Why Manuals Matter

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The manual transmission has become something of a rarity, even in vehicles that used to commonly come standard – play on words intended – with them, such as economy cars, sports cars and trucks. This was so for several reasons, the chief ones being (as regards economy cars and trucks) manuals cost less than automatics, which were once extra-cost optional equipment. And because they offered the driver more control, as well as fun -which people who drove sports cars tend to value.

Almost no economy cars even offer them anymore. There is only one new truck (the ’24 Toyota Tacoma) that’s still available with a manual.

The latest Corvette is automatic-only.

Readers of this column know why this is happening. It is the result of a combination of compliance pressure – it’s easier to program an automatic to do well on the emissions and fuel economy tests new cars are required to pass to be “certified” for sale by the government – and because it’s easier to drive a car that doesn’t require the driver to operate the clutch.

The shifting part is the easy part.

But maybe it should be less-easy to drive a car. More finely, maybe it ought to be harder to learn how to drive a car. So that people do learn how to drive one. Then they might not need “advanced driver assistance technology.” There might be fewer “accidents,” the majority of which are the result of driver error, including not-paying-attention.

Imagine that.

It’s been said that the automatic transmission has done more to undermine the art of driving than any other automotive advancement excepting the electric starter.

Probably so.

At the dawn of the automobile age and all the way through the Model T era, in order to drive a car it was necessary to first start the engine, which was done by hand. Not by turning a key – but by turning the engine over. By hand. Using a crank handle that fit into the front of the engine. It was common for people to break their hands doing this the wrong way (via engine compression kickback, which could cause the crank handle to “snap” back – and snap the bones of the operator’s hand).

The electric starter made it easy for anyone to start a car’s engine and that made it easier for them to drive a car. Assuming, of course, they could shift. And had mastered the art of engaging and disengaging the clutch. Because – at the time – the manual transmission was the only transmission.

Shifting was no easy thing at first – back then – because gears weren’t synchronized in the early manuals; the operator had to know when to shift and how to engage/disengage the clutch in time with the shifting. If he didn’t know how, he’d grind the gears, which was both embarrassing as well as expensive, if done too often.

Transmissions got synchronizers by the ’50s but the clutch was still a manual device that took some work to engage and disengage because hydraulic-assist clutches were still about 30 years in the future.

This was especially so in trucks and high-performance vehicles, which had heavier (larger) clutches to deal with the heavier loads and higher horsepower. In some muscle cars of the ’60s, pushing in the clutch was not unlike doing leg presses at the gym. And smoothly engaging the clutch – without the car almost-stalling or bucking in the process – was not a skill you just had.

It had to be acquired, in the usual way – by doing it until you got good at doing it.

This, arguably, was a good thing. Assuming the desired end result is a good driver. Or at least, a driver who knows how to drive.

Good judgment is, of course, another matter.

But the point stands. A driver who learns to drive something like a ’69 Chevelle SS 396 with a four speed – or even an old pick-up with a three on the tree – is a driver who is almost certainly a better driver, in terms of skill (if not judgment) than a person who learned how to drive by getting in and putting it in Drive. The latter taking almost no skill at all, which – arguably – fosters overconfidence in abilities one hasn’t developed yet. But because it feels easy – because it’s easier to not pay as much attention to what you’re doing – the driver does not feel uneasy about driving in ways (and at speeds) that are probably above whatever limited skill he has.

If you are someone who did learn to drive an old truck with a three on the tree at 65 MPH you are probably someone who developed both the physical driving skills and the mental habits that make it much safer for you to drive a modern car with an automatic at 85 MPH.

Or at any speed.

If you never developed the skills – and mental habits – that were necessary to have in order to be able to drive an old truck with a three-on-the-tree (or even an old Beetle with four on the floor) you may be able to drive an automatic-equipped modern car 85 MPH – because anyone can.

But you probably ought not to be doing it.

. . .

