The Scientist’s Guide to Manual Transmission Snobbery

I saw a comment about timing. Modern transmissions are fantastic and versatile. I had an automative in my BMW E30…swapped that out to a manual. Not because I’m a manual snob…but now I enjoy driving the car. Didn’t before; that transmission was a dog (and not a dog-leg). Second point on timing–my teenage daughter drives a manual. Not because she’s a manual snob, but because she drives better than her peers (and MANY adults) and enjoys it. She anticipates potential challenges more, she’s more engaged with the complete driving ecosystem and potential hazards, she controls the car more effectively than her peers, she says it’s more fun than driving her friends’ cars, and she doesn’t text/Snap, etc. (yes, confirmed through a variety of ways and people) when she drives.

A Marine Corps F4S in burner is an orgasm:. a Miata 6 speed is far less, but with the silky hydraulic clutch and the 2 7/8 inch throw (non-OEM knob), it is pure sensuality – and 100 times a trip.

Yeah, but the race car version -The Clubsport- comes with a PDK as the only choice. Same for other factory/turnkey race cars like the Audi TT RS Racecar and the 911 GT3 Cup (it comes with a Sequential Manual, the closest to a true manual on this list)

There are other, front-wheel drive factory racecars like the Civic Type R TCR and the Hyundai Veloster TCR, and they might have manual transmissions (I haven’t investigated them) but for rear-wheel drive, the only ones would be the MX-5 Cup and the Caterham Seven (the top Caterham, the 620R, comes with a sequential manual)

yes. precisely the reason i prefer my 5-speed '73 911 (my daily driver, in the la basin) to my wife’s 991 (with pdk).

and also partly why i enjoyed flying my mooney, particularly in instrument conditions.

the automatic transmission, like hydraulically assisted steering, were invented to expand the available customer purchase base, essentially for women;

nothing against women, but the other edge of the Damacles sword is that the automatic transmission in particular has afforded a broad spectrum of very poor drivers to take to the road;

it is these drivers, of all gender and stripe, who are responsible for and/or precipative to well over 95% of traffic accidents and fatalities which you may have noticed are again on the rise;

having to drive a stick will force the better part of these poor drivers to pay more than a modicum of attention to the road and thereby others on it over themselves, since they will need both hands and feet to drive;

frankly, i don’t care if that would be a hardship on drivers with disabilities;

all our insurance rates are too high and that is what public transportation is for;

the only exceptions i would make are service vehicles—long haul trucks, fire, police, EMT, military, etc;

this rather clumsy attempt to make driving a manual transmission analogous with elitism usually reserved for the tea and crumpet set is humorous;

since when is wanting hands-on control is something at your fingertips elitist?

and you date yourself with the rather hysterical and ludicrous example of Michael Schumacher as a top GP driver;

first his era coincided not only with another era in GP where Ferrari purchased and purloined and lobbied and bribed its dominance to the degree they were the only big fish in a little pond (much like the end of WWII up to the early 1960s) he was also the chief beneficiary of the early semi-automatic transmissions of the era spearheaded by the English marques, most notably Williams-Honda who were conveniently outlawed for the same level of dominance;

in other words, Schumacher wouldn’t have cut it as a test driver in the pre-automated/computer assisted F1 era where driver ability was tantamount and the competition much more keen;

don’t think many of the current computer-assisted crop would’ve been of much use in the legitimate GP era, including the current champion since there is no competition for Mercedes nor has there been for over a decade;

for such a crappy article it has a lot of comments…

I love my autostick beemer - mostly because I can play with the stick when I want to and leave it alone when I don’t… I do miss the pedal though even though I know it would slow me down

I think what most of us manual lovers hate about the way things are going is that it isn’t even an option anymore… and it won’t be long before the option of having a steering wheel and accelerator will start going away… just touch the ‘home’ icon on the touch screen dash and sit back and read the paper… ugh

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Not up to previous articles I’ve enjoyed…are you insuring bicycles now?


