The Scientist’s Guide to Manual Transmission Snobbery

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 The reason I bought the specific 71 MG that I did was because the dual SU carbs had been replaced by a two-barrel Weber and the points in the distributor by magnets in an electronic ignition (no drying out damp distributor caps on a moist September morning).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

I have owned and driven many vehicles over the years. My cars have always been manuals. I’m 86 and my current ride is an Honda S2000. Six speeds, 240 horses, 9000 red line and pure fun to drive. It helps that we live near the Santa Monica Mts. and driving the curves is my therapy. Takes 10 years off my perceived age. I still lose a few Porsche’s, Beemers and Corvets on the curvesS at Mugu !![S at Mugu|690x461]

I don’t get it. if you got the money buy an automatic.
I buy very used cars and i get them cheep. I look for manuals because there easy to check out and i know there will not be a surprise coming down the line in 6 months or a year when the automatic starts to slip. you get what you see and see what you get. so in my lifetime i have only had a few automatics and a few of them failed before i was ready for them too, but i have never had a manual wear out or fail.
So today i have only manuals and i have no problems. I have no idea what this guy was babbling on about. I guess i envy the people with automatics a little bit.

Once I had my top notch manual gearbox lesson, that was the end of me bunny hopping around my home town. I have been driving a manual daily driver for most of my 50 years of driving and intend to continue doing so for as long as I can, or until they take my drivers license away from me. A manual gives me more control of my vehicle, not that I haven’t had an automatic equipped vehicles as a secondary vehicle, mainly because they weren’t available with manuals. Over in Europe, even the rental cars are mostly manuals, while over here I haven’t ever come across manual rentals.

Now, if I were commuting in rush hour in stop and go traffic, I might think differently.

Didn’t read past the 2nd paragraph. Just as boring as driving an automatic. Bicycle riding???


Manual transmissions may have resulted in better MPG in the past, but not with today’s ECVT’s and 10 speed autos. Take a look at almost any mainstream manufacturers specs and you’ll see the auto producing better MPG.

Good writer, good article

Great article, and good points on both sides. Truth is, though, true lovers of driving manual transmission vehicles could care less that your multi-clutch, multi-speed auto-equipped cars are faster in any given situation or quadrant. It is not always about the elapsed time for a lover of the manual transmission. It is all about that wonderful feel of running up through the gears, and having to match all the mechanical bits, then running back down through, and having to mind it even more, especially some British cars that forced you to learn double-clutching to make sure you didn’t create metal-mush! (And even double-clutching on up-shifts on early Minis!) Driving a manual well was a mastery that, like so many other things today, we have thrown by the wayside. If it is difficult or involves concentration, we will find an electronic way to make sure it goes away. This is what is pushing us toward autonomous vehicles. Nobody wants to spend the time on frivolous activities such as driving a manual transmission vehicle in a proper and precise manner. Can’t manage shifting, my cell-phone, drinking my coffee and my photo-cam all at once, can I? So the manual transmission has to go.

There has been over 150 vehicles that has passed through this family, and over 90% were manual. Clutch replacements? Three, and two can be blamed on previous owners. Four drivers, myself, my wife and our two kids, one boy, one girl. Our daughter has a 2018 Nissan 370Z, Enthusiast Model, 6-gear, and it is my present salvation when I have to row some gears.

Today’s present performance cars, no matter how fast they are, if they don’t have a manual transmission? I call them WBs, for Why Bother? True sporting cars have a manual transmission. All the others are GT’s, Grand Touring. Just my take.


This is the last I will respond to this thread. I promise…

Item 1. Kind of thought you were going to mention an automatic transmission bicycle.

That being that, today’s modern cvt slushboxes weigh a lot less than their planetary ancestors, so no big surprise about the mpg savings compared to models of yore.

However, you have to wonder which is really more durable betwixt the two automatic transaxles, the traditional planetary style or the cvt.