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…"