weekend. Cannot effing wait!

Are you going to take the train?

Ron said...

oh brother...hey, why not go back to not having electric starters? We could probably use the exercise of having to use a crank starter!

My Daddy built Caddys with the Hydromatic transmission...and never wanted a manual ever again.

Peter said...

One of the marketing gimmicks offered by car manufacturers has been to offer a base model at a very low price. BUT, it was available only with a manual transmission.

It's clever marketing, because it lets the manufacturer advertise a very low price knowing that practically everyone who buys the car will pay $thousands more.

In any case, it's become difficult to buy a truly stripped-down car- one with crank windows and no air conditioning and just an AM/FM radio.

Most people want more car than that, but there's always a significant market for basic transportation cars.

As for automatic transmissions, they keep gettign smarter and I don't doubt that many work better than a typical driver with a manual. But, perhaps not as much fun to drive.

So, when will the federal gov't just outlaw manual trans. cars?

paminwi said...

Our son didn't know how to drive a manual transmission car when we went on a family trip to Italy. We told him the same thing as someone previously said " learn how to drive one and you will be good no matter where you vacation"!

So, he learned on the back roads of the Italian countryside. He said it was was of the most fun times he had driving!

chuckR said...

Automatic transmissions don't understand the concept of engine braking. Automatic transmissions don't understand staying out of the fat part of the torque curve on icy/snowy roads. Sure, they shift faster, but do so when I don't want them to. I could use the flappy paddles on the shift-o-matic transmissions, but why not go whole hog, then, and get a manual?

garage mahal said...

Patrick
We'll see. This guy has had it listed for a while, so it makes me a little suspicious. First thing I'll do is look down the body to see how straight it is. After the wife put the kibosh on buying cars at auctions, I lost track of the dude that I used to go with.

Amexpat said...

If you live or rent a car overseas, you need to know how to use a stick shift. I prefer it to an automatic, which I have to use when I rent a car in the US.

The really fun thing though was using a stick shift in a country that drives on the left. I was surprised that I could shift left handed with out any problems the first time. Luckily, the foot pedals are the same on a left-hand drive car.

Jim Gust said...

Six-speed TDI diesel Jetta. Got one six months ago, it's terrific. No shortage of them.

garage mahal said...

I'm a 3 series guy (95' 325is in Hellrot) but the E39 is the most beautiful sedan ever built. The 540/6 is fast, but go M5.

Have to part ways with you on the E39. I think the E34 is the most beautiful sedan ever built. But that's like arguing what's better, ribeye or filet. I looked around for a M5 last year and sort of just gave up on it. Believe me, I would love to own one. My E34 is getting pretty tired @ 225k. Rear subframe bushings are shot, and there is no way in hell I'm doing that job right now.

You still driving your 325is? Hellrot is such a badass color, especially for a 3 series?

holdfast said...

I miss having a manual shifter - I wouldn't really want one on the war-wagon SUV we now have, but if I can ever get back to a small car, I'm definitely getting a stick.

Ironically, the new auto 8 speeds are more fuel efficient than even a well-handled 5 speed. F*cking robots!.

CyndiF said...

We have two manual transmission cars. Other than the stop and go traffic issue, they are much to be preferred: control, responsivity, joy of driving. Our second car is a Mazda RX-8. The idea of driving that as an automatic boggles the mind.

Rusty said...

The other thing is that, if you're handy, you can fix a manual transmission without a lot of fancy tools. And replace the clutch.
Not so easy to fix an automatic.
Being THAT guy means you can do stuff like that.

deborah said...

Sticks are fun, but over the years became tiresome. I was happy to switch to automatic.

Petunia said...

I hope I'll always be able to drive a stick. Wouldn't want a car any other way.

Definitely correct about renting cars overseas, and also about shifting with the left hand. It's quite easy to adjust to using the other hand for the stick...but if the pedals were reversed, now THAT would be a big problem.

Original Mike said...

"Six-speed TDI diesel Jetta. Got one six months ago, it's terrific. No shortage of them."

I've stared thinking about that car. Is diesel available everywhere? What's your mileage?

