Gut Rumbles

March 29, 2006

i wonder

I learned to drive on a stick-shift. About half the cars I've owned in my life were manual transmission models. I'm damn sure no stranger to a clutch and I still enjoy stirring the gearbox by hand when I drive. That's another skill like swimming or riding a bicycle--- if you ever learn to drive a manual transmission vehicle, you never forget how.

Unfortunately for the human race, I can name at least a dozen people I know who have NEVER driven a vehicle with a manual transmission. NEVER! Give them a REAL gear shift and a clutch pedal on the floor and these poor souls are fucked. They can't drive the car. And that's a cryin' shame.

Some cars just aren't BUILT for an automatic transmission. Take Recondo 32's Shelby Ford Mustang, for example. That car has a souped-up, short-block V-Eight with enough horsepower to fling your ass from the front seat into the back seat if you're not buckled up securely upon take-off. Putting an automatic transmission in THAT rocket would be akin to cutting the nuts off a very horny goat. The goat may not LOOK much different after the operation, but he damn sure ain't what he used to be.

Besides--- everybody ought to know how to drive a stick-shift just.... because. I've NEVER driven a vehicle with an automatic transmission that was as much FUN to drive as a stick, and I've never felt as "one" with a car as when I've downshifted on a curve and sped on squealing tires around it, feeling the g-forces press me against the seat. That's really DRIVING a car instead of just being on board steering.

I have a sneaky feeling that a lot of people don't know the difference anymore. Besides, if everybody had to operate a clutch to drive a car today, how the hell would they manage to keep a cell phone pressed to their heads all the time? Bejus! They need that clutch-hand free to press their speed-dial numbers. What good is driving if you can't talk on the phone while you do it?

Which brings me to my Poll Question for the week: Can YOU drive a car with a standard transmission? If so, DO you drive one today?


I can drive a car with a stick shift, hell that's what I learned on. My first new car was a '79 Monte Carlo with a 3 speed in the floor. They only made a few of those because of the 'gas shortage'. I drove my daddy's ford pick up with a 3 speed on the column when I went away to college. Now, I drive an automatic, hell, I'm lazy!

Posted by: Michelle M. on March 29, 2006 03:13 PM

Every car I've ever owned is manual and they all will be as long as it's an option.

Of course, that doesn't count if I buy a motorhome in my old age. As far as regular passenger vehicles, all clutch all the time for the same reasons you cited.

Posted by: Big Daddy 2x4 on March 29, 2006 03:16 PM

Yes I can no I don't. Look with the near vertical streets in Downtown Seattle it is just not any fun at all. I HATE the people that insist on it and then roll back 5 feet as they try to "relearn" on a hill.

Posted by: lambo on March 29, 2006 03:18 PM

I learned to drive on a stick, but I don't like them. I always forget when to shift. Give me an automatic anyday!

Posted by: livey on March 29, 2006 03:18 PM

I had a really hard time learning to drive. The only cars my parents owned were manual and the coordination involved for handling one came to me with difficulty.

Since then, I've only owned vehicles with manual transmissions: I worked too hard on those skills to ever want to let them slide!

Posted by: Ice Scribe on March 29, 2006 03:22 PM

Yep, I learned when I used to drive my boyfriend's car. Jumped all over Beaumont, TX, but I finally got it.

Now, I don't even think about it. Shifting just comes natural...kinda like breathing.

My boyfriend now husband still drives a manual, but I have an automatic. When I do drive his car, it is no you said, it is like riding a don't forget, but I still like my automatic better.

How is a girl suppose to steer, talk on the cell phone, and shift???? :)

Posted by: Chrissy on March 29, 2006 03:25 PM

I own a manual, and I hate it. With my arthritic hips, a couple hours of driving and I'm done in. Plus, it's hard to hold your beer and shift.

Posted by: Bane on March 29, 2006 03:27 PM

I learned with four on the floor! But today my SUV is automatic.....although I try not to talk on the phone when driving.

I always enjoyed getting on the open road - for me it was a pleasure and not a chore. It's when my mind calms down as my wheels spin faster!

Posted by: Maggie on March 29, 2006 03:29 PM

... learned to drive on a three-on-the tree... drive an automatic now... but the Wife has a badass stick shift... toooo much car for me... but she handles it well....

Posted by: Eric on March 29, 2006 03:29 PM

My Ranger is a straight shift—otherwise I couldn’t get it to move at all with the A/C on. Yes my wife can drive it also.

Posted by: jim on March 29, 2006 03:31 PM

Drive an automatic. Enjoy driving a stick.
I would trade my wussy little "sporty" car for a real muscle car with a stick any day. Way more fun.