I’m not a woman, but caution you on your thread… it is almost like you may be singling out the fairer sex for an inability to drive responsibly.

I dont know enough about racing to make any intelligent comments about f1, Schumacher, autostick transmissions and their applications in racing, but I do know enough about life to know some people may have lost their left legs to other incompetent drivers, the odd farming accident, and even the horrors of war be it in the jungles of southeast Asia or the arid and deadly deserts of the middle east.

Should these unfortunate souls be deemed unworthy of automatic transmissions and relegated to mass transit?

That all being said, there’s something to be said about the modern automobiles penchant for distancing any connection the driver or passengers would have with the road or even the vehicle itself. It is this very distance, the lessening of the reality of being able to control all of the force of a runaway 1 ton boulder into a mindless video game that we should perhaps watch out for and be in the lookout for. If that is what you are trying to say, then I totally understand where you’re coming from.

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Two of my cars are manual trans, a Shelby GT and an MX-5. Having that fifth connection to the car in addition to seating, steering, braking and throttle just does something. The Fifth Connection! Maybe I’ll write a book …

I love manual. Always have. I’d rather drive a car than just steer it. I’m not against progress. The reason I bought the specific 71 MG that I did was because the dual SU carbs had been replaced by a two-barrel Weber and the points in the distributor by magnets in an electronic ignition (no drying out damp distributor caps on a moist September morning).

My regular cars have always been 2-liters and underpowered. Without a stick, my Rav-4 and Hyundai Tucson would have been undriveable. Something no one has mentioned about downshifting is the reduced need to replace your brakes. I have a 13-year old Hyundai and have only replaced the brakes twice in all that time.

So the manual/auto debate is about enjoying your ride. If you have to be in the car, you might as well be having fun. There is something very British in the ‘vrrroooomm’ noise the MG makes slowing down from third to second. You hear it in the seat of your pants and it never fails to make me smile.

Everybody should stop arguing and enjoy your ride. By the way, I bicycle commuted for 40 years and still ride, so don’t begrudge me the damn 18 inches of dust and broken glass encrusted, sewer-grated pavement I need. If you can’t drive on the remaining ten feet of lane, stay off the road. I’m one less car ahead of you at the next intersection and my old 12-speed means there more cheap gas for you.

Enjoy the road, play nice, share and don’t forget to smile. It’s contagious.

So are brake pads cheaper than transmission repairs?


IMHO I think many who believe the 3rd pedal is dead may only need to a few minutes in a cts-v with a stick to arrive at a very different point of view…

Turned in my Rav with 105,000 miles and it’s original clutch. If you know what you’re doing there’s very little wear on the clutch and tranny.

After 10 years on my ‘07 Hyundai, my mechanic says there’s no discernible wear.

That’s what was called the “suicide clutch”. My first motorcycle was a 1949 HydraGlide and fortunately I did not know about removing any springs on the clutch mechanism. I marvel now that I was able to ride that bike (did tip over a few times). The biggest challenge I recall was pulling out from a dead stop in an uphill situation. You really did not want to stall and go through the whole process of restarting the bike with a line of cars behind you!

i don’t know how to drive an automatic… :grin:

don’t worry, be happy.

Two manual shift cars and enjoy the man/machine interface plus grew up in the 60’s. Worst day ever last summer in 6 speed on interstate where semi had caught fire. Highway Patrol closed lanes in both directions and were directing traffic off at the nearest exit. Forty minutes of left leg in, left leg out had me at breaking point, plus had to pee like a racehorse!! Worst car day ever!!

