A Look at One of the Last

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There was a time when it was as nothing to buy a can of Freon (R12) at any auto parts store and for less than $5 per can. It is now illegal to buy Freon – unless you are “certified” by the government, which means you’ve paid a bunch of fees to the government to be allowed the privilege of buying Freon – which costs closer to $100 for a can-equivalent in our time.

I cite this example to make a point. Things we thought would be around forever tend to not be – when government has anything to say about it.

Here is another thing: The second-to-last new Subaru that’s still available with an engine that’s connected to a manual transmission that still has a manual (driver-controlled) emergency brake. These are three things almost all cars – excepting large and typically luxury-brand sedans – used to routinely come standard with.

It has become difficult to find a car, at all – as almost no one makes them anymore except for a few of the high-end luxury brands (and none of those are available with a manual transmission or a pull-up emergency brake).

It is almost impossible to find anything with a manual transmission anymore. And the manual emergency brake is as rare a thing as an ashtray. One day, people from the time when neither was rare will have stories to tell to those born after the time such things became unavailable.

Words will have to substitute for experience and that is generally a poor substitute because it is much harder to feel what you’ve never experienced. Like the feel of the clutch engaging as your left foot releases it and the way your right hand is connected to the engine via the transmission, which you can feel in the palm of your hand. With an automatic you feel nothing. With an EV you feel even less because there isn’t even an automatic. There is only the feel of  forward movement; the same feeling one gets by standing on one of those horizontal escalators they have at big city airports, to move people quickly from A to B.

But these do not move you.

The manual transmission is both uncontrollable and controlled – by you as opposed to programming over which you have no control. There is a feeling of empowerment in that; one that is absent when the manual is.

It is the same uncontrolled and controlled (by you rather than electronics, programmed by some remote someone-else who doesn’t care how you feel about it and let’s not forget there’s nothing you can do about it) with regard to the manual emergency brake.

It is not the same as a parking brake – and the distinction is important.

A parking brake is used to keep the car from moving when you want it to remain stationary. An emergency brake can be used to move the car the way you want it to move, as by using it to turn right (or around) much more quickly and artfully than turning it around by signaling, slowing and gradually turning. The nanny-ninnys, of course, scowl with derision at such things. They live, it seems, to take as much control away from you as is possible – and always in the name of “safety.”

There is plenty of that in the grave – where no harm can come to the person within. But there is no longer any life therein, either. And that’s why it’s important to live while we’re not yet in the grave – and to fight those who would turn life into a kind of living death, devoid of experience, in the name of “keeping us safe.”

. . .

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Having an actual emergency brake kept me from rear-ending another car when the brake line decided to spring a leak. Then managed to limp home while leaving extra space in front and my right hand on the brake lever, would have been a nightmare in that situation without a real mechanical brake to operate.

  2. Automatic transmissions are bad….CVT’s are worse….They say better fuel economy…doubtful in the real world…the only reason was a CVT is cheaper…the same reason for no switches, adding touch screens, etc….they cheapened all the cars but raised the prices….a ripoff….

  3. The Golf used to be a poor man’s driver’s car…soon gone…

    The Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R will no longer be offered with a manual transmission after the 2024 model year.

    A long time ago Ferrari was ruined…they quit making manual transmission cars.

    The Corvette is ruined….they quit making manual transmission cars.

    F1 cars and Indy cars were ruined….no manual transmission cars.

    Porsche still makes some manual transmission cars, but fewer all the time…The Cayman was scheduled to go all EV…another car ruined….

    The Gordon Murray T50 and the Donkervoort are manual transmission only… pure driver’s cars….

    • Even the bicycle industry has suffered death by electrocution. Only thing uglier than that electric moped BS already clogging the “bicycle” section of craigslist is lardassed morons who purchased em in the first place.