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  1. While I agree with much of what you preach, this insistence that somehow manual transmissions are a great thing (along with having to change points, condensers, and spark plugs every 30,000 miles) is ridiculous.

    People are bad drivers because they are overwhelmingly distracted by stupid cell phones and gadgets in cars, not the shifter that is next to them.

    • Hi Frank,

      But why are they distracted? Does it haver anything to do with automatic cars being so easy to drive? It’s more than just that, too. A person who learns to drive a manual car learns habits – and develops skills – that tend to make that person a more attentive, better skilled driver.

      PS: When did I ever say changing points is a great thing?

      • Great riposte ep!

        Hey while on manuals .. any comments on a 2005 Chevy Colorado 5 speed?
        Looks Ok… the dude just doesn’t need it anymore… and doesn’t have visible damage .
        Should I bother about a test drive inquiry?

        • Hi Expat,

          Thanks! And – in re the Colorado/manual – yes, I’d check it out. Assuming it’s not been abused, this ought to be a good, solid truck for many years to come. Compact trucks with four cylinder engines and manuals made circa ’90s-early 2000s are among the longest-lived vehicles ever made. Useful, too!

      • I tend to just prefer manuals because I can’t stand the way most autos shift. I do advocate manuals because they force you to understand your car a little better but they really don’t affect the way I drive. Can’t speak for anyone else though so YMMV.

        • Hi Alessandro,

          When I drive my truck (manual) I am more anticipatory of changing traffic conditions. For instance, I try to time things so that I don’t need to come t a complete stop (this reduces clutch wear). I also like that I have more control over the vehicle because it is more under control when it is the optimal gear for conditions (e.g., before, during and exiting corners). It’s also just a lot more fun. You’re driving. Not just meatsacking.

  2. First learned how to drive on the easiest manual transmission ever created – a mid 80’s Jeep that my Aunt and Uncle owned when I was probably 12 or so. Then in highschool my buddy had some Ford station wagon with a stick. Drove the thing up and down the dirt roads of northern Wisconsin one night at about 3:00 in the morning with half a bottle of vodka in my stomach! Haha….damn, that was probably close to 20 years ago now.

  3. I loved reading what other people learned to drive in. And yeah, I learned to drive via a stick shift. And it has only been the last two years that I have driven an automatic, as I have been blessed to have all manual transmission vehicles. My semi-retired older car is a standard. Even after two years I am STILL fishing for the clutch when I slow down to make a turn. Old habits die hard. I wish I could have had this vehicle in a manual trans. Wish more of them were around. Vehicles are so much easier to drive and control on the icy, slippery roads, I think. I have found that the automatic trans can indeed make a person lazy. I have found that the manual means you have to be more on the ball with driving. As for that kid in the video; WTF??? The fact that he sees nothing wrong with his behavior is indicative of society and where we are. But, I see grown adults doing the same thing. I figure, if Big Brother is here to stay, that car’s engine should immediate shut off the minute that fool picked up his phone, and then he should be responsible for the accidents he caused as a result. Oh…I remember asking an old timer years ago what his first vehicle was. He cracked me up when he told me, “…a 1930 Ford”! But, his favourite was his ’57 Chevy.

  4. Motorcycle skills really help….my first true manual transmission driving experience was in Iceland having never done anything with a manual outside a parking lot for a couple minutes. Its an easy country to learn to drive in though. It has plenty of empty land and gravel roads to do a little practice on for a few minutes before heading out. (took a while to figure out reverse though– not the clutch, but where the gear was, I had to get out and push, lol) After 2 days of driving around, I was doing just fine, not even jerky anymore. Not a fan of the 55mph national speed limit, but at least the sights are worth it and there is always the risk of sheep crossing the highway randomly.

    My 2nd experience was in the Czech republic 2 years later. DO NOT make eastern europe your first experience. Bad Bad bad idea! Small roads, lots of turns, stops, and stops on hills, and crazy drivers.

    Still wish I had a manual here though.