Posted by: firefly on March 29, 2006 03:34 PM

I can drive a manual, either "on the floor" or "on the stick".... I liked it too. It was rather a satisfying thing to successfully shift and accelerate smoothly. And I hated stripping gears, so smoooooth was my preference.

I drive an automatic now, but I'm pretty sure I remember how to grab a stick.

And that's as close as I'm getting to answering your request for a shave from the post above. I'm just sayin'....

Got yore corn in yet , darlin'?

Posted by: Nancy on March 29, 2006 03:41 PM

back when I learned to drive automatics were kind of rare -especially in farm tractors so I had to learn to use a clutch. But know, I am too damn lazy to shift gears when I don't have to but I have deiven everything with clutches from a farmall tractor to a square toothed 3 X 5 brownlight in a semi truck tractor. Used to be able to double clutch with the best of them

Posted by: GUYK on March 29, 2006 03:43 PM

Yup, I can drive and still do. A 67 Notchback with a 4 speed toploader, but not a Shelby. (Damn Recondo, now I'm jealous as all hell!)

Learned it on the family farm on a beat up old pickup. At first only in first to take it down to the road to sell tomatoes, but later around to haul chicken and horse feed around. My daddy told me to sit in that damn pickup and pretend to drive, practicing the shifts as I visualised driving down the road. And that shit worked.


Posted by: tincanman on March 29, 2006 03:49 PM

I always owned stick shifts until my last vehicle , I don't miss the stick. When the time came, I insisted that my daughter learn to drive on a stick , it was sure fun trying to find a driving school for her, but I did.

Posted by: Jackie on March 29, 2006 03:50 PM

Yes, and yes. Unfortunately, that propensity for only driving a stick has locked me out of the American auto market for the last 20 years or so. Unless you spend a fortune for the super top end model, with all kinds of gizmo's and doo-dads that I don't need and don't want, all American branded sedans and coupes only come with auto's. I'd happily buy American if they made a car I actually wanted, but they won't, so screw them.

For the last 3 auto's I purchased, I looked first for an American model with the features I wanted, and ended up buying Nip each time.

And don't get me started on those faux manuals, auto's where you can pretend you are actually shifting - who can possibly be that self decieving?

Posted by: West on March 29, 2006 04:03 PM

Yes I can. No I don't.

Posted by: Deliverance on March 29, 2006 04:06 PM

My father taught me to drive in a standard shift vehicle.....the ugliest blue Plymouth Valiant in all of Memphis in the late 60's. Later, I drove a 5-speed Toyota Celica , which was particularly fun. Most enjoyable was a 4-wheel drive Toyota utility vehicle my hubby gave me from the dealership, so I could drive over medians around cars stuck in snow and ice in the Ozarks, and manage to get home. Most difficult part of learning to drive a standard shift was taking off after stopping on inclines when someone pulled up close behind the car. After I got over the sweats the first few tries, I could balance between the clutch and gas without nary a thought. Too much work to drive one today, but happy I know how.

Posted by: Tessa on March 29, 2006 04:13 PM

Never had a car to learn on, sadly enough. And now, I'm not supposed to because of the hand thing....

but I really really want to learn. The car I want is manual....

Posted by: caltechgirl on March 29, 2006 04:13 PM

Yes and Yes.

We have two Saturns. Stick shifts. Son is wimpering because he doesn't know how to drive a stick shift. His options are shut up and learn.

No wimps in my house.

Posted by: A Different Kim on March 29, 2006 04:13 PM

Hey, if I wanted to work, I'd get a job.

Posted by: Bruce on March 29, 2006 04:21 PM

I've been driving for many a year, have driven a wide variety of cars, trucks and once even an HGV, but have never even tried driving an automatic.
I drive a stick shift (manual over here) and always have done.
I don't feel it's proper driving otherwise.

Posted by: Misty on March 29, 2006 04:33 PM

Nope, and Nope. When I was of age to learn to drive, we had 2 cars that were stick, and 2 that were automatic. Alas, the 2 manual's were my brothers restored 280Z, and other brothers Audi 3000...I believe the statement was 'You will learn to drive manual on my car when hell has not just frozen over, but heaven has started to broil."

Posted by: Mythilt on March 29, 2006 04:49 PM

No and no. :)

Posted by: Lisa W on March 29, 2006 04:51 PM

I learned to drive on two vehicles. One was an old Pinto with manual, and a Honda CB400. Took my drivers test in a dodge pickup (also manual) that I had never driven before.

I am currently in a car with automatic, but the thought of not being able to operate my cell makes me want to get something with a stick. Hell, I know I could just leave it at home, but it IS my home phone, as well as office. Would be nice to go for 20 minutes without having to answer the phone though.

Posted by: Richard on March 29, 2006 04:53 PM

Damn straight. To both.

