43 thoughts on “The Manual Transmission”

  1. This makes me sad, too. My mom taught me how to drive, using her 4-speed Datsun 1200.

    We have just one car now (a 2021 CR-V EX with CVT), but if we identify the need for another car, I’ll push extra-hard for one with a manual transmission.

    1. Yeah, my first three cars were manuals, and with my multiple knee injuries, automatic transmissions are much less painful to drive.

      1. My Mom had a push-button shifter Valiant, which she absolutely loved. Chrysler did away with them because too many women drivers complained that pushing the buttons broke their fingernails!

        My wife had to rent a car while hers was in the shop this spring, and got a Chrysler. The shift control was a dial, mounted on the shift console! She had a tough time adapting (I drove it once, and liked it).

        The most bizarre, though, is my 2021 Toyota 4Runner. It has a console shifter, but it’s one of those weird ones with the psuedo-manual gear split. On top of that, the the selector for drive modes among two-wheel, four-wheel high range and four-wheel low range is the same kind of dial gadget as in my wife’s rented Chrysler! On top of THAT, there are buttons on the overhead light console that control Trak-lok and trailer anti-sway! I feel like I’m in the cockpit of a B-29 whenever I have the least off-nominal drive situation.

        Still, that 4Runner is the best vehicle I’ve ever owned. I’ll never replace it.

  2. This is basically an early 21st century version of the sort of lament one, no doubt, could find in the early 20th century about the imminent passing of horsemanship as a broadly requisite skill.

    Stick shifts were always merely a relatively low-cost and barely passable accommodation to the intrinsically narrow and otherwise seriously sub-optimal torque curves of internal combustion engines.

    I never learned to drive with a stick shift, have never owned a car with one and don’t ever expect to.

    The whole matter will be rendered moot over the next couple of decades anyway as battery-electric vehicles inexorably replace internal combustion-engined vehicles – stick or automatic – in the world’s vehicle fleets.

    I won’t miss either gas-a-mobiles or transmissions when they’re gone. Can’t happen soon enough.

    1. I wait to see a practical battery-electric replacement vehicle only after the design is roughly equivalent to a diesel engine: energy density over engine/fuel tank and a “refueling” time that doesn’t take hours. I also do not expect to see it in my remaining lifetime or a practical flying car for that matter.

      Electric golf carts for city use we have already…

      1. 2023 Teslas will be using Chinese batteries that can take an 80% charge in five minutes. The transition to BEVs won’t be complete for at least two more decades as the U.S. vehicle fleet takes about that long to turn over. But the trend lines are clear. This transition will take less time in most other countries because it is already further along in those places. And, even compared to current sky-high U.S. gas prices, gas prices elsewhere are 3x to 5x higher.

    2. Maybe people will lament the absence of “gears” when CVTs take over?

      I shift gears in my 4-speed-with-lockup Camry. The engine revs up to 6000, but the fuel-economy band is 2000-3000. Give it some gas to rev up to 3000, back off to get the upshift, and feed in more gas pedal around 2500 RPMs. Yum!

      Last year, I rented a Hyundai Elantra with a CVT, and I had the hardest time getting a sense of it. Using my Frank Herbert Dune Universe pranu-bindu training, I am one with the engine and the (automatic) transmission in the Camry. In the Elantra, I had no prescient sense of where the engine and CVT were taking me.

  3. I note that we don’t adjust the ignition timing and mixture, manually either.
    Had stick shift from 1965 to 1992. Don’t miss it,

      1. Rand, you are old enough to haven driven a car with timing and mixture adjustments?


        1. Well, the mixture adjustment was called a “choke.” 🙂

          Timing wasn’t from the dash; it was something you did to the distributor when tuning it. I’d imagine that a lot of young mechanics today who only work on computer-controlled cars wouldn’t recognize an old ignition system. “You only have one coil? What the hell is this thing?”

          1. Flashback to my dad teaching me what TDC meant whilst working on my high school graduation present – a not running MGB. Loved that car, and love manual transmissions. So much more immersion in the driving experience. And yeah, it did save me from a carjacking.

        2. Not to mention my Dad’s ’52 1-ton dump truck with the original “cruise control” pull out knob on the dashboard! Labeled “T”… Some pendant said it was to only be used when raising the hydraulic dump bed. Ppppft!!! What do THEY know?

  4. People who were a part of the Civil War probably lamented the loss of the horse-drawn carriage in the 1920s. Complaining that these new automobiles can go up to dangerous speeds of 40 mph!

    And aging Millennials in their 80s willone day feel bad that they can only drive their cars on specific tracks set aside just for them because only cars with autopilot features will be allowed on the real roads.

    1. The Madison, Wisconsin mayor regards 40 MPH limits on a few major arterial roads to be dangerous. All of those speed limits are being lowered.

      40 MPH is considered a danger to public safety in Rosendale, Wisconsin. I offered advice in Munich to an American renting a car — explained you can go fast on the Autobahn, even when a speed limit is in effect, but watch out on the country roads, it is “just like the Rosendale cop”, and the guy knew what I as talking about.

    2. I don’t think so. Millennials seem to be the only generation since Henry Ford to not, in large numbers, immediately seek driver’s licenses at age 16. Robot cars will suit them fine.

      1. Millennials, or ‘Big City’ Urban Millennials? If you live in a concrete jungle with the cost of a parking space being ‘sky high’ and the dubious benefits of mass transit ever present — can you afford to invest in ‘driving’?

  5. For an enthusiast, driving a stick is fun. You delight in the complex interactions that become second nature. I’ve recently bought my first automatic car. Practical and it didn’t come with a stick. But the wife’s Mustang GT with a 6 speed manual is the fun car. And the transmission is a pretty good theft deterrent.

      1. There is no joy that can compare to being on the 405 Freeway in traffic that’s alternatively moving, every few seconds, between too-fast-for first-gear and too-slow-for-second. But it does develop those left quadriceps.

        1. You just need to learn from the transport truck drivers. You don’t need to put your nose on the bumper ahead. Just use minimum torque to get moving in 1st, leave it in gear and idling, and anticipate the next slowdown. Now where things can get tricky is when there are hills. I’ve driven a stick in SF, which was a bit challenging.

          1. Yeah, that technique generally works for me, unless traffic is at a standstill. But I’ve been driving a stick for so long, it’s just second nature, and I don’t even think about it. LA has some fun hills for sticks, too.

        2. It can be even worse on a motorcycle. My hand used to get so sore from working that clutch.

          Worth it, though.

      2. Probably so. I can’t ever recall enjoying driving, qua driving, except on my family’s first road trip from the U.P. to southern Ohio the summer after I got my first license. In my early 20s, I enjoyed motorcycling, but freeways quickly sapped its charm after my move to SoCal.

    1. My Mini’s 6-speed paddle-shift auto has the best of both worlds, automagic when I don’t want to be bothered, manual when I want it to be. It’s nice to be able to knock it down a gear when accelerating to pass on a winding road, but ignore the process when just cruising.

  6. Young people can still be taught to drive a stick. I showed my 18yo son how, and he now drives a 5-speed Ford Focus hatch. His friends are amazed.

      1. Yes. By decade’s end I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the number of 40-and-unders who can drive sticks is exceeded by the number in the same age cohort who can ride horses.

  7. Full circle. It’s possible to fall asleep on a horse and wake up at the barn door. Of course, it’s also possible to fall off a horse and wake up to find the horse looking at you with amused contempt.

  8. Honda still builds the Civic Si which only comes with a 6-speed manual. If you want a bit more performance, get the Acura Integra 6-speed manual.

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