  5. But… But… If I had a manual transmission, how could I be “blessed with” all the nanny crap? ASS, ACC, speed limiting (<- it's coming), auto-braking, etc.

    • Modern manuals do have auto start if you clutch kill it, which is honestly pretty helpful for noobs and the incompetent. So long as its not auto stop

  6. Eric,

    I understand that, even now, manuals are still common in Europe. Europe, with the Euro 5 or Euro 6 emissions regs, have tougher regs than we do, yet they still have manuals. Why don’t we? I think it’s more of a market thing; people just don’t want manuals here anymore. If it were strictly a matter of regs, then the manual would be extinct in Europe; it’s not. Besides, if one short shifts a manual, it’s easy to boost the mileage numbers.

  7. That old truck had an OLD SCHOOL DETROIT Diesel in it! There’s nothing like those old two stroke Detroits. That one sounded like either an 8V71 or an 8V92.

  8. Got a funny, well not so for the owner of the biz.
    I was teenager and was a mechanics assistant at a concrete delivery truck place.
    They had mostly like 15? speeds, and I was allowed to drive/park them after I changed the oil, fixed flats, etc….. No problem, pretty easy to drive and not get in trouble.
    But I was not allowed to drive the Mack’s, and I didn’t know why. I found out.
    Turns out they were 5? speeds, and one day, my Boss was up against something and yelled ‘Move truck 5 out now!!!” But boss, I’m not allowed to drive the Mack’s. “ohh shit” he says “just get in thing and mash the throttle, you’ll be fine”. OK.
    Of course, as I feather the clutch out on the massive machine, she lurches…………..
    So I got a little nervous and kept trying to feather it, cause as I let it out, the whole cab rose a lot and then fell.
    Well, I’m trying to park the thing and I get into this rhythm, bad rhythm of up and down, with an air seat, so then mashing and unmashing the peddle, and it became violent.
    Turns out the owner (my boss’s dad) just so happened to be in the yard with his new Insurance agent, then saw this kid almost destroying a truck or worse.
    It did not end well. But I got it parked without breaking the driveshafts or worse.
    Bad day. And I didn’t do what he said, which was just mash it, which I later understand how it would have been ok to do that and not get into the violent undulating thing. Live and learn.

  9. Unfortunately, some of the skills can become “lost” or “rusty”. I remember having to parallel park after having lived in a southern town where I had not parallel parked for 26 years. It was in front of a restaurant, with 2 tables of customers watching through the windows. After getting within walking distance of the curb, I gave up. You can only take so much humiliation.

    As I was leaving, I remembered the first move begins alongside the car in front and in reverse. That was about 10 years ago, and I don’t think I have had to parallel park since then.

    • Teaching my daughter to drive.

      She is a technical driver, not so much a “feel” driver.

      Happy to say, first time parallel parking, I talked her through it. Since then she just does what I said and she is damn near perfect every time.

      Her brother took a lot more practice.

      The last time my wife parallel parked was for her driving test. She would rather eat maggot fish.

  10. Apparently, I was born knowing how to drive a manual. 50+ years ago, in a drivers ed course, they threw me in the front left seat of a 69 SS chevy with a 4 speed and a 396 V8. I backed out and took off like I as born in it. The instructor accused me of driving a manual before. I hadn’t. I did watch and listen very carefully to his presentation of how and why they worked before we started driving.

    • Same here John, sort of. my first manual was a honda trail 70, w/4sp. And before I got it I studied everything I could find on how they worked, for about year. This was 70’s, so no internet. i was 11-12. Got it home ($150….), and I was nervous, but off I went. My mom was flabbergasted, cause she didn’t really want me on the thing, and she said ‘how the hell did you know how to do that’
      no reply, See ya………………………

  11. Ferrari’s…no stick shift for a long time…and they are supposed to be driver’s cars…lol…at least in a Porsche (some of them) you can still get a stick shift transmission…

    The new Gordon Murray GMA T-50 is stick shift only…a pure driver’s car….

