When my parents signed me up for driving lessons nearly 20 years ago I had no choice but to learn how to drive on a car with a manual transmission.
I didn’t question it at the time because where I lived most of the cars on the road were stick shifts, not to mention you could get a full licence or an automatic transmission licence.
When I asked my dad why I had to learn on a manual transmission, he said, “I learned how to drive on a standard and I thought you should learn as well. Plus driving a standard is cool.”
You know what? It is cool to drive a stick shift and once again it seems we’re mourning the slow disappearance of the manual transmission car in North America.
They’re still prevalent in Europe but just this year Lamborghini floated the idea of no longer producing cars with manual transmissions.
For the record, I’m talking about stick shifts — five on the floor — not the flappy paddle gear shifts on the wheel. Granted if you want an opinion on that, just watch any episode of Top Gear. Jeremy Clarkson will give you his opinion — loudly.
It’s a shame that the manual transmission cars seem to be decreasing in production. Some theories include women preferring to drive automatics which is interesting because when I mentioned I was writing this article, a few of my female friends said sarcastically, “But girls don’t drive stick, didn’t you get the memo?” Other reasons include degree of difficulty — there’s nothing more embarrassing than stalling your car on the highway during rush hour. Trust me I’ve done that.
One interesting theory is that people who find driving a chore prefer to drive automatics because you can get in and go. Manual transmission drivers tend to rhapsodize about “feeling the road” and “really driving” because you’re actively shifting gears and pressing the clutch.
When I got my licence, I drove my parents’ manual transmission car for two years. When I came to Canada, we got a car with an automatic transmission and I drove those for a decade. When I finally decided to buy a car, I immediately decided to buy a car with a manual transmission. When I went to pick it up I took my father with me because I hadn’t driven a stick shift in 10 years. He drove it back. Yes, I know that’s embarrassing.
It took me a week and multiple stalls when doing hill starts but I was back on the road shifting through the gears and balancing my clutch and gas. If manual transmission cars do disappear, I think most people will miss out on a great driving experience.
(written for AOL Autos on October 29th, 2010)