MadisonMan said...

Yes. My present car is an automatic, and I miss the stick shift. It did suck in traffic, however, as noted.

Now, I love stop/go traffic. My MPH gauge goes through the roof as the engine shuts off.

Maybe our next car will be a stick, and then the kids will have to learn something new.

halojones-fan said...

The kind of people who think that manual transmissions are the only ones that we should have are the same kind of people who think that if you can't hunt your own meat then you don't deserve to live.

Christy said...

I always swore I'd never marry a man who drove an automatic.

It's like ChuckR said, Automatic transmissions don't understand the concept of engine braking. Automatic transmissions don't understand staying out of the fat part of the torque curve on icy/snowy roads. Every hillbilly knows that driving twisting mountain roads demands manual shifting. Besides being more fun.

Original Mike said...

"The kind of people who think that manual transmissions are the only ones that we should have ..."

Huh?

Original Mike said...

"I always swore I'd never marry a man who drove an automatic."

On one of our first dates, I taught my wife to drive a manual.

Tank said...

Have not driven a stick in years, but I'll be doing it in Sicily this summer. Costs like $1,000 more to rent an automatic, and way less choice of car.

After driving a truck for 4 or 5 years many moons ago, much in NYC traffic, I'd had about as much stick as I thought I'd ever need. But I'm kinda looking forward to it now.

I too wonder about people who buy "sports" cars with auto - whenever I see a great Vette with an auto I just shake my head.

Jay Fellows said...

I have a beat up old F150 stick that I use for hauling trash etc. on the week ends. Went to the local Jiffy Lube for an oil change. None of the 20 year olds working there could drive a stick in order to pull it into a bay for the change. I had to do it. In the old days, every red blooded 20 year old American male could drive a manual in their sleep!

Curious George said...

garage mahal said...


Have to part ways with you on the E39. I think the E34 is the most beautiful sedan ever built. But that's like arguing what's better, ribeye or filet. I looked around for a M5 last year and sort of just gave up on it. Believe me, I would love to own one. My E34 is getting pretty tired @ 225k. Rear subframe bushings are shot, and there is no way in hell I'm doing that job right now.

You still driving your 325is? Hellrot is such a badass color, especially for a 3 series?"

E34's are also sweet....I love the older bimmers where the kidneys are vertical. My first BMW was an 84 325e in Delphin Grey. One of my sales guys has an E34 M5 in Red...stunning car. The 540/6 is aawesome car...especially pretty in Carbon Black or Sterling Grey. post some pics if you get it.

I replaced every bushing on my 95 except the rear subframe...that is a bitch of a job. All the suspension components on the front end are M3. I actually have the rear subframe bushings here ready to put in and reinforcements that came on later cars also but will probably never do it. Too much work. I was thinking of tracking it but with the new business no time.

That said it's a fun little car. I added a performance chip, CAI, and LSD. Heavier and less fun to drive than my 84, but faster and a little more refined also.

In a few years you won't be able to get an manual on even a BMW...they are going to the SMG. I read that 70% of new BMW's are automatics...sad. People are buying the label and are not enthusiasts.

Curious George said...

"Jay Fellows said...
I have a beat up old F150 stick that I use for hauling trash etc. on the week ends. "

I have a 94 Chevy 1500 for the same purpose. Four speed w/ overdrive on the floor. Awesome.

rcommal said...

I love manual transmissions (especially, but not only, snow), and have always known how to drive both manual and automatic pretty much from day one. My dad taught me on both, out in a large parking lot, in preparation for drivers ed, which he didn't much trust.

We have both. To this day, I can, and do, seamlessly go from one to the other, often enough in a single day, without giving it a thought. By seamlessly I mean without accidentally trying to shift in the automatic or "bucking" in the manual. I can do this even if I haven't drive at all for whatever length of time.

I am a **master** at going both ways, LOL!!

(Yes, our son, pushing 12, will also have to know how to drive both before we'll let him drive. It's on the list of requirements, including being able to change tires [which can already do] etc. etc. etc.