    In the old days race cars were fully analog, the driver had to do all the driving…..

    Today F1 and NASCAR have semi automatic, sequential transmissions and power steering…driver’s aids….these drivers are wimps compared to the drivers way back in the old days…

      • Hi Eric


        There is a reason why the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO is the world’s most valuable Ferrari…..fully analog for one….

        A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO now holds the record as the world’s most expensive Ferrari sold at public auction. The iconic motorsports-derived classic sports car, listed as a 330 LM/250 GTO by RM Sotheby’s, sold for $51.7 million dollars in New York.

        Things were better in the 1960’s…real men and real cars…like the American muscle cars….we are regressing….

        Ferrari 250 GTO V12 racing Onboard at the Nurburgring.


      • My wife still won’t let me forget passing up on a ‘68 Ferrari that my pal at the Tacoma WA Alfa dealer had in the back room in ‘79. Had a bad head (valve burned?) He knew I did my own wrenching on the ‘69 Alfa & told me for about 3k in parts it would be fine if I did the work. They wanted $7500. Why Sparkey why. It was either a 330 or a 365 I can’t remember now.

        You really become pals with an Alfa dealer, I bought lots of parts! He and his brother owned the place and were off the boat Italians. They really liked the “new girlfriend” (now the wife) and were thrilled that I’d quit seeing the prior bitchy one. “ we never liked that other one, so happy you’va found a sweet-a girl”

    • Today Indy Cars have semi automatic, sequential transmissions….but no power steering…they are more analog…one less driver aid…

  12. I learned to drive on 77 chev C 30 crew cab 454 4 speed pick up. Then parking semi trailers with a 61 Mack B61 ….with twin sticks….. I could rip thru about half of the Mack`s 15 speeds in the length of the shop….Until the boss got tired of me smoking up his office with diesel smoke…..Still hate auto slush boxes.

  13. San Francisco 1982, 3/4 ton Silverado with a 454, 4-speed. At a stoplight, heading up a hill, light changes, first gear, about 1 second before you roll backwards, enough time to make a smooth start.

  14. If you want to test your stick shift driving skills, try driving the dog leg 1st gear…over to the left and down…. 5 speed transmission….like in the early 911’s….reverse is where 1st usually is in the H pattern 5 speeds….they are better on the track…1st and 2nd are a straight line….

    I have a super 7 clone, it is right hand drive, you have to shift with your left hand, so you have to think when you drive it…..it is probably theft proof….and….very few people take up an offer to try driving it….lol…..

    • 1st and 2nd are a straight line…correction….2nd and 3rd are a straight line…..in the dog leg 1st gear…. 5 speed transmissions…

    • I always wondered about that, shifting with left hand. Does it become intuitive after us righties have done it forever? Guessing so.

      • It feels strange at first…but you adapt to it…but….I can still shift a lot better with my right hand….I have been shifting with my right hand for a long long time….

        Another problem….you go to the left side of the car to get in…but…the driver side is the right side….lol…..

        People from the UK, Japan or Australia probably feel the same way about left hand drive cars…..

  15. I learned to drive in a ’66 VW microbes. Graduated to a new ’72 Beetle as a high school graduation present to myself. I saved up the money to pay cash by bussing tables and washing dishes at a steak house. Try that today kids. Lol
    The real fun began in the Navy and my 75 Rabbit living in Oakland California and driving in San Francisco. You learn fast how to use that clutch to best effect.
    The VWs have always had synchronized transmissions even back to the Kubelwagen. The cool thing is learning to drive without the clutch. I broke one on an older Beetle. Drive that thing for months before I got around to replacing it.
    When I splurged on my Cayman I made sure it had a stick.

  16. I often hear from people that the reason they don’t purchase a manual transmission more is that they are “terrible in traffic.” What a load of nonsense. Japanese and european made manual transmissions shift like butter and the clutch is light to the foot. Driving most manual transmission cars is not like rowing the gears on a 1975 F-100 pickup or even a 1987 Ford Mustang GT. There could be a case for driving those automatic, but not a frigging average commuter car. A Toyota, Nissan, Honda, or a BMW are easy to drive with stick.