I grew up with manual transmissions. Learned to drive on a 63 Beetle. Competed in motocross racing as a teenager. My first car was a BMW Isetta with a 4 speed left handed shift. Drove a 67 GTX through high school that was equipped with a 440/4 speed. During the 70’s, 80’s 90’s and 2000’s I got tired of having automatic transmissions in tow vehicles rebuilt every year just because they were sorry excuses and didn’t hold up to the tasks they were assigned to. In 2002 I bought a brand new F-350 crewcab, dually, 4x4 with the 7.3 Powerstroke when I learned that the iconic 7 3 so slated to be discontinued soon. I had some experience with the 4R100 auto, so I ordered the truck with a ZF-6 manual. I still own the truck and for the most part haven’t regretted the decision. I love the truck and it has been extremely reliable, however in 2004 I popped a tendon in my left foot requiring surgery and 4 months in a cast. I couldn’t drive my truck for four months. Of course once out of the cast the heavy clutch made good physical therapy for my tendon transplant. Once at a car show in Myrtle Beach SC someone broke into the truck at the hotel. There had been a rash of thefts of pickups with trailers with classic cars inside. While the theft broke into the trailer and the cab of the truck they didn’t steal the rig. The police said that the theft probably couldn’t shift a manual. In the bed of the truck with a fiberglass tonneau cover was my deceased father’s gun collection. Some items dated from the civil war… Lucky for me the crook never bothered to pry open the cover. In 2016 my wife who had been sick for many years passed away. After paying off all of the medical bills and funeral I had some money left over from her life insurance. Our grown children told me that it was time to enjoy myself a little. I bought a new Mustang GT Premium and of course ordered it with a manual transmission. It’s a whole bunch of fun to drive! My home is near to the Tail of the Dragon, and there is nothing more fun then driving a stick shift on winding mountain roads! Fast forward to August 2019 after a fall I ended up with a complete tear of the rotator cuff and biceps tendon in my right shoulder. I underwent surgery 10 days ago, and guess what? I can’t drive my truck or the Mustang for the next six months. I’m sure that some of you are asking why is any of this relevant. Probably nothing… just sitting here with my arm in a sling full of vicodin and figured what the heck!

I recently purchased a really sweet 1987 Porsche 944 and a 5 speed was absolutely a prerequisite to getting a classic sports car after about 30 years without one. The ZF transaxle is silky smooth and the lightly sprung clutch makes this car a blast to drive. The performance mods are all Lindsey Racing parts including tuned header, free flow exhaust and the 944MAX DME chip.
A low restriction K & N air filter using the stock CAI combines with the rest to get near 188 hp.
Add to these the near 50:50 weight distribution and you see how the manual trans can be put to great use and a joy to drive. My daily driver is an automatic so I can slog through my 1 1/2 hour one way commute but my weekend toy could only be a car I shift MYSELF !

What an F’n load of BS! Who wants to listen to a snob with diarhea of the mouth for way too long, who has nothing to say of interest to classic car enthusiasts? My first car was a '51 Hudson Pacemaker (Doc Hudson’s sibling) with SuperMatic Drive. You could drive this car as a 3 speed manual (with Overdrive) or push the SuperMatic Drive button, put the shift lever in 2nd gear position, and then forget about the clutch and shifting. When you stepped on the gas, if you rested your left foot on the clutch pedal, the clutch pedal came up and engaged the very smooth wet clutch and you started off. Then around 20 or 30 mph, the clutch pedal dropped, the shifter went to 3rd and the clutch came back up. At higher speed it would go into overdrive. You could also operate this as a manual 5 speed: 1st, 2nd, 2nd Overdrive, then hit the kickdown switch while shifting to 3rd, and then 3rd Overdrive. Hudson abandoned this complicated setup the following year in place of GM’s bulletproof original 4 speed HydraMatic.

i have 2 identical cars - 1973 Volvo P1800 ES - except one is a a BW 35 3 speed automatic and the other a 4 speed overdrive. They are really 2 very different cars with the automatic topping out at maybe 75 and the 4 speed well over 100. With the higher rpm, the auto sucks gas. it also wont start with a push. But i can drive it in traffic in the SanFrancisco Bay Area. i used to think a manual was the way to go with 4x4 until i started rock climbing. Automatic wins there for sure. I used to think manuals lasted longer (compared at least to European automatics before 2000).So while i really like manual for engine braking on the long hills and for fun in my Sonett, anything on the highway is automatic. i am somewhat unclear on the bike references and was looking forward to a derailleur talk… RogerW