  4. It’s all about control. Cost control, that is. A switch, even a complicated shape like the custom switches used in electronic parking brakes, costs about a buck. It’s the simplest electronic device there is, although there’s usually a little microprocessor attached, that might add an additional half dollar to the build manifest. These days it is connected to a computer through CANBUS, itself a very inexpensive, mostly open communications protocol that runs over copper wire. That wire can be routed anywhere in the vehicle, with sharp bends, odd placement, and because CANBUS is a network, the signal from the parking brake button can be daisy chained with other devices using the same wire, saving even more wire and money.

    Compare this to a mechanical brake. There’s a cable in a sheath, routed along the undercarriage of the vehicle to the rear brake. Again a very simple machine. Except that in a modern automobiles it takes time to sew the cable in, and attach it. Time is labor, and labor is expensive. Then once installed it has to be calibrated by hand. Again, labor “intensive” work.

    A button can be installed ahead of time, at another factory or even by a subcontractor, and handed off to the assembly line “just in time” and with no effort. The actuator that the button engages is also part of a larger subassembly that comes in prefabricated. It might even be set up to be installed by a robot, making labor cost nil. The software running the device is simple enough to be bulletproof, so unless there’s a surge that blows out the chip it will basically work forever.

    And not only that, but there’s a “feature” of making your car a little more high-tech. Look! there’s an alert on the dash and a chime if you forgot to release the parking brake! And it will automagically engage when you put the transmission in park! Ain’t it cool? Look at the flashy lights!

    • It’s just too bad the automakers don’t pass those “savings” onto the customers. Apparently, the cheaper a product is, the more EXPENSIVE it becomes. Ah, gotta love the “new (ab)normal”!

      • All the savings go into the underfunded pension funds that were raided in the 90s because everyone “knew” the boom times would never end… as long as Greenspan kept the punch bowl spiked. Sell your stock to the pension fund to keep your bonus. Great idea!

  5. “There is plenty of that in the grave – where no harm can come to the person within. But there is no longer any life therein, either. And that’s why it’s important to live while we’re not yet in the grave – and to fight those who would turn life into a kind of living death, devoid of experience, in the name of “keeping us safe.””

    Finally at zero risk … when dead.

  6. If we really cared about the environment instead of chemical industry profits we here in the USA would have switched to R290 (plain old propane) a long time ago.

    Like other countries who didn’t want to pay for patented refrigerants.

  7. WA State has outlawed R134a for individuals as well. The auto part stores packed it up and returned it all. I talked to our local NAPA guy and they are subject to big fines if caught selling it. What nonsense.

    The true e. brake hand operated saved me a tow when the ‘05 Gran Cherokee lost a caliper bolt, hit the brakes it would rotate the caliper up into the wheel not good. Drove 20 miles home with just the e brake and telling The Commander and Daughter to stop screaming. Sheesh.

  8. ‘An emergency brake can be used to move the car the way you want it to move, as by using it to turn right (or around) much more quickly and artfully.’ — eric

    Poetic!

    Both my four-wheeled vehicles have real emergency brakes … though the vintage Frontier has a crappy under-dash pull handle that hits my right knee when I yank it out. Converting it to a handy lever on the center console is one item on my to-do list.

    Clyde Barrow wudn’t no bootlegger (or prose horse either): he went straight for the long green in banks. Nevertheless, one final bootlegger turn approaching Arcadia, Louisiana would’ve saved Clyde and his wanton moll Bonnie from a perpetual stay in the crypt:

    Tulsa, Okla
    10th April [1934]

    Mr Henry Ford
    Detroit, Mich.

    Dear Sir: – While I still have got breath in my lungs I will tell you what a dandy car you make. I have drove Fords exclusively when I could get away with one. For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got ever other car skinned and even if my business hasen’t been strickly legal it don’t hurt enything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8.

