21 Sep 2020

Lament for the Manual Transmission

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Alfa Romeo 1750 stick shift.

David L. Scott, in the Wall Street Journal, sees the grim approach of the dystopian future in which you’ll sit passively in your computer-driven car with government-mandated speed limits and instantly-revocable travel permissions programmed in.

The manual transmission is already missing from most hypercars, and the rising generations of wussies does not know how to drive stick. The era of driving as fun and adventure is rapidly drawing to a close.

[T]he end of the manual transmission is near, and the unfortunate truth is few people will miss it. Most young adults don’t know how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, and they aren’t interested in learning. Many modern automatics offer better fuel efficiency and quicker acceleration than their manual counterparts. Porsche now delivers 75% of its 718 and 911 sports cars with automatic transmissions. The new C8 Corvette is only available with one. When the stick shift loses Porsche and Corvette buyers, you know it’s quickly heading for the rearview mirror.

But there is more bad news. In the future, cars won’t only be automatics; it appears they’ll increasingly be automated, electric vehicles. The satisfying throbbing of the exhaust and the pleasure of driving will also become victims of progress. Traveling in a personal vehicle will be as exciting as riding in an elevator with windows.

Despite impressive improvements in vehicle technology, my devotion for manually shifting gears, listening to the rumble of the exhaust, and maintaining a tight grip on the steering wheel through a sharp curve remains undiminished. Gripping the shifter knob allows a driver to become part of the vehicle rather than someone who is little more than a passenger. Manually accelerating through the gears and downshifting into a curve are two of motoring’s most satisfying experiences.

The sound, feel and thrill of driving are to be relished, not relegated to the trash heap and memories along with carburetors, fender skirts, steel wheels and hubcaps. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in a sports car with a manual transmission and you too will become a believer.


HT: William Laffer.

4 Feedbacks on "Lament for the Manual Transmission"


high school- the town south of us was pricey, estated, hilly-to worn mountainous and had the best asphalt roads ever covering straight-aways, off-camber turns, sweepers, combo climbs …and one ancient cop in attendance.

Heel/toe came naturally in my reclaimed ‘65 beetle and competitors for “follow the leader” competitions were not infrequent.

at night, of course.

I could push start the VW with my left foot while sitting in the driver’s seat and discovered the transmission was a crashbox-in-waiting.

I was 6’-5”, the seat sat you upright, and probably had 4” of headroom left over.

by God, I want another one. map kirtland ohio to view the terrain.

Don Cody

I turned 65 in July and recently bought a Subaru Forester AWD w/5speed manuel transmission. I had forgotten how much fun a stick shift was to drive!! Love it!!

Joe Gruber

I have driven a stick for most of my life, and I still enjoy it even my short ten minute commute to the office. We live at the top of a mile of tight turns, and just the drive up the hill every day is still a small but measurable thrill.

A stick shift has become a luxury item, if you can find one at all. I was surprised recently when I realized Honda still offers it as an option on several models.

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