He lives in an old-car family, the son of car guy, and so he's stuck with it, poor lad.)

garage mahal said...

I'll post some pics if I snatch it up.

I might have to pick your brain on 3 series if I don't. I know so little about them.

Michael said...

I have a 1973 Land Rover 88 that my kids have learned to drive in. As i told my son, if you plan to drink a beer or coke in this you might as well pour it in your lap. Arnold S cant turn the vehicle with one hand. Plus manual.

My favorite manual was my late lamented BMW 2002. Stupidly traded for a five hundred series and that for a seven hundred. Neither of the latter rivaled the 2002 for fun or frankly looks.

Jupiter said...

I learned to drive in a 1964 Ford Falcon with a standard three speed on the fly 'stick shift on the steering column'. It was 1975, i was 14 and, already a gear head. By the end of the day i was doing second gear scratches with ease. Today i drive an automatic Taurus as my daily eco car but am still a gearhead so, on weekends i pull out my classic 1982 Trans Am with a 383/6.3L and factory Borg Warner Super T-10 four speed and head to the car meet. Complete drivetrain has been replaced EXCEPT my 30 year old tranny. The manual clutch was brutal on the knee a decade ago when the car was a daily driver and i was getting older. heh Since then i have converted to a hydraulic clutch and it is a joy to drive. With the car basically completely rebuilt i am now looking at upgrading the old worn out tranny to a 6 speed manual. To see this beautiful bird please visit http://transam.planetjupiter.com

rcommal said...

I still miss the apple-green, 1974 2002 we had. Husband sold it when we had our son and bought a (truck-base) conversion van. I told him he'd regret it one day.

*Ahem.*

leslyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
leslyn said...

Listening to this story yesterday brought back so many good memories...Like many commenters here, I learned to drive on a stick. We also had an auto, but who would bother to learn to drive on that? I learned to drive that stick during the winter on the hills of Duluth. The experience later served me well during high-speed driving in Wisconsin winters.

My mother used to take our Opel five speed out on the back roads of northern Wisconsin and let my six year old brother "drive," including standing on the pedals. He says it was some of the most fun he ever had. Mom also taught me how to do power turns.

My first car was a Dodge three on the tree. The first car I bought without family advice (or knowledge) was a 1964 MGB convertible, five OTF. Remember spinner wheel locks? I loved that car. Finally had to sell it to someone who could regrind the valves every few months.

I now have a 2006 Solstice five OTF. Almost as fun as the MGB. I'm looking forward to trying the Fiat Abarth. Not sporty looking but it could be fun. Drawback is that it is five OTF instead of six like the European models.

As for mpg, the key is to shift at 2k rpm. (I learned that from NPR too.) Increased my mileage by 3 to 5 mpg for me. Plus, to my surprise, I got up to highway speed in less distance.

What's the point of driving a sport or high performance car with an automatic? :-p

For those who like their American cruisers, the new Buick Regal turbo comes with 6 OTF.

Amartel said...

I will only drive a manual shift, even despite living in San Fran for years (those hills) and still up there at least once a week. They're just overall more fun and challenging. Also, a manual transmission lasts longer is less expensive to repair when it finally does crap out.

Ralph L said...

I was surprised that I could shift left handed with out any problems the first time.
I was surprised, too, and I started in central London. Oddly, I remember that week of driving (to the Isle of Skye and then Salisbury) with everything switched back to the right side of the road.

One of my grandmother's friends would regulate the speed of her '59 Chevy with the clutch instead of the gas pedal. They finally put a truck clutch in it. She came to NC in the 20's because they didn't think she'd survive another Vermont winter. Died in 1992 at 108.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

One of my favorite cars was my '67 El Camino with three on the column. At some point in its life the shift lever broke off, so shifting was achieved via a pair of vise grips permanently clamped to the stump. Talk about a theft deterrent.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

The difference between driving and riding in the left hand seat is a manual trans.

You can't just auto-pilot with a stick, except on the expressway.

A manual also teaches you to think a head, and look down the road,IMO.

My current daily driver is a BMW 3 series with a 5 speed, and I am hoping to make that car last forever; it turns the morning slog into a ride; something I miss when I pilot the wife's automatic.

