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American Transmission

That’s what Europeans call the automatic because Americans cannot drive manuals. Like others in my age group, I learned on a manual. And my first car was a manual. But they just don’t make many of them these days. The last time I actually drove a manual was when friend came by so we could test drive the BMW Z4 she was thinking about buying.

When I set about car buying and wound up with tactical car, I almost got the model with the manual transmission just because it would be fun to drive. I didn’t because now car companies market manuals as sport packages and up the price a bit. I passed because the dealer didn’t stock them and I’d have had to wait. I kind of regret that now.

I will teach my kids to drive a manual and, likely, my next car will have a manual transmission just to make it fun. I figure when it’s time for me to get a new ride, the used BMW M3s will be reasonably priced.

21 Responses to “American Transmission”

  1. Nolan Says:

    Some young people still learn on manuals. I’m only a quarter of a century old right now, and my car is a manual.

  2. Jay G. Says:

    I’ve been thinking about picking up a commuter car now that the Dodge Earthf**ker is paid off. I’m looking for something small, reliable, and economical – and I might just look for a manual transmission so I can teach TheBoy when he’s old enough (he’s only 5 years out now…)

    Oh, and BabyGirl G., too. I taught my sister how to drive a manual when she was in her early 20s. If I can do that, I can teach anyone… 😉

  3. Alan Says:

    I used to insist on a manual transmission until I started having long commutes in stop and go traffic.

    Then I went auto and never looked back.

  4. Ellen Says:

    I used manuals until I broke my right wrist. (Not related.) Since then, it’s been automatics all the way.

  5. Veeshir Says:

    When I went to get my Mustang conv , there were only 2 manuals on the lot, and one was sold.

    Think about that, there were probably 10-15 autos and only 1 5-speed, Mustang, GT convertible.
    That has to be some sign of the coming apocalypse.
    The Girly Ponyman of the Apocalypse.

    I have a few guy friends in their late 20s-early 30s who can’t drive stick. I can’t imagine that.

  6. Dan Says:

    Boy, would I like to have a manual. Unfortunately, I’ve been consigned to the awfulmagic trashmission brigade due to arthritis in both knees. If I don’t have an automatic to drive at least a couple of days per week as a break from clutch-pumping, I’m in hobble city. If I ever win the lottery and can afford two cars, one will be a 6-speed (maybe I should consider buying a ticket…..).

  7. hardc0rps Says:

    Old man, filled with regrets.

  8. falnfenix Says:

    the only reason i didn’t buy another standard back in August (when i picked up my new car): commuting on I-95 in Baltimore is death to my knees. i did it for 5 years in my Subaru, and won’t do it again.

  9. j t bolt Says:

    I might have learned manual if ANY of the cars in my family growing up were.

    Why do you think the Hummers in the military are automatics? They were tired of teach kids that got their licenses in the 70s how to drive stick after they got through boot camp.

    I’ve driven 5 miles, max in my life with a stick. And those were an ugly 5…

  10. anon Says:

    Actually, automatics are on the rise in Eurostan too.
    Some facts to ease the pain:
    Americans buy more M cars than any other market.
    The previous generation (E60) of the M5 was only available with a manual because AMERICANS insisted on it, BMW had planned to make it SMG only.
    The new (F10) M5 with a manual will only be sold in America. Other markets get the DSG only.

  11. John Farrier Says:

    I learned stick on a 1940 Ford 9N tractor when I was 16, but otherwise I haven’t driven a manual since that time. I probably could if I had to, just not smoothly.

    I’d rather not have to deal with shifting. For me, driving is just a way to get from point A to point B.

  12. MikeD Says:

    Because of this, one other advantage to having a manual is the fact that it’s a theft deterrent here in the US at this point. They might be able to rip the radio out (who does this anymore?) but chances are they aren’t getting away with the whole car. I remember hearing a story about a car jacking that failed because the bad guy got in the car and realized he couldn’t drive it.

  13. TomcatTCH Says:

    I like a manual transmission. But not for rush hour. Too much stop and go.

    And not for off road either. Clutch bounce is a bitch.

  14. Laughingdog Says:

    20+ years ago, the manual was always the cheaper model. I’m a little shocked to hear that it’s the opposite now.

    As for teaching your kids, just get them riding motorcycles. You still need to shift those yourself, for the time being at least.

  15. j t bolt Says:

    I’m looking at a Bike with an automatic, Laughingdog…

  16. Joe Says:

    I’ve been driving a stick for forty years. Ford Fusions are available in a really zippy six speed manual and you don’t have to pay extra. When I buy a new car, they always have to bring the car in from some other dealer because they stock so few sticks. But they are not as hard to find as you might think.

  17. Scott Says:

    My dad is a die-hard worrier. Before finally being prescribed meds for hypertension he was so high-strung that he made coffee nervous. When it came time for me to find my first car in high school he was adamant that it have an automatic tranny, reasoning (perfectly rationally in his mind) that a manual would provide too much distraction and thus increase the risk of my having an accident. I convinced him that my money would buy more car if I opted for a manual. After much negotiation he finally relented.

    My favorite anecdote from those times is the day he left work with the idea of getting home and teaching me to drive my new car. About a mile from the house he was shocked to see me driving in the opposite direction in my hoopty.

    20 years later and he still worries about a lot of useless shit, often to the point of being offensive. But every time his inner Agony Aunt manifests itself I only have to remind him of that day and he promptly shuts his yap.

  18. Jennifer Says:

    My husband actually taught me to drive a manual. I love it and will never go back to automatic if I can help it.

  19. Snackeater Says:

    In my 40+ years of driving, I’ve never owned anything but a manual–till two years ago when I bought a Ford EF-150 (I still prefer a manual). And now the wife’s car is probably the last manual we’ll own because she wants an A/T next time around.

    But I’m glad I owned manuals up to this point: I always said there were two things my daughters (and son) would learn–how to safely handle and shoot firearms and how to drive a manual transmission car. What they did with those skills after that was up to them–I just wanted them to learn.

  20. Firehand Says:

    Last time I had to look for a truck, had a hell of a time finding one with manual. That was 2002, and if anything it’s gotten worse since.

  21. M Gallo Says:

    Manuals are fun to drive, but they will not accelerate from rest as quickly as an automatic with the same (or similar) gear ratios and a properly spec’d torque converter; they just don’t have the mechanical advantage of the torque multiplication at stall speed. That’s why my daily driver is a manual and my race car is an auto.