9 thoughts on “Don’t Be Shiftless”

  1. I learned to drive on a stick, and every car I owned for years had a “standard” transmission. In fact, my first car, a 1968 Jeep, had a low-range, so its 3 speed standard transmission was actually split into a 6 speed. On top of that, I added an overdrive, which meant that I had a 12 speed transmission.

    After I had installed the overdrive, I soon gave a close friend of mine a ride. I started off in low range first gear, and slowly went through all subsequent 11 gears – over a period of about 3 minutes. I didn’t say a word, and acted as if this wasn’t anything but ordinary. Jay, similarly, said nothing, because he’s just like me – something that is amusing needs no acknowledgement, necessarily, it just needs to be appreciated.

    But I digress. After moving to Southern California, I began to realize why manual transmissions were going away. After one particular round trip commute from TRW at Norton AFB to TRW Space Park, on the 91 freeway, 90 miles both ways, I could barely walk because of the stress on my clutch leg, I vowed to never buy a standard transmission again.

    I don’t know how (or why) you do it, living in SoCal. Automatic transmissions are wonderful in that environment – and even more wonderful here in the Northern Virginia area. I like stick shifts, but I value the ease on my legs in highly speed-variable areas like SoCal and NorVA even more.

    1. yep. I drove a 4wd manual pickup for 26 years. That ended 12 years ago. The manual wasn’t a problem except when I had contracts requiring driving over the bridges east of Seattle. The stop-n-go was painful. (In Seattle I did learn how to start after stopping on a steep hill, too.) Fortunately, that wasn’t much of my driving, otherwise I probably would have had to replace the clutch much sooner than 24 years.

      Only in the last few years the habit of wanting to reach for the gear shift when stopping or starting at a light has gone completely away. I do wonder if the “muscle memory” is there, and how hard it would be to do it again.

        1. A few years ago, I went to an IAASS conference in Germany. The conference was in Friedrichshafen, but we also had a random reentry working group meeting in Stuttgart. So my (now) wife and eldest son all went, and rented a car at the airport in Munich. It was a stick, and I hadn’t driven a stick in at least 25 years. I had also never driven in Germany.

          From the first minute, driving the stick was like I had never driven anything else. Driving in Germany was pure bliss, especially after a few years’ driving among the worst drivers on Earth in Maryland. I don’t have words to describe the contrast.

    2. To go through 6 gears you would have had to shift the transfer case which you couldn’t do without putting the transmission in neutral.

        1. No, you didn’t. The Dana 20 required coming to a full stop & putting the T150 in neutral before shifting to 4H.
          I think you might not understand what a transfer case does.

  2. Learned on stick shift (VW Beetle) in 1965. Then had a GM (Holden) with three on the tree, rear drive Mazda 626 with a nice 5 speed stick shift, then a couple of GM (Holden) cars with auto, Honda Accord with auto (best driver’s seat ever), now Mazda CX-5 with auto. Can still drive cars with clutch. The muscle memory is still there.
    From my instrument designer pov, I have to say the stickshift is an anachronism. Why have the operator do something that the machine can do perfectly well on its own?
    St. Exupery once wrote something about the machine approaching perfection when you are unaware of it. Or Einstein – as simple as possible but no simpler.

    1. Gots to agree about the stickshift. With my new truck, I’ve taken it on some 4wd roads in Utah and western Colorado, and I don’t think I ever thought that it would be easier having to deal with the clutch along with everything else. (Getting hung up on the rock while parking is still embarrassing, since it had nothing to do with 4wd.)

      I wonder about driving on the left… Does having your left hand do the shifting make a difference when you are right handed, and/or learned to drive manual driving on the right? (During my visit to New Zealand a couple of years ago, having the swapped signal and wiper controls meant having to think about signaling when making a turn, and not rely on the reflexes. Since then I recognize what it means when I have seen drivers of rentals in National Parks hit the wipers at a turn… They’re from a drive-on-left country!)

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