    Yours truly
    Clyde Champion Barrow

    I have drove 20th century vehicles exclusively and I strickly share Clyde’s sentiments about muh voitures [nom féminin en français]:

    But she’s no drag
    Just watch the way she walks
    She’s a twentieth century fox
    She’s a twentieth century fox

    — The Doors, Twentieth Century Fox

  9. Refrigerant changes happened in the HAVAC and refrigerators, too. I talked to an appliance repairman & he said the new refrigerators with (I think) R600 refrigerant are absolute garbage & that I should hope my very very old refrigerator keeps cooling, ’cause once it no longer cools, throw it out, no refrigerant available for it anymore.

  10. add in light bulbs…who in their right mind BANS a damn light bulb! The government who wants to force products on their citizens. someone was paid off by the makers of LEDS.

    the fact is, they have MIGHT but no right to do anything they are doing. they have guns and people willing to carry out their ”orders”…just doing their jobs! or so they say…yeah to violate other people’s rights. to force products. oh, yeah…just a job! one with a gun.

    AND the people accept it…over and over and over again. accepting their choices being taken from them and they accept the replacement. such as led bulbs never mind the damaging health effects and the principle of the matter. where is the freedom to choose? oh yeah. you can choose only what they allow you to choose. everything else is banned.

    medicines that used to work. banned. products and cars, clothing you name it. you have OPTIONS…no choices! your free ONLY to choose from the options the government allows you to have today. tomorrow they will ban those and give you NEW AND IMPROVED options. until there are none.

    let the hunger games begin! the ultimate goal i think.

    • Ironically, light bulb manufacturers were one of the first to use the concept of “planned obsolescence” way back in the day. I’m assuming that’s what led to “soft white” bulbs, which insulated most of the light and heat, causing the filament to burn out faster. But apparently, even THAT wasn’t good enough. Hence the lobbying to (eventually) ban incandescent bulbs altogether.

      And as far as LEDs being a health hazard, that may very well be a “feature”, not a bug.

  11. About 20 years ago, Costco use to sell 30lb containers of R-12 and R-22 on a pallet. No more.

    DuPont was behind the scare tactic that R-12 was destroying the ozone because the patent was running out and anyone could make it. Nice to have friends in government.

    Two summers ago, I was leaving to drive up to Seattle when, in my neighborhood, I spotted what looked like a large 7-up container in the street gutter. When I drove by in the corner of my eye I could see handles on the bottle. I did one of those hand brake turns and came back and yes….it was a full bottle of R 407A. Some AC tech must have not secured in the back of his (her or it) service truck. Nice $400 find.

    Regarding:
    “And that’s why it’s important to live while we’re not yet in the grave – and to fight those who would turn life into a kind of living death, devoid of experience, in the name of “keeping us safe.” ” Eric Peters

    Just bought an old school Mopar for my wife. Why the hell not, life is short, should appreciate in value, we can have fun with an investment, rather than watch a BS equity lose theoretic value in the next market decline.

  12. This article has a lot of parallels with the previous one on “Dog workers”. Wherein one can take pride in the application of their own accomplishment.
    The difference between a “parking” brake and an “emergency” brake can only be appreciated by one who has used the latter.
    Going downhill in the Ozark mountains, I blew a brake hose on a 64 Dodge, with a single master, which means I had no brakes, except the “emergency” brake, which saved my life.

    • I thought exactly the opposite!

      Poor one handed steering technique – works great with modern power steering but won’t on a vintage car without power assist.

      Slipping the steering wheel with one hand.

      Leaving shifter hand resting on the shift lever

      Done on a gravel road where it’s easy to do.

      We all start somewhere so I give him props for at least learning and doing what 90% of the population is incapable of.

  13. Speaking of banned R-12 (because the patent expired, of course), now that the R-134a patent has expired and has become cheap at about $10 per 12 oz. can (although it was $6 a couple years ago), an 8 oz. can of the new R-1234 sells for a mere $70 at Walmart. The good news is that, R-1234 is only “mildly flammable.” Disregard this danger though citizen; R-1234 is touted as having a much lower GWP (yup, you guessed it right: “Global Warming Potential”).

    To all those behind this refrigerant change, I say Fuck You.

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