Ralph L said...

Also, a manual transmission lasts longer
The clutch doesn't, in my experience. Outside of sports cars, I imagine it hurts resale value, unless you luck into some fool, which is easier than it used to be. I sold mine to my brother, who burned out the turbo in two years. His six cars have all been manuals.

Kelly said...

I have owned both manuals and automatics, but much prefer the manual. I find it easier to control on slippery winter roads (I live in Massachusetts). And, because I prefer sub-compact cars that usually have 4-cylinder engines, I can use the manual transmission in lower gears to simulate some of the power those missing cylinders would give me.

Mostly, though, I *hate*hate*hate* that "delay" you get when you try to accelerate quickly in an automatic. I think that's the fault of the computers that control today's cars, but I don't get that with a manual.

So until my genetics catch up to me and make my knees too arthritic to work a clutch in city traffic, I'm sticking with my stick.

dbp said...

An additional little benefit from a manual transmission: You can compression start it if the battery is dead.

Jay Vogt said...

Still miss driving a "manny". Last one that I owned was a VW Passat with the inline 5. Sorry to see them die indeed.

For what it's worth though, the development of the automatic transmision is a really neat example of American corporate innovation. Oldsmobile led the way. They did the need assessment, R&D, engineering, manufacturing and evolution for this complex and demanded product.

A more vertically integrated success than any recent Apple product.

And it's an example of an American made and manufacured product that still sets the standard for the rest of the world.

Craig Howard said...

When I was growing up in the fifties (and a motorhead to boot,) manual transmissions had all but disappeared from any family vehicle other than farm trucks. At the age of 16, I got a job driving a grocery store delivery van on the premise that I could drive a "stick-shift."

I had to resort to a quick week-end course in manual trannies (oh, how the meaning of that word has changed) on my girlfriend's somewhat exotic Beetle. This current manual transmission drought, too, shall pass, the EPA willing.

dbp said...

I am doing my part to keep manual transmissions alive, not my own personal one but manuals in general: This past weekend I took my 15 year old daughter to a parking lot for her first driving lesson. She did well and got the car going twice with no problems. The third time, she left the parking brake on and killed the engine. She shook it off and got the car going another couple of times from a stop.

Roux said...

It's pretty hard to find a car with manual transmission. My first was a 1971 Super Beetle but I learned to use a shift on an old truck that had 3 on the tree.... It was for a job and the boss asked me if I could drive a shift. I said yes and got in, of course I didn't know what I was doing.

It stalled a couple of times but I blamed it on not being used to the clutch. I got the job and I love a stick shift.

Methadras said...

Original Mike said...

We just bought a new truck; Toyota Tacoma. The morning we picked it up, I lost track of the number of dealer service guys who came over and "congratulated" us on buying a stick.


Back in october of 1999 I ordered a brand new F150 Supercrew step-side, with a 4.2L v6, a 3:08 rear, leather captains chairs and rear seats. and a 5 speed manual. Back then I could order it under multiple configurations any way I wanted. I waited 8 weeks to get it. When it showed up at the dealer, I was told that people get putting offers on it before it even got off the truck. I still have it and it's my daily driver. It's gone through a 3 year home remodel, a teenager, 2 dogs (1 now, my other passed away last august), 1 alternator and a water pump gasket. That's it. Outside of regular maintenance, which I do on it regularly and some road wear and tear, it's still a champ. I'll drive it until it dies and even then I'll probably just drop a new motor in it if I can.

Best vehicle I've ever owned. Period.

Methadras said...

halojones-fan said...

The kind of people who think that manual transmissions are the only ones that we should have are the same kind of people who think that if you can't hunt your own meat then you don't deserve to live.


Really? I never had that kind of thought in my life.

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Unknown said...

I have been driving manual transmissions for 35 years and never want to drive automatics. If I had to drive an automatic I would probably have to play with my cell phone or something to keep from being bored. If I ever get bunged up and can't drive a stick anymore, I will be sure to have a performance valve body put in my automatic so I can get nice firm shifts.