    The only reason that none of my vehicles are manuals has to do with the fact that they are largely not available. Only 3 percent of cars are manual today. That’s the only reason.

    People are plain lazy. Lazy.

    • “terrible in traffic.”

      People are thinking wrong….you are just getting exercise for your left leg…..same as walking or working out at the gym….exercise is good…..joy in strength…

    • I passed my official DL test by first practicing in a manual equipped giant green military truck on the skinny Eifel roads around the base.

      Had to park the beast too. Still passed. I will drive manuals if I have to overhaul a used vehicle.

  17. My driving skill level was stagnant until I bought my first motorcycle at 30 years old. Riding that thing in Tulsa traffic taught me how to drive with an awareness I never before possessed.

    Here’s a good video of a dude banging through the gears in a 4 speed 81 Trans-Am with a 400 hp crate engine:


  18. I have a 1993 Toyota truck with a stick shift. Drive it daily. I told my wife that when the time comes, just bury me in that truck. She said “I thought you wanted to be cremated ?” I told her that’s what the ash tray is for….

    • IAW a 1938 “Fuhrerbefehl”, the ash tray for the KdF car, or “Kafer” (Beetle) was to be able to hold the cremains of “vier Juden”.

  19. Believe it or not, you can still get manuals in Caddy’s CT4&5 V Blackwings. But ya gotta pay.
    CT4V Blackwing = $60’s
    CT5V Blackwing = $90’s
    And I believe you can still get in the Camaro too, but we all know this car is dead soon.
    And also surprisingly, GM recently announced the CT4&5 V and Blackwings are back for ’25, yaaayyyyy!

    • I was just thinking. They only make about 3000 of each 4&5 Blackwing per year, so if there is ever a car you want to collect or be madmax, this is likely it.
      And of course the Charger/Challenger performance versions too if you can still get them? But built in higher numbers, or where.
      Dodge announced a going away present, a 300 performance version (once was the SRT prior to ’15), in limited numbers, and I learned about it 2 days after the announcement. went to order one and all gone.
      But to be fair the caddy blackwings are way better, but more $ too.

  20. I’ve been driving manual transmissions for more than 30 years now, and I can “drive” an automatic as well as anyone else, but I’ve found that the dual clutch paddle shift transmissions in fancy cars are incompatible with my brain. It feels connected like a manual, so the engine response is just as good, the shifts are faster, but despite driving manuals all these years, I can never remember to tap the paddles on these things. I keep hitting the rev limiter. Something about lacking a clutch pedal puts my brain in automatic mode. I embarrassed myself thoroughly by hitting the rev limiter on a fancy McLaren when I was taking out its owner for some demo laps on a track. I asked him to put it in automatic mode, but he left it in “manual”.

  21. I learned to drive in a VW bug. Wish I still had that car, was the most fun vehicle to drive ever. Had to be able to downshift quickly when going up a long steep hill or stall out, could have used a better heater/defroster too, but still a great experience.

    • I remember my first VW,,, a van. Took awhile to figure out reverse. Markings were gone. I thought it may be broke at first. Found it accidentally leaning over the gearshift to get something off of the passenger floorboard. Imagine how I felt especially as I was driving 18 wheelers at the time.

  22. My first manual car was my dad’s 1981 Toyota Starlet. A buddy of mine asked if I had driven it. I told him that my dad wouldn’t let me, but i ended up borrowing the keys and my friend from HS showed me how to drive the thing.

    The toyota had a conventional clutch and was easy to drive because it was a 4 cylinder.

    I found these cars easy to drive with the cable clutches. They worked find.

    My 1996 Ford Mustang had a stupid assed hydraulic clutch and it felt like you were trying to move a brick wall to row the gears.

