You wouldn’t know it today, but performance cars used to have manual transmissions and mastering the fine art of shifting was the sign of someone serious about driving. Learning to drive for many meant jerky starts, stalled cars and dreading that traffic light on a hill when the car behind you stopped too close to your rear bumper. Can you get rolling forward without rolling back into his front bumper? Ah, the little things today’s young drivers don’t even think about.
If you were looking for your first car, an automatic wasn’t on your radar. Slush box? No, thanks. Of course even then, automatics were available in most every car, manual transmissions, too, so the move to do away with clutch mastery was already well on its way, but the real guys knew, or thought they knew, a four speed was the only real choice. Your parents drove automatics, or your wife, but not you.
Now, try to find a stick. Sure they’re available here and there, but even pickup trucks come with automatics. Paddle shift, 8 speeds and even CVTs, what’s a guy supposed to do when he wants to feel the simple pleasure of controlling the car’s every move, selecting the right gear at the right time, smoothly synchronizing the engine speed with the transmission so the next gear slips into place without a lurch, … truly a lost art.
All of the little things the driver used to adjust, the manual choke became an automatic choke which might not work on really cold days, then fuel injection did away with any thought of it. The manual transmission became the automatic, the lights turn themselves on and off, seats adjust themselves to your preferred position, climate control maintains the temperature, … no wonder you see so many people texting and eating and god knows what else, there’s nothing else for them to do. Drive for the pure enjoyment of it and shift gears yourself? When dinosaurs roamed the earth.