Posted by: Nate on March 29, 2006 05:08 PM

Four on the floor, five on the floor, three on the tree - they're all the same to me.

I learned to drive a stick on an old-style VW Beetle. Hard to stall those babies out. Owned several stick cars, but right now drive an automatic, for which you can thank the ATL traffic.

I used to drive a stick-shift Volvo. How many people can say that?

And the Mistress of Sarcasm drives a stick, too. Even taught her sister how to.

Posted by: Elisson on March 29, 2006 05:30 PM

Learned on my grandmother's Plymouth Duster, with a three-on-the-tree shifter. Later owned a VeeDub and a pickup with standard.

For real fun, try an older car without a synchromesh tranny, where double-clutching ain't just an option, it's a necessity!

Posted by: El Capitan on March 29, 2006 05:31 PM

My father insisted that I learn to drive on a manual vehicle, despite the fact that the family always bought automatics.

I can't thank him enough, especially now that I'm married to a stick-only gal.

Posted by: V-Man on March 29, 2006 05:37 PM

Can and do. Learned at age 17 when my best friend had a stick shift and smugly told me that not everyone can learn to drive a manual transmission I bought one the next day and my 13 year old brother drove it home from the dealerhip and then taught me how to drive it.

Posted by: Renee on March 29, 2006 05:49 PM

Yep, that's what I learned on. I was driving beat up old chevy trucks and an old Massey-Ferguson tractor when I was 10 years old. I was over 40 before I bought anything with an automatic transmission in it. I don't drive one anymore. The traffic in south Florida is so bad all hours of the day and night that you are plum gotdam wore out from driving a manual transmission after 20 miles or so. I'd bet that every major road in Palm Beach County has a gotdam traffic light at least every quarter mile or so. Add all the damn road construction that's been never-ending for the past 20 years and you'll find that a manual tranny will wear you out before you get 2 miles from the house. I can't wait until I retire. I'm going to buy 100 acres in the middle of the gotdam woods somewhere (hopefully Georgia if there's any undeveloped land left by then) and say to Hell with Florida.

Posted by: assrot on March 29, 2006 06:12 PM

I grew up learning to drive a farm tractor before a car. My present car is the first one I have had with an automatic. And the only resaon for that I was commuting in heavy rush hour traffic and then shifting is more of a chore than a pleasure.

Posted by: Dean on March 29, 2006 06:50 PM

A Shelby?

Posted by: Maeve on March 29, 2006 07:03 PM

I have a 6 speed Nissan Sentra Spec-V- bright yellow - it's all I could afford and still go fast with - I can eat an ice cream cone and still drive - the phone is no challenge!


Posted by: Michele on March 29, 2006 07:04 PM

My 1st car was a 3-on-the-tree 63' Rambler. Now in my driveway I have a 5-speed Mustang Conv., my wife's 5-speed Beetle and 5-speed Mazda B2300, the only automatic is the Chevy Astro Van. It doesn't feel like driving without a stick.

Posted by: Richard on March 29, 2006 07:08 PM

I learned to ride motorcycles before I learned how to drive a car. Back then, all motorcycles were manual shift. My first car, a '69 Impala, was 4-on-the-floor. Ditto for the next ones, 3 VW Beetles. I even had an old Saab that was four speed on the column!

I own both auto & stick shift vehicles today. For the daily commute, I'm kinda partial to an automatic. For just about anything else - especially spirited driving, gimme a stick.

Posted by: Richthofen on March 29, 2006 07:22 PM

My first car was a 36 chevy 2-door. Nobody had automatics back then. We didn't even have syncromesh, and had to double clutch.
Most of the more than 60 cars I have owned were Manual, and up to six gears. If you go off roading in a FWD, a manual can get you places that an automatic will get you stuck. I'm teaching my 4 year old grandson to sit in my lap and steer the car, when he can reach the pedals it will be a manual not a sissy-fied automatic.

Posted by: Uncle Bill on March 29, 2006 07:23 PM

Yes. and Sorta. My dad taught me on the liquor trail. (Rob, that's the road the old Augusta Hwy turns into and runs behind Randalls.) Then he left me in downtown Savannah and told me to get home. I did it.

I have a Lincoln Town Car now, and it's automatic, but I also have an 87 Monte Carlo SS that I had specially fitted for a 6spd manual. It's a really awesome ride!

Posted by: Steph on March 29, 2006 07:58 PM

Yes and yes. My current car doesn't come in a slushbox.

Every time I get stuck in an automatic I go nuts trying for the clutch that is not there.

Posted by: mt on March 29, 2006 08:00 PM

yes and yes

Most of my cars over the last 20 years or so were sticks. I have one of each now. Shifting isn't "all that" to me anymore. But I agree that everybody ought to know how to expertly drive one.