    American car manufacturers suck. They put nearly 0 effort into human factors. I’m all in favor of physical fitness, but hard to operate cluteches interfere with the task of driving.

    It’s bullshit that they American vehicles of any period have shitty clutches.

    The only American car I drove that didn’t have a shitty clutch was my 2001 Saturn L series. The reason for that was that it had a Saab transmission.

    Bottom line, American car makes are responisible for their own demise. And the demise of everything good in the automotive world. I don’t care if a corvette can get to 70 in under 5 seconds. It still looks like it was designed by a fifth grader

    • A 1996 Mustang has a cable actuated clutch. I have an aftermarket cable and adjuster in my ’97. I have the stock stuff in a box somewhere.

      • well, I stand corrected. I still didn’t like the thing. I still don’t think that cable actuated clutches are necessarily inherently heavier than hydraulic assisted ones. It depends more on the stiffness of the pressure plate (?)

        If the thing is designed for racing or for use in a truck, maybe there is a need for a hard clutch. Not in a damned driver.

  23. 13 years old, Drove a 1954 Mercury with three on the tree, then a 1965 Ford pickup, burned up the clutch trying to enter a highway from a steep approach.

    Ended up driving an International Loadstar grain truck all day long at 16 years old hauling grain. Have to know how to drive one with a manual. My uncle had a Chevrolet grain truck with a 500 bushel grain box, Detroit Diesel Allison automatic which couldn’t handle the load that well and overheated. Had to be fixed. Still loved every minute of it.

    What a joy to go back just for one day.

  24. ‘The latest Corvette is automatic-only.’ — eric

    This is an insolent outrage; a desecration. It’s like spraying BLM graffiti on Robert E Lee’s statue in Richmond … before tearing it down.

    Corvette was an American cultural icon, entrusted to GM for safekeeping. But GM trashed it.

    Compare how Mazda has cared for another cultural icon, the MX-5 Miata. It’s gone through five generations during a third of a century. But it didn’t grow two feet longer; it didn’t get a mid-engine; it didn’t pork out to 4,000 lbs — AND it comes a with a manual transmission.

    Automatic transmissions are satanic devices. The more speeds they have — 8, 9, 10 — the faster the owner’s soul decays. They are good for but one end-of-life romp: cruising, turbo engaged and high beams cutting the Stygian darkness, the Highway to Hell.

    Hey Satan
    Payin’ my dues
    Drivin’ a ‘Vette so bland

    Hey Mary B
    Look at me
    I’m on muh way to the promised land

    — AC/DC, Highway to Hell

    • Yep I still drive a first year Miata. It is more in tune with the human than most since. Horse and rider as one was the objective and they pulled it off. The only improvement would be for highway usage and that would be a 2 speed rear end. Just to cut the rpm’s in half. But otherwise it is near perfection. I started out with a 15yr old 40hp Karman Ghia when I hit 15. And it changed my world. FF 35yrs and the jump from 40 to 118hp in around the same weight class is a welcome boost. The Miata is technically a slow car but it doesn’t seem to be as it makes you fully engage her constantly. Who needs a therapist when you have one readily waiting in the driveway.

  25. Still driving a manual myself. I tend to prefer a 5 speed over a 6. It’s much more satisfying with longer pulls between gears.

    My mother drove a manual for her entire life. When she started getting older I foolishly got her an auto because I though it would be easier for her. Big mistake. She crashed it twice because she didn’t have the same control that she was used to. Automatics have no engine braking and without a gear shifter in your hand you’re just less engaged.

    • NASCAR lost me decades ago when they put restrictor plates on their cars instead of building bigger and badder racetracks to accommodate higher and higher speeds. The intent was to equalize everything so only the driver “skill” is tested. Sure.

      The sole purpose of a race is to show which car gets to the finish line the fastest. The race team consists of the driver, the car and the mechanics who keep it running.

      NA$CAR is a joke.

