Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

An Ode to Manual Transmissions

One of the cars in my driveway this week is a 2012 Honda Civic Si.

I like this little coupe. At $22,355 it's a bit on the pricey side, but a pure hoot to drive. Its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine punches out 201 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. That's plenty of go for a car tipping the scales at svelte 2,900 pounds.

It's one of the few cars I've had of late with a manual transmission. I'm also currently driving a 2012 Subaru Impreza, but, like just about every car I drive any more, it has an automatic.

It got me thinking how few cars I get these days with a manual tranny. Damn few. In fact, manual transmissions should be on the endangered list along with CD players. They are evaporating from the landscape at a pace equal with public telephones.

I have friends -- a married couple -- who won't own a car if it doesn't have a manual transmission. I have no clue what they are going to do for a new car five years down the road. I suspect there will still be a BMW or two engineered with a manual, but they just won't be available in family cars.

I'm sufficiently old school that I'm not a big fan of driver-shiftable automatics. Even with steering wheel-mounted paddles, they just aren't as much fun as traditional manuals. I want a clutch! If I'm going to stir the tranny myself, I want the whole Magilla.

Having said that, having a full-blown manual where I live is an adventure in survival. Reaching the street in front of my house via my driveway is something akin to backing up Pikes Peak. In other words, it's a fairly steep climb.

Because of the copse of woods between my property and the house next door, I have to back up to the edge of the street and stop to get a read on the approaching traffic. Adding more drama to the exercise is that 200 feet up the road is the crest of a hill. Timing my backing up, stopping and pulling into the street depends on the volume of approaching traffic. By the time I engage the clutch and get the car moving backward, some yahoo comes airborne over the hill. Only my exceptional driving skills and lightning reflexes have averted total catastrophe. Or maybe it's just dumb luck.

Usually I avoid the excitement by backing into my front yard and pulling forward out onto the street. It doesn't do my lawn much good; but if you read this blog with any regularity, you probably already know that referring to it as a lawn borders on delusional. Homesteaders on Mars have more attractive landscaping.

Yep, manual transmissions are a mixed blessing for me. They are a blast to drive….once I've escaped the driveway.


  1. A manual tranny can give even the most unlikely candidates high marks in the "fun-to-drive" category. An automatic, even with the paddle shifters, can detract from the driving