Posted by: marcl on March 29, 2006 08:13 PM

I learned to drive a stick so that I could buy a Mazda MX5 when they first came out. (You call it a Miata in the US) I wanted that car so badly, and they only came into Australia as a manual. So I had to learn so that I could have my dream car... and boy was it a blast to drive!

Two kids later, and I'm driving an automatic Honda CRV!

Posted by: Karen in Australia on March 29, 2006 08:30 PM

Yes on both counts. I've been driving my '88 Mustang GT for the past 3 years now and it was the car I learned how to drive stick on. Prior to it I drove an old Buick Park Ave. and a Chevy Suburban. At this point I don't think I can go back to an automatic. My Mustang is a fun car but at the same time it demands some respect. A little too much on the gas and you might find yourself going sideways.

Posted by: Chris K. on March 29, 2006 09:50 PM

Learned on a '54 Jeep Wagon with 3-speed on the floor, non-synchro first. Then got better on a '48 Plymouth convertible, three-on-the-tree (with Overdrive).

My own first car was a '48 Pontiac Chieftain with a straight-8 and 3 on the tree, then I wimped out and bought and hot-rodded a '53 Olds 88 Coupe with the 325 V-8 and a 4-speed Hydramatic, which I put Lock-out-Low on together with a Hurst floor shifter.

Had some family sedans, some trucks, drove military trucks up through heavy semi-flatbeds with 10-speeds, but now I have only two vehicles left, a '68 VW restored Bug (with manual) and a '99 Mazda B-2500 with a 5-speed manual.

I guess that when I'm too feeble to pump the clutch anymore, I'll just hang up the license.

Posted by: Rivrdog on March 29, 2006 10:02 PM

By the way, for all you Wireless Warriors who commented, give the rest of us a break and buy a modern cell phone with Bluetooth, and get a Bluetooth headset so you don't have to hold the phone or grab the wired headset mike switch.

Or, shut up and drive!

Posted by: Rivrdog on March 29, 2006 10:13 PM

Yep, I can and I do. For the past nine years. As one of them French poofs would say, "I speet on your auto-matic transmeesions."! Ptoo!
(BTW - glad to have you back, you letcherous old goat.)

Posted by: Ol' Lurker on March 29, 2006 10:48 PM

Know how to drive a standard but the last forty years have all been automatics.

Remember when you would get into the car and the cute young thing next to you would smile and say "I know how to shift gears"?

Posted by: homebru on March 29, 2006 10:53 PM

I learned on a stick and my first vehicle was a stick. Currently that's what I drive and will as long as I have the option. Out of four vehicles I've owned three were sticks.

Twenty years ago I when I was in the Navy one of my buddies had a big Honda road bike. I asked him to teach me how to drive the thing. Since I knew how to drive a stick all he had to tell me was the shift pattern for the foot shifter. Piece of cake.

Posted by: Scalplock1845 on March 29, 2006 10:54 PM

Um, currently learning. On my neighbor's truck. (He parks it on my property, I get to use it whenever I want). So a nice rousing "maybe" to both. :-)

I can almost always shift to third when I want to, but fourth remains a mystery and I hate stoplights. However I have NOT dropped the transmission or stripped the gears. Yet.

Posted by: Bad Cat Robot on March 29, 2006 11:20 PM

I learned how to drive a stick in college, on a friend's car - because my family's car was an automatic. Since then I've owned both sticks and automatics, but currently have an automatic. I miss having a stick shift - it is a blast when you have to deal with curves and changes in speed! (BTW - I never had a class-A license, but also drove a semi with 12 speeds for about 150 miles once *grin* )

Posted by: Barb on March 29, 2006 11:42 PM

My first three cars were standards. When I went shopping for my fourth car, I test-drove several stick-shifts in one day. However, the next day my left knee went out, so I've owned an automatic for the last three years.


I'm still thinking that my next car will be another standard, for one simple reason (assuming no one has mentioned this already): car thieves and car-jackers pass over sticks. Idiots don't know how to drive them.

(Be advised, readers, I'm not saying that you're an idiot if you know how to drive a stick.)

Posted by: Juliette on March 30, 2006 12:04 AM

About the blue-tooth, Rivrdog, I just ordered one (along with a new cell). Most women don't like them because it messes up their hair. Not a problem for me, though. :-)

One thing may be a problem with the blue-tooth: the size. They're rather large for woman-sized ears. I had the same problem with the ear buds for my MP3 player.

Hmmm...I think I have a blog subject. Thanks, R.

Posted by: Juliette on March 30, 2006 12:14 AM

I'm not saying that you're an idiot if you know how to drive a stick.