      • The restrictor plates did not fufil their intent to reduce accidents, as in 1989-1993, there were a record number of accidents in the newly limited NASCAR cars

  26. Great points Eric

    A couple other major advantages:

    No jumper cables required. A downhill grade of a couple people are all that’s needed to get a manual equipped car with a dead battery to start

    For people who keep their cars for a long time, the cost of a clutch (the only real wear item on a stick) is much, much lower than a complete transmission. Especially these 8 to 10 speed autos, which most mechanics won’t even touch.

      • I put 200kmi on a diesel Rabbit and had a diesel Westie. Both great vehicles but were so slow they created hazards. The Westin toped out at 62mph but you could live in it if need be and it got 36mpg. The Rabbit returned a minimum of 44mpg regardless of driving habits. All back in the early 80’s. That Rabbit was the original Smart Car.


        • Hi DD,

          Those old campers were (still are) great rigs, especially when they were still just cheap old VWs that anyone, just about, could afford. Now, of course, they are desirable collectibles – relics of that better, vanished time – and priced accordingly.

    • Hi Blake, while I agree that going down a hill may start a car with a dead battery. However in your scenario would the dead battery provide enough power to run the fuel pump to allow the fuel injection system to be pressurized?

      The carburetor would probably still be full of gas and once it started the alternator should provide enough electricity for the ignition system.

      • Hi Landru:

        From my experience – yes. I have a 2011 Nissan Frontier with a 6 speed manual.

        It used to discharge rapidly (like within a 5+ days of sitting) and kill the battery. Turns out it was bad dome light and map light switches that stayed on very slightly – killing the battery. Problem has since been fixed

        It is multi port injected and starts right up after rolling down our driveway with a dead battery (about 5 mph).

        Now if your battery is dead AND your alternator doesn’t work – you’re SOL.

        Don’t know if this would work on direct injected cars with the higher fuel pressures they operate at.

        • The Mk1 Rabbit had CSI injection…higher pressure, around 85 PSI, then electronic injection….but they have an accumulator to help keep pressure in the system when the engine is off….if there was enough pressure in the system it might fire up….

          The old mechanical injection VW diesels would run with no, or a dead battery or alternator, plus they had no fuel pump….just the injection pump….it there was enough fuel in the system you could probably bump start it…..would have to push start it….

  27. I just saw an ad for a new Lincoln Navigator that said “enjoy a hands free driving experience” with a photo of a soccer mom sipping a coffee while ostensibly sailing along on a highway. The manual transmission seems to be much further in the rear view than I originally thought.

  28. I learned on a Dodge Omni with 4 speed, no hydraulic clutch. Probably contributed to the end of the clutch, but I learned. Then dad put in a new clutch. Leaving band practice he told me to get in (without warning me about what happens to pedal play when a new one is installed). I sat in the parking lot for about 5 minutes just trying to get the car to move, while all my friends watched. I think I might remind him of that story this Father’s Day!

    But it did make me a much better driver.

  29. I learned on an 84 Toyota pickup (before they had a name) with the longest throw shifter ever seen. First gear was in Chicago, second was in Mobile, third was in Cleveland, you get the picture. It was difficult to master that stick, but once I learned, it stuck. And it became fun! It was a challenge to drive that truck and not stall out. The Hondas and even the Firebird I had later were much easier, but challenging in different ways. Driving a 22-R 4-cylinder with maybe 100 horsepower is a different challenge than driving a Firebird Formula with about 300 horsepower and a ton of torque.

    Now I have only one manual car, my Supra, but I find my left foot tapping when I drive one of my automatic vehicles for a clutch that isn’t there. The habits I grew, such as thinking ahead three or four steps, never leave me even when I’m driving an automatic.

    Also, a manual makes it a snap driving steep grades in the mountains.

