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The Manual Gearbox: An Endangered Species

Bill Wilson

Manual transmissions and performance cars go together like a Ferrari and the color red. But even everyday driving is more fun with a stick shift. Slipping that handle into gear while stepping on the gas can make even the tiniest econo-box seem like a Lamborghini tearing down a race strip.

That’s why the news about manuals is so troubling. According to sales statistics, only 9% of current vehicles are sold with manual transmissions. Unless this trend is reversed, the fine art of stick shifting will soon go the way of steam engines and drum brakes.

Simply a Better Way to Drive

When weighed side-by-side, manual gearboxes have it all over their automatic cousins. This is true for the following reasons:

1. Manuals are far simpler mechanically, meaning they go much longer on average before needing repairs.
2. When manual trannies do need work, the costs are usually much lower than automatics.
3. Manual transmissions give drivers far greater control over the vehicle in rain and other types of bad weather, making them safer.
4. Cars with manual transmissions get better fuel economy than many automatics.
5. A new car with a stick shift can be as much as $1,000 less than the same vehicle with an automatic transmission.
6. Manual transmissions offer a link to the earliest days of automotive history.
7. As mentioned before, manuals are simply more fun.

With all of these advantages, why do people choose cars with automatic transmissions? Because, as a society, we crave convenience above all other things. That’s why a can of soup from your local Stop-n-Go costs three times as much as it does at the supermarket. But, as this analogy shows, convenience can come at a terrible cost.

Manual Up America

There’s Still Hope

Fortunately, all isn’t lost quite yet. The good folks at Car and Driver magazine have started a campaign called “Save the Manuals,” in an effort to preserve this symbol of automotive heritage from extinction. You can join the crusade and help to rescue a truly great piece of history.

Or you can take the easy out and stick with automatics. But is that really the kind of future you want to leave to your kids? Only you can answer that question. I know what my response is. But I’m not saying.

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Photo Credits: Automotive.com, Fanpop.com