Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blogging From A to Z Day 13: M is for Manual Transmission

As you can see, my manual transmission indoctrination started early.
For the month of April I will be participating in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Learn more about the challenge by clicking here. Each day (except Sundays) I will be posting a theme based on each letter of the alphabet. This blog is covering automotive topics for the month. To read my other blog posts for the challenge, click here

In case you haven't noticed, manual transmissions are dying in the U.S. automotive market. Apparently automakers feel that Americans don't want to manually shift gears in their car, favoring that the car's ECU decides when gear changes are made. There are even a number of performance vehicles that are offered with an automatic transmission as an option, when no such option was available before, like the upcoming 2015 Chevrolet Corvette ZO6. Other performance cars can only be had with an automatic transmission, like the Dodge Challenger or Porsche 911 GT3.

I've had cars with a manual shift mode on the automatic transmission. While it's better than always having to rely on the computer to decide when to shift, it's nowhere near the same as using a manual transmission. If you know what you're doing, you can manipulate the pedals on a car with an automatic transmission and do some impressive things, but that level of control increases dramatically with a manual transmission.

Learning to drive a manual is like a rite of passage for many drivers, or at least it used to be. I remember fondly rolling my first manual car up and down my driveway, practicing letting the clutch out while hitting the accelerator in perfect coordination. More fond memories came from learning how to do a burnout, double-clutch and other such activities. Okay, you can do a burnout in a car with an automatic transmission, but you don't have nearly as much control about it. And don't even get me started about how cars with automatic transmissions gear seek and do other such annoying things.

There is an effort underway to Save the Manuals, which was started by Car and Driver. I plan to do my part by buying a fun car with a manual transmission. If you want to learn about ways you can support the cause, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, the manual transmission.

    My first car was a Honda Civic with a semi-automatic transmission. It shifted from first to second, had no clutch, but had a choke. My parents sold it when I went to college and couldn't have a car on campus freshman year.

    Then they bought me a Subaru station wagon. It had a manual transmission. Like you, I practiced in the driveway going forward and back trying to find that friction point in the clutch. Oh dear. I really don't get it, but I had no trouble in reverse. I backed down the driveway with ease. I got to the road, put it first and stalled out. Over and over. (I wasn't giving it enough gas and kept stalling out... obviously.) The whole car shook, rattled, and died. Over and over. Eventually, I would get it and roar back up the driveway. Throw it in reverse and sail back down. And then stall, stall, stall. My dad eventually got in to try and help. After he tired of his insides rattling around, he got out. Gave up. My younger brother watched this debacle from the porch. He laughed so hard he was lying down cradling his stomach.

    My parents also watched from the porch, not laughing. I suspect my mom was writing the Want Ad in her head for the sale of this car.

    My neighbor across the street shouted helpfully to my parents, "Maybe she can just drive around all day in reverse."

    Ha ha. Funny guy.

    Oh, yeah, I finally did get it. I really driving a car with a manual transmission... now.