Friday, March 5, 2010

Another part of history is disappearing.

I stumbled across this while reading various links...

"Check The Manual (Transmission): Stick Shift Cars Going Away

Usage In U.S. Drops Below 10%

By Kirk Seaman, AOL Car Correspondent.
The ability to drive a car equipped with a manual transmission is becoming a dying art. The sales numbers tell the story: In 1985, according to Ward’s Communications, 22.4% of all vehicles sold in the United States came with a manual transmission. By 2007, the number had plummeted to 7.7%.

A quick check of vehicles for sale on AOL Autos tells a similar story. Of the 4,391,747 vehicles recently listed for sale, only 241,560 -- or 5.5% -- came with a manual..."

I learned to drive on a tractor and then when dad got us one of the first "mini" van models released to the public. All of our cars in the last 1960's and early 1970's were stick shift models. Dad said the automatics had him worried. He didn't trust something that claimed to shift for you.

I go off to college and marry a guy who doesn't know how to drive a stick. All the cars we owned in the first 10 years of our marriage were automatics. I would long for the days of shifting. It is a point of honor if you know how to drive a stick shift.

When we got a second car, that car had a stick shift. I loved it. My ex never drove it except once, in the church parking lot. When it came time to replace it, I got a Jeep which has a stick shift.

"The reasons for this situation are many. First, driver’s education classes simply aren’t teaching students how to drive a manual. We spoke with Eric Tunell at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, perhaps the most well-known and highly regarded performance driving schools in the country, to get his perspective.

'With the teen drivers who attend our programs, their family car doesn’t have a manual transmission, so they don’t need to learn,' he explained. 'We also find that parents are mainly concerned with the safety of their teen driver and a manual is one more thing to distract them from focusing on driving.'

Another reason is fuel economy. In the past, manual transmissions got better fuel economy than automatics. Improvements in automatic transmission design, however, has helped them equal the fuel economy numbers of manuals, or at least come very close.

Modern traffic conditions have also helped contribute to the manual’s demise. In today’s stop-and-start traffic, the constant clutch-and-shift action is tiring. Combine that with the creaking knees of the aging baby boomer population and it’s no wonder manual transmissions are going the way of the dodo."

I think about replacing the Jeep and I can't imagine NOT having a stick shift. I feel I am more actively involved in the mechanics of driving because my car's not doing everything for me. I am more aware of what's going on around me because slowing my car means applying the brake AND downshifting. Is it a pain to continually shift to 2nd or 3rd and back to 1st when driving out of the city in rush hour? Sure it is, but I figure I'm exercising my legs.

I also feel that a person who drives a stick shift can drive out of any situation. Need someone to move that truck? I can do it. I know a lot of new trucks have automatic transmissions in there, but many do not. While I would be hard pressed to back up a truck with a trailer, I can drive pretty much anything because I can drive a stick shift.

Yet times change and we should adapt with the times. If I'm the only 89 year-old in the US driving a stick shift, well, somehow I think that fits right into my odd-ball personality.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


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