*Don't* know, rather.

Posted by: Juliette on March 30, 2006 12:24 AM

I learned to drive in an old Chevy pickup with a non-synchro 4 speed. If you can drive one of those, you can shift anything. My high school vehicle was a 41 Ford pickup, also non-synchro. The nice thing about non synchro is that onece the vehicle is moving, you don't need the clutch anymore. Up and downshift by feel and sound.

My wife also drives stick. Her favorite vehicle we have had in the last few years was an HD 250 crew cab 4 x 4 with a V10 and a stick.

I still drive a stick and so far have insisted that all of my kids learn.
When one of my daughters took her driving test a couple of years ago, the tester said that she was only the 4th kid to take the driving test with a stick in the 15 years that he has been doing the testing.

Posted by: Dan D on March 30, 2006 12:29 AM

I learned to drive on a manual transmission with a racing clutch. It was tough to learn but now I can drive anytihingthat you put me in.
I drove ONLY MT's for many many years and my first time in an automatic I accidentally treated the brake as if it were a clutch. Came to one hell of a screeching halt. Tokk me quite a while to get used to an automatic transmission.
I drive an automatic now , started driving them when I had kids that I had to pass things to every few minutes and just haven't gotten out of the habit.
I made my daughter learn on a standard as well.

Posted by: Dawn on March 30, 2006 01:05 AM

Learned how to drive in a '61 VW in the mountains -- my dad took me to a big hill and made me stop. And start. And stop. And start ... Now, holding on a hill is 2nd nature and I still drive a 5-speed Honda today. TOTALLY uncomfortable in an automatic -- always stomping for the clutch when I hit the brakes! Feel much more in control of the car shifting manually. But on the rare occasion when I have to get out on the freeway, THEN I cuss and swear as I go back & forth between 1st, 2nd and 3rd -- there isn't much more frustrating than having to drive for hours and never make it out of 3rd gear -- than't when I think about going automatic -- but only briefly. Tried to teach my 17-year-old sis-in-law how to drive my '72 Datsun whilst I was on acid once back in the day -- now that was interesting -- she'd never touched a stick -- suffice it to say that it was easier to drive her over to the next town to get to work myself than to try to teach her how to shift and use the clutch --OY!

Posted by: Marianne on March 30, 2006 02:26 AM

Yup, always had a stick. Learned in an automaniac then flipped to the stick. Never looked back.
The wife drives a stick as well. The MIL will only drive sticks. She sold us her old car 10 years ago, a first production year Taurus SHO. It is funny as hell to watch some young kid challange the wife. When the light turns green, the nose drops and that SHO still lights them up in all five gears. Not bad for an oldster...the wife and the 15 year old car.
BTW...the MIL's new car is a luxury Buick, with a factory installed 5 speed. That was the only way to get the manual. She had to order the car to get it.

I also agree with the idea that a manual is kind of a Zen experience; you become "one" with the vehicle.

Posted by: Wichi Dude on March 30, 2006 02:55 AM

Oh hell yes I can drive a standard..Wouldn't have it any other way.

I tend to agree with you..putting an automatic on a HOT car...should be considered a crime.

That being said, my FAVORITE pasttime is taking the hot rod out for a drive...nothing like being able to downshift into second gear and punch it coming into a corner and feeling the sliiiide.

Unfortunately the car I drive on a daily basis has an hoo.

Posted by: Kelly on March 30, 2006 05:28 AM

I learned on an automatic, but always wanted to drive standard, so the first car I bought was a 5 speed standard.....then I bought a JEEP Renegade (soft top, three speed on the floor) and I even once drove a manual (on the column) U HAUL (not fun at all)

And I have had two Isuzu Troopers (both standard)

But sadly, all the cars I now own are automatic (boring)

Posted by: Ruth on March 30, 2006 06:00 AM

Oh, you bet I can. The first car I ever owned was a stick and I would take it anywhere. The most fun I ever had was teaching a sweet young thing how to drive one. CINCHOUSE can't drive a stick (she has no rhythm) so both our vehicles are automatics. I sure miss the feeling of oneness you get from driving a stick.

Posted by: Sarge on March 30, 2006 07:06 AM

yes and yes.
I have a 4WD Nissan XTerra.
I prefer stick shift. You're absolutely right, it's much more fun to drive a stick. Whether a little rice-rocket or American muscle or a truck, stick shift is best.

I would suggest that the only car I don't think I would like with a stick is a big, American, luxury ride, like a '72 El Dorado convertible or a Town Car or something.

Posted by: Veeshir on March 30, 2006 07:34 AM

Yes and Yes Learned on a 59Chevy 3 on the column.
Drive a pickup now with a 5 speed, but my next truck will be auto. I'm getting old.