  30. Forgive me for inflicting an old-guy “I remember” story, but … here goes. My old father taught me to drive in a ’58 Studebaker Lark, three on the tree. I can still hear him saying, “Goddamit, Jim, that’s a gearshift handle, not a shovel!” That car was so worn out, the front end had so much play in it, you could turn the wheel through about 30 degrees without doing anything but take up slack. Just driving it straight down the road required you to feel when it was starting to veer one way or the other, and then using the steering wheel to give it a little nudge, just a suggestion, really, the other way. You definitely had to give it your full attention. The old man told me that if I could learn to drive that old wreck, I’d never have any trouble driving anything else, ever. I did … and he was right. So far. Although I wouldn’t mind being challenged by that Bugatti Chiron you had the video of a few days ago.

  31. I miss having a manual transmission especially when pulling an 18′ trailer with my hit ‘n’ miss engines. Pulling hills is easier with a stick shift. The tow/haul button on an automatic helps but isn’t nearly as good as hearing & feeling what the truck is saying and knowing when to shift up or down.

  32. The advantage of manual transmissions is that the driver must have at least some notion of how it works. An automatic is no harder than operating a toaster.

    • People learning to program computers should be required to do 8088 or 6502 assembly language on single board computers. These days “programming” is just typing a bunch of “include()” statements and building a main() loop. Then every few weeks patching code because that package you include()d had malware or the server that it sent all your user’s data to got hacked.

  33. Not only did I learn to drive a three on the tree back in the 60’s, I could do it while smoking a cigarette, drinking a beer, and passing a joint! Ah, the good old days.

  34. I learned how to drive in a 3/4 ton GMC with a 3 speed, maybe that’s why when my Camaro was getting it’s rebuild I had the automatic replaced with a M20. The only advantage to an auto are steep hills with a heavy load and bumper to bumper traffic , the rest of the time a manual is better.

    As a bonus since you need a certain level of skill you’re more likely to be a safer driver who can “read” the road in advance to make sure you’re in the appropriate gear.

    • Hi Landru,

      Excellent point in re “reading” the road (and traffic). I do exactly that when driving my truck (manual five speed) in order to anticipate being in the right gear for the situation that’s developing. Automatics encourage passivity and laziness.

      • Do you remember that old drivers ed film where the driver toots his horn every 10 seconds or so to let people know he is getting near them? Looked to be from the late 60s or so. One of the most hilarious driver’s ed film ever from what I remember.

      • I made both my kids learn to drive a manual transmission before an automatic for exactly that reason. It kind of forces them to pay attention.

  35. Manual transmissions also preclude making the entire vehicle “automated”. I don’t think there are any Automatic Start Stop features on manual cars. The auto-braking also would be problematic. Overriding the gas pedal would be nigh on to impossible. Yes, lane “assist” would still be possible but, not much else.

    Bottom line, if you control the gear, you control the car.

  36. But…but..but… those damn hills! I learned to drive with an automatic in the 80’s but in the 90’s taught myself to drive a manual on a chevy s10 pickup. Learning how to shift from a stop on a hill to get going in a manual is nerve-racking to say the least. So many stall outs and tire squealing on dem dar hills…

    • The advantage to a hand lever parking brake! Become a maestro of driving!
      Gear selector in first, then hand brake on, meanwhile right foot gas left foot clutch right hand releasing the brake just as the clutch engages whilst gas on further and off you go zero back rolling. Next lesson double clutch downshifts to preserve those transmission syncros. Then add in heel toe driving technique. Thanks 1969 Alfa Romeo for a brake pedal and gas pedal designed by people that know how to drive. One disadvantage that hand brake between the bucket seats puts a damper on front seat friskies with your sweetie.

        • San Francisco 1982, 3/4 ton Silverado with a 454, 4-speed. At a stoplight, heading up a hill, light changes, first gear, about 1 second before you roll backwards, enough time to make a smooth start.

        • Yep that is true! Again the pedal design on the Alfa really helped that as well. Wasn’t used to the coordination in my dad’s 71 Volvo 142 so the rare times I drove that it was hand brake assist on steep hills. He was always in the car as well, no one drove dad’s cars without him on board. ONCE drove it alone 3 blocks to the gas station and back to help him out.


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