Hagerty.com

Question of the week: Manual or automatic transmission?


#1

When it comes to vintage cars, there are two camps of drivers—three-pedal aficionados and let-the-car-shift-itself cruisers. We want to know which transmission style is your favorite and, of course, why.

The automatic and manual options attract slightly different crowds, but each is simply a different means of accomplishing the same task—driving. It’s what we all love to do, but the experience of driving a manual transmission is very different than that of an automatic. For a boulevard cruiser, an automatic is a great means of multiplying torque. It allows easy driving so the driver can focus on looking cool rather than worrying about shifting gears. Automatics also have the upper hand on the dragstrip, where quick shifts keep E.T.s low. But manuals keep driver engagement high, and few things are as rewarding as mastering the balance of clutch release and throttle application. Hagerty even hosts events to teach young drivers the art of manual transmission operation.


Is it worth the argument with the shifter? (photo- Hagerty)

What is your preference? Two pedals or three? Let us know in the comments below.


#2

It depends on what you are using the vehicle for. In my 66 El Camino I prefer an automatic as I use it to haul things and to make dump runs and trips to the home improvement store. In my 71 Camaro I prefer a manual because it’s more fun to shift it my self!


#3

Agree, depends on the car.
A 66 Corvette with an automatic makes as little sense IMO as a 66 Sedan de Ville with a 4 speed.


#4

I’m sure that I have the minority opinion here, but I’d absolutely take a manual over an automatic transmission when given the opportunity (even in an old Cadillac).

My logic? Autos (especially modern dual clutch units) are absolutely incredible at doing their job, but I enjoy the engagement and mastery involved in the old stick shift. I’m not a race car driver, so shaving milliseconds off my 0-100 mph times provides me no real-world benefit.


#5

I once had a '66 Corvette auto and found it strange in a 2 seat sports car. I have 5 speed Getrag 265 in a BMW 635CSi and sometimes wish it was an automatic when in city stop and go. The master clutch cylinder failed two years 70 miles from home and I still managed to get home by double clutching so in a way maybe it is best to have the manual trans. An auto box failure might not have been so inexpensive. My daily drivers are autos though,


#6

Hands down, MANUAL. In fact, neither my wife or I have ever owned an automatic … and we’re both in our early 60’s so have owned quite a few cars. My 1984 M-B 280SL is a 5-speed and I had to look high & low over a two year period to find it. Considering M-B did not build any manual transmission SL’s (R107 body) for the US market you could guess it’s a gray market car.


#7

Manual no question about it I don’t care if its bumper to bumper still manual and I mean manual none of this bs they have with electronic thats not manual its a kids way of being Lazy in my book besides being expensive .


#8

I think the manual snobs need to give autos a chance. Depends on if you want a cruiser or a racer. Where I live in NJ, I’d need a knee replacement driving around on weekend afternoons with a manual. I’m perfectly happy with the Powerglide in my 63 vette and it helped keep the price down so I could afford it.


#9

Manual. Automatics are boring.


#10

I’ll take a manual over an automatic any day. I enjoy the feeling when I move the shift lever to another gear. I enjoy the hand and foot coordination.


#11

Manual!
If you think you’d need knee replacement, your clutch is overly aggressive and that’s easily curable these days.
Even in L.A. stop & go - don’t follow too close, leave it in 2nd or 3rd, let off the gas and the compression braking does the rest, when traffic speeds up, you’re ready to go. Oh, yeah, put down the damn cellphone. and enjoy the ride. My Z06 is a pleasure to drive in traffic compared to my wife’s auto - even she agrees and we’re both geezers.


#12

I have a 2000 NSX. They did make autos but I can’t imagine a NSX without a third pedal. So much fun. So much connection to the car.


#13

For me… Automatics…100%… Manual people are gluttons for punishment. After driving trucks for 43 years and shifting a 13 speed Roadranger for all those years the last thing I wanted to do is manually shift gears in my cars. Since I was racing with an automatic I taught myself how to rebuild and modify automatic transmissions and prefer building automatics over 3 or 4 speed manual transmissions. Just my preference


#14

Manual in most cases, it just makes you feel so much more connected to the road…


#15

Personally, I’m a die hard manual guy, but I concede the benefits of automatics. I enjoy the required skill and engagement of driving a manual, particularly in a sports or muscle car. Plus I like to decide which gear is proper for the situation.


#16

Learned to drive on a 1960 Bug and in 50 years have only had automatics by default. Currently drive a 5 speed Volvo and am perfectly happy with it. Most fun car I’ve had was a three on the tree ‘49 Hudson stepdown. Three pedals is what the enjoyment of driving is all about.


#17

I live in NJ as well and will hand in my license before I drive an auto box! On occasion, when I worked in Manhattan, I would drive in and, of course, my five-borough ( for you non-locals, hat is folks who lived in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx) were incredulous that I not only drove, but drove a manual. That included my S1 Jag E-Type, which was a blast going through the Lincoln Tunnel!

Anyway, when our daughter had to learn to drive, she was a bit unhappy that we refused to get her an auto box car (sniff, but ALL MY FRIENDS have automatics!). Today, she is approaching thirty and also will not drive anything else.

So I quite respectfully disagree; I am in my fifties and have lived and driven in NJ for decades and the knee is quite fine! I also ride bikes, and the left hand is quite okay too, including many miles when I had my Norton with a clutch weight of what must have been 50 lbs of pull!

Three pedals for ever!


#18

my 68 camaro had a 4 speed but than i changed it it to am automatic i do not race any more so i enjoy the cup holders the navi and no shifting.


#19

I love my dual clutch auto, and feel all automakers should offer them (no more CVT junk) and manuals (for those who have to have them) only.


#20

Day drive-automatic. But 2 other cars with a manual. Best of both worlds!