Posted by: lefty on March 30, 2006 07:49 AM

Wife's favorite car forever was her hot-rod '67 Chevy II (drive train from a '699 Impala SS). It had a Hurst His/Her shifter in it. This was a floor shifter auto with a gated shift lever. So you could put it in drive and leave it there OR start in 1st, slap-shift to 2nd at about 4500rpm on the 350 block and then slap it again into third.(and snap your passengers's neck each time, heh,heh) Lots 'o fun that was. May have to see if I can buy it back for her from the friend she sold it to when we went overseas...

Posted by: emdfl on March 30, 2006 08:09 AM

My daily driver is a '55 Chevy pickup truck with three-on-the-tree. The linkage is a bit sloppy and the syncro's are gone, but I can thread my way through the south Florida traffic without grinding or even thinking about it. I would never entrust this vehicle to a car valet, however.

Posted by: Larry Kephart on March 30, 2006 08:10 AM

Almost forgot everything we owned up to the was stick - Falcon, then vw dubs, then a bimmer. Had to drive one of the volkswagons to the repair shop one time after the clutch cable broke. Lots of free-wheeling engine/trannie-synchronizing on that trip...

Posted by: emdfl on March 30, 2006 08:15 AM

I've driven at least 100 different cars in my life of every configuration, including a stick shift Volvo Ellison, is that really unusual? When I drove a lot on country roads I preferred manuals for downshifting on the hills. Felt safer. But mostly I've liked the automatics better. I get tired of stomping on the clutch. The worse part of switching between the two is looking for the clutch when you're driving the auto. You feel silly when you're stomping on the floorboards at the stop signs.

Posted by: Libby on March 30, 2006 08:43 AM

I learned how to drive stick on a Datsun 210 that a friend was too drunk to drive home. that car was bulletproof.

Had a Volkswagen for years that had a stick. Now I have a car that has one of those auto-stick things and all it's really good for is downshifting to pass. There's a lag on the upshift that worries me.

I do have to say that I liked driving that 90 hp Jetta a lot on the back roads, but I lived in the city when I owned it and gave it up for a minivan with an auto. Well, the wife did. I had a stone age volvo with an auto.

Posted by: Terry on March 30, 2006 09:47 AM

Boy, I tell you. A few months ago when Wifey-Ki-Yay was considering buying a certain used car she'd seen beside the highway, we went to test drive it and have our mechanic look at it. Turned out the reason it could claim 40 mpg was it was a stick. Chris was so focused on remembering how to handle the shifting she made a wrong turn and we had to trade vehicles so I could get it where we were going.

Man, it took me three seconds to get back into the rhythm. My first car was a 4-speed stick and I couldn't be told how to drive it because I'm not wired up that way. I had to take it out and teach myself. Got honked at a few times, but only a few. Once I picked it up I was off to the races.

Posted by: McGehee on March 30, 2006 10:01 AM

Learned to drive on a '60 Valiant with 3 on the floor; the shift had a bed habit of falling on the floorboards in second gear. My father insisted we all had to learn and have manuals for our first cars. Still drive one occasionally but have only owned autos for years now, for city driving. (I believe some Florida cities synch their lights for maximum fuel waste, to increase revenue from local gas taxes. A cross-set of stoplights set opposite each other burns hundreds of gallons per week just sitting there.)

Posted by: Stu on March 30, 2006 10:24 AM

Started with a 73 Vega, 76 Camaro, 76 1/2 260 Z and so on. The most fun was one of Richard Petty's Driving School Stock Cars @ Richmond Raceway. 120 mph on a 3/4 mile track. That's some fun shit roght there.

Posted by: JP on March 30, 2006 10:46 AM

Or right there.

Posted by: JP on March 30, 2006 10:48 AM

Yep, learned on a stick (VW van, NOT hippie-ized). Sticks for quite a few cars after that, but not now. When I want fun, I get on the HD Sportster. You can't really do the cell thing there, either, boohoo. Can't imagine how weird it would be not to know how to drive a stick.

Posted by: dogette on March 30, 2006 11:28 AM

I learned to drive on an automatic but I prefer driving my 5 speed Hyundai. I'd always buy a standard transmission if given the choice.

Posted by: Kate on March 30, 2006 12:47 PM

Yup--my '72 Cheyenne, 3-on-the-tree. Love it.
If you want a real abomination, remember that there were a few MOTORCYCLES made with an automatic.
Tits on a boar.

Posted by: Tennessee Budd on March 30, 2006 01:07 PM

I learned how to drive on a Minneapolis-Moline farm tractor. It had a hand-operated clutch on the left side, the accelerator was on the right side of the steering column, and you actually had to ignore the steering wheel and steer with the brakes (one on each side). When I got old enough to get a drivers licence I had to learn how to operate clutch and accelerator with my feet and steer with my hands. How strange that seemed.

My current tractor is an International 656 with automatic transmission.

Posted by: Gramps on March 30, 2006 01:39 PM

No, and no.

Never had the chance to learn, really, and don't care all that much. If I have to, I will. I know the principles well enough, and I've spent about five or ten minutes running around the parking lot in one, so in an emergency, I could manage well enough.

But I don't see any reason to prefer one, any more than I want to manually adjust the advance or choke. (It's bad enough that my diesel had an idle adjust knob for starting...)

It's not 1955, and I see no reason to prefer a stick to a modern automatic (or a modern DSG or whatever) with a locking torque converter. (Or even without one.)

A modern automatic is efficient and can shift faster than you can manually anyway. (And if you want to downshift on a curve, rather than just hitting the gas? Get a paddle shifter. And you can move your left foot and pretend you're moving a mechanical linkage to a hydraulic clutch if it makes you feel better.)

Automatics were good enough for street drag-racers at various times, and they're good enough for me. Plus, being able to drive with one foot and one hand is a win in terms of emergency use anyway.

YMMV, but I don't see that I'm missing anything I don't mind missing.

(And just so nobody thinks I dislike things for being old-fashioned, well, I have this well-beloved 1899 Swedish Mauser...)

Posted by: Sigivald on March 30, 2006 03:24 PM

You betcha I can, A-man. Learned how in a 1948 Buick Roadmaster of the coooooolest machines GM ever produced. And I still do. I have one with auto, but my favorite is a 1985 dark blue pickum-up from Chevy that has four on the floor, big block and a Holley 4-barrel (fun in these days of high profits for the gasoline companies).
It is just a treat. And for those who have never owned a pick-up, there is nothing more convenient. Once you've had one, you'll never be without. Anyway, I can and do. Glad you're feeling better.

Posted by: Doc P on March 30, 2006 05:09 PM

1. Yes.

2. Yes.

Posted by: Kim du Toit on March 30, 2006 05:43 PM

20 year old college kid reporting in that yes, I can drive a stick. My dad insisted on teaching me to drive in his manual transmission car. I hated it at the time, but I appreciate it now and do find sticks more fun.

Posted by: Grand Fromage on March 30, 2006 06:45 PM

Perhaps if there were more stick shifts, there might be less cell phone usage.............nope, just saw an 18 wheeler turning a corner, on the phone, ran up the curb! Fool.

Posted by: Mike on March 30, 2006 07:21 PM

Yes, can drive standard tranny. Do not drive one today, though. You are right in that everyone should have to learn it. Doesn't driver training train this anymore? It's a shame if that's the case. In an emergency, and all ya got in a manny trans, and ya can't drive it, you're f*cked.

Posted by: David Drake on March 30, 2006 07:41 PM

In high school in '68 during driver's ed everyone who didn't know how learned how in a black 1951 chevy 3 speed on the column. There was more rubber laid in the parking lot with the girls learning how to use a clutch than all the other cars together.
BTW acid man, a car with a "short block" v-8 won't go any where unless you push it.

Posted by: BugSpray on March 30, 2006 08:57 PM

1. Definitely

2. No.

Posted by: Jim - PRS on March 30, 2006 09:42 PM

Every vehicle I've ever owned has been a manual, and every one to come will be. Period.

I don't care if it's hellish bumper to bumper Manhattan traffic, or an empty mountain road at three in the morning. It'll be a frosty day before I let a collection of valves and electronics do my driving for me.

Posted by: Mr. Lion on March 30, 2006 09:48 PM

No and no. I thought about learning, years back, but I don't have enough feet. (and since I'm alive today because I didn't have to take the time to move a foot onto the brake, I'm not about to give THAT up. Besides, power sliding a bend is fun!) One of our cars has the manumatic thing, I messed with it for about five minutes and decided that I just didn't see the point in dicking about with the gears, I was too busy driving.

Posted by: Karl on March 30, 2006 10:19 PM

Of course! I'm a country gal. Every haytruck I drove was standard as well as every pickemup truck!
When my daughter started driving, I got her a standard for a first car. Kept her focused on driving, instead of talking on the phone, eating, putting on makeup, etc. etc.


Posted by: Angie on March 31, 2006 09:18 AM


I had no idea that I was in such company on the roads.

I have always driven stick and for all the same reasons that you listed. I can't stand that got-damn cell phone bullshit either!

I am sure that if people were forced to discipline themselves enough to drive stick that there would be, A) fewer drivers on the road, and B) the ones who survived would be better drivers.

Darwinism is a wonderful thing.

Posted by: -B on March 31, 2006 11:34 AM

I've been driving for 28 years. I've never bought a car without a standard transmission and I don't plan to anytime in the forseeable future.

Posted by: physics geek on March 31, 2006 02:15 PM

Nothing beats a stick shift... when I sarted driving 30 odd years ago (Was it that long ago!) automatic's were a rarity and still are in South Africa... we like picking the gear for the job at hand so to speak. Can't go offroad racing with an automatic either... it will dump you in a donga (ravine) because you cannot controll the back going out when least expected...


Posted by: RobC on March 31, 2006 02:43 PM

Learned to drive stick on an AMC Hornet Trucking School, where I learned all over again. Now I drive a stick all the time, because I don't even own a car anymore.

Posted by: Celtic Dragon on March 31, 2006 06:37 PM

The first car I ever drove was a '66 Mustang six-cylinder three-speed manual. Just hopped in and took off. I still remember that car fondly to this day.

Unfortunately, today I have no cars with manual shift; the wife doesn't possess the coordination to handle one properly. BUT...I'm working on getting my hands on a '77 Z280 with a 5-speed...

Posted by: Dave McCombs on April 1, 2006 09:47 AM

Learned how to drive stick on a 73 kenworth semi belonging to my uncle. I had just turned 13 and he needed someone to drive while he slept... 90% of my vehicles in the past 22 years have been manuals with two glaring exceptions - a 95 prizm I inherited from the missus and my 5 ton truck in the army. Push button auto on a 5 ton. Go figger. My brand new mustang convertible out front is a 5 speed though dammit.

Posted by: Radioactive Monk on April 2, 2006 12:19 PM

I'm only 24, and all but my current, brand new car, have been automatics. I had to special order my HHR with a manual because not ONE dealership had a 5-speed in the trim I wanted.

I learned to drive a manual on an old WW2 era Willyz Jeep... and that was a lot of fun. I think I was 13 or 14 when I learned to drive that around my Grandfather's property. That thing still runs like a raped ape, btw.

Now that I've been driving my HHR for a few weeks.... I can honestly say that I can't believe I didn't get a manual-tranny car sooner!

It's a bitch in stop and go traffic, but on the open road it's fun as hell... and just something an automatic can't reproduce... even with their little "manumatic" and "tiptronic" tricks.


Posted by: limbokid on April 2, 2006 01:07 PM

I learned on a stick, in the middle of winter. If I spun the tires on an icy road, my parents would make me stop the car and start all over again. It sucked at the time but by god, I learned how to let the clutch off properly by the time they were done with me. They found a good steep hill out in the country and had me practice starting from a stop on a hill time and time again.

And my current vehicle is a truck with manual transmission.

Posted by: Raging Dave on April 2, 2006 05:27 PM

I learned on a stick, because my parents knew that I'd mostly be driving ours. It actually clicked one time when my Dad was driving me home sick and he told me to watch his feet. Pretty well had it after that.

Right now I have a variable rate transmission, which is an automatic without any gears. Dynamic changing, which you don't realize until some DUI hit-and-run bastard rear-ends your sub-5000 mile car and they give you a sedan rental that's a little tired.

BTW, third DUI in California gets you five years in the pen. First DUI gets you classes that explain this. In other words, this guy didn't listen.

And got caught...

(Car is back, and a five-star safety rating is worth it when you realize the oil on your bumper means your car took out a truck that weighs at least half again, with comparatively minor damage. And no damage to occupants... hee hee.)

Posted by: B. Durbin on April 4, 2006 12:02 AM

Do other stick drivers get into automatic transmission cars and then have to bungy cord their left leg to the wall to prevent hitting the "clutch pedal" i.e the flippin' Brake during some manuevers?

Maybe it's just me. Takes me me a while to readjust and not accidently brake.

2 cents worth of opinion : What makes a manual in traffic such a trial is automatic drivers stopping and going. Learn to drive smoothly already there's no need to accelerate if you can see the car in front is already slowing.

Posted by: Fred on April 5, 2006 05:54 PM

I've driven only stick shifts since I learned to drive in 1960. I'm a man. I have two hands. I have two feet. Of course I drive a stick shift. I have a Chevrolet Suburban with a stick shift. Best camping vehicle I've ever had.

You can spot automatic "drivers" a mile away. They put the brakes on for everything. Come to an intersection, put on the brakes. See a car pull up on a side street, put on the brakes. Go down a hill, put on the brakes. See a crow, put on the brakes. Nonsense!

No thanks. I learned how to DRIVE, and control my speed with the gas pedal and gears. If you can't drive a stick shift, you can't drive.

Posted by: Bullmoose on December 21, 2006 06:06 PM
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