Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Saving the Stick Shift, One Driver at a Time

Here is an article about a gentleman on a crusade to save the manual transmission.  I like this guy!  In a day when drivers are lazier and lazier, and want the car to do more and more of the driving for them, manual transmission drivers are a breed apart.
Eddie Alterman is the top editor at Car and Driver magazine. He doesn't mind being called a gearhead. His whole career, he’s watched the sales of cars with stick shifts decline. And when Ferrari failed to offer a manual option for the new 458 Italia, he said, enough’s enough. Basta.

Alterman is going to do something about it, even if he has to convert people one by one.
On a warm and windy day in mid-March, he meets Julia Espinosa in a high school parking lot in Ann Arbor, to give the University of Michigan student her first lesson in driving a manual transmission.
Espinosa says, ever since her uncle regaled her with tales of touring the back roads of England as a young man, she’s wanted to learn how to drive a real car. You know, one with a stick.

Espinosa: "So the clutch pedal needs to be depressed completely before it’s going to engage? or you said half way." Alterman: "About halfway and you will feel that engagement point."

Then, like millions of new drivers before her, Espinosa stalls the car. A second time. And a third.

Alterman doesn't get upset - at all. After all, the car that's being used for the lesson is a company fleet car, a new Focus, driven in for this lesson by Ford's Chris Terry.

"Put a little more gas in," Alterman coaches gently.

And, lo and behold on the fourth try, the angels of the road sing. Espinosa starts the car and begins moving slowly down the parking lot.

Alterman whoops, "You did it! Now to get into second gear…"


Castanea_d said...

I love it! It bothers me too that the manual transmission seems to be fading into the past. I am not in a position to teach people to drive, but whenever the topic comes up, I rave about how much fun it is to drive a stick shift.

AKA Jane Random said...

My brothers and I had to have manual cars to drive when we were living at home. Dad was adamant about us learning. I'll do the same with my kids.

Jill said...

My husband taught me how to drive his Mercury Capri when we were dating (and he was more patient back then in 1977!) Twenty-eight years later (while I was still in my 40s) I bought my first car: a red, Ford Mustang with "five on the floor." Before that, our family car was a Saturn with manual transmission too and that's the one our younger son learned to drive on. Can't imagine going back to automatic transmission now!

Ariston said...

I've been embarrassed about the fact I've never had the opportunity to learn stick shift for some time. My current car has a "manumatic" transmission, and shifting the gears myself is a reassuring and pleasant ritual, and in city and rural driving, I've found it can even save gas (this was especially notable when I was in seminary and spending a few hours on rural roads a week). But the "manumatic" is just not the same— I can tell. There's a real sterility to not really having the sort of tactile feedback I've noticed manual drivers experience.

ericfromnewyork said...

Maybe we could use the "green car" argument. You know: tax credits or some such for buying the more fuel efficient standard transmission. If we can subsidize the battery, why can't we subsidize the "stick?"