3-speed automatics and 4-speeds on the floor; that was the standard when I was small enough to ride around in the footwell of my father’s Fiat 850 Racer. Then came a loooooong period of 4-speed autos and 5-speed manuals being the norm. In the last few years, though, things have changed a lot – and not necessarily for the better.
Today, automakers seem to be competing with one another to find out who can stuff the most gears into one casing. (I’m looking at you Chrysler 9-speed) I get that they’re trying to improve mileage, but this seems to often result in a computer constantly hunting for the right gear to be in. That, or they’re throwing away all aspirations of spirited drives and installing CVT units. My real question is, “WHY AREN’T WE BUYING MANUALS ANYMORE???”
Sales of vehicles with manual transmissions have flushed down the toilet faster than plastic baggies at a raid on Charlie Sheen’s house. It’s now to the point that manufacturers are just not making them anymore. Want a manual in your Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Mclaren? You can’t have one. Instead, the new standard or shifting gears is, as Jeremy Clarkson would say, “flappy paddles.” I admit that this option is at least more fun than regular slush-boxes, but to me, it’s just not the same.
Using a clutch and manually shifting through gears is simply a more involving experience. For non-enthusiasts, I suppose I can understand that they just want to get from A to B with as little fuss as possible. But for car people??? I crave a manual when it comes to any kind of performance cars. They say the 6-speed manual option in my 50th Anniversary Mustang GT slows the 0-60 time by 0.1 seconds and 0.2 in the quarter mile. I don’t care! My Mustang, Jensen Healey, Boxster, Z3, Miata, CRX and every other car that I’ve owned with a manual transmission, have been better because of it. One day, someone will have to pry some keys to a sports car from my dead, cold hand. Until then, I will continue to follow the mantra at the top of the Mustang picture hanging in my office, “CLUTCH DOWN, REV UP, SET FREE.” #savethemanuals