The Joys of Driving a Stick Shift

Automologist ATHERTON makes a plea for the disappearing manual transmission. 

In a day and age when everything in our lives seems to be geared towards autonomy, there still are purists who prefer if things were left as they are. Yes, technology can improve our lives in leaps and bounds. But, to me, there are some man-made objects that would be good if they kept a certain element of manual labour. Not all, but some—like, the car.

Get your shift together. Image credit – bbc.com

The car is an invention that has been transformed by inspiration and aspiration over time. At the beginning of the automobile age, it was used to replace the horse, which couldn’t keep up with the pace of industrialization. Brilliant engineers sought alternatives to the animal and the ‘horseless’ carriage was born—no wonder there are so many equine references in the automotive world, i.e. horsepower, Ferrari’s and Porsche’s logos, etc. Over time, automobiles became more of a necessity than a luxury, and was adopted by the masses. At that time, everything about the car was mechanical; early cars had to be started in such a labourious way that we today cannot fathom. Like this:

It’s a stark constrast to the cars of today, some of which don’t even have steering wheel or pedals!

The first vehicle I ever drove was not even a car but a van. Yes, you may have read my earlier articles, in which I tell of my dad teaching me the basics in a Ford Spectron. If you have a parent or guardian or a friend who taught you how to drive a manual car, it’s a blessing. I’ve taught friends how to drive a manual too, insisting that they get the basics right in a manual before they even contemplate driving an automatic. The changing of the gears, the sound it makes when moved up or down, keeping the revs right so as to not stall the car, selecting the proper gear when taking a corner…it’s all too blissful.

I drove many manual transmission cars during my adolescent years and even today, I still do drive a stick shift at times. And all cars have their very own special characteristics. No doubt, automatic cars serve a different kind of purpose—some would say that in an urban area with stop-start traffic, an automatic is the way to go. To a certain extent it is true. But a manual transmission trumps all of ‘em. And I’ve driven in heavy traffic in the rain with a stick shift, so I know what I’m talking about. A manual transmission is lighter, much simpler and more reliable. And by the way, it costs less.
And oh yeah, fuel economy—the savings will have you grinning from ear to ear. And if you happen to have those rare days when the battery dies, you can jumpstart a manual car—just push it. And if you think that driving a manual is a guy thing, please save it. I still see many lady drivers who drive a manual.

But the most rewarding thing you will experience with a manual transmission is the connection to your car that no automatic can give. Every motion the car makes and direction that it takes depends on one thing—you.

It’ll be nice if manufacturers have at least one manual tranny that consumers can opt for. Yes, the diminishing demand doesn’t warrant that. But c’mon, just throw out reason and indulge us poor souls who suffer from stick shift madness.

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