Thursday, March 28, 2024

Stick Shift

 The long overdue death of the stick shift car

CNN: Opinion by Paul Hockenos

For old-school connoisseurs of the automobile — usually men — driving means operating a beloved vehicle by touch, with three pedals underfoot and a shift stick at hand.

Take for example the German automotive writer for the Swiss newspaper Neue Z├╝rcher Zeitung who waxed melancholy in a heartfelt “homage to the good old days of the clutch and gear stick.”

What could be a greater pleasure… than tooling along winding roads in a sports car at high speeds? Accelerate, downshift before the bend, turn in, roll, upshift again, and ‘fly away,’” he wrote.

He affectionately describes the stick shift’s smooth knob nestled in his palm. (Sigmund Freud would have had no trouble deducing the grounds for this allure.)



The whole article is a super read and I do lament the death of the stick shift, although I have not owned one for over 30 years. My last, a C4 Corvette Collector's Edition, 6 speed, silver.

I learned how to use a clutch and stick on farm tractors and trucks long before I could legally drive. There was a community baseball / softball field next door to my home and I was paid 25 cents to take my grandfather's farm tractor and "drag" the dirt infield before games. On Saturdays for a double-header, I got to do it twice.        .  

My first car was a '65 Chevy Impala with three-on-the-column that I quickly converted to three-on-the-floor using a Hurst Shifter.  I loved that car and put well over 100,000 miles on it dating and driving to college. There was even a road trip from Virginia to Montreal to see the '67 World's Fair (EXPO).  

Many automatics followed as the family-man status settled in. That collection even included a Ford station-wagon with fake wood vinyl on the sides.  

My next fun car was an AMC Gremlin X (typically designated a top ten ugliest). It was a "Levi's Edition" - denim seats, big tires, mag wheels, simple 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8, and I was back to a beloved Hurst Shifter. It was touted to be "the  poor-man's Corvette", able to spin its rear tires at will and outrun some larger, more expensive pony cars. (Wikipedia) What a fun drive it was.

My next foray into shifting were Corvettes (3). Why would you have a Corvette with an automatic?  All glorious 6 speeds. GM installed a, hated by all Corvette drivers, module that forced a 1 to 4 shift to help with fuel economy. Fact - Fuel economy was not why you bought a Corvette! Almost immediately there was an after-market fix for that mistake.

My current sports car
A 9-speed automatic with steering wheel paddle shifting
Not the same

Fast forward, the new C8 Corvette is the first generation of the Corvette that will be automatic-only. Car-and-Driver: The Real Reason the New C8 Corvette Isn't Available with a Manual Transmission  

So, as we look forward to EVs, shifting of any sort will not be required; instant torque.

 "Four-in-the-floor" to the next driving generation will be "What did I just drop?"
Oh well, at least my motorcycle still has a clutch for now. 


According to the CNN article:  "In the US, less than 1% of new models have stick shifts (compared to 35% in 1980), according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s really only [exotic] sports cars, off-road truck SUVs and a handful of small pickups that still have clutches." 




  1. A manual transmission doubles nicely as a theft-deterrent these days,
    - J

    1. Good Point - My grandson had a standard and most valet parkers had no clue.

    2. My First Car (in 1968): A '63 Chevy Impala SS. Previous owner dropped in a 409 (but only a single quad carb. Daddy what's a carburetor?) He kept the factory 3 speed trans. / 3 on the tree. It did not run well. Another friend tipped me off to try the 3 speed off a Chevy 1/2 ton pickup. It fit bolt for bolt. I had fun in the Great North Woods, until I graduated and moved back to Chicago. First evening rush hour, in traffic, on the Expressway, convinced me "I need an automatic!!"
      Fast forward 40 years. I had not driven a stick in that long. One night we had to get a friend's car home. I had the most stick experience in the group. It took me almost a block make a smooth start. By time I got the car home, I was happily double clutching. (o.k. It had SyncroMesh!)

      T'was a great feeling.
      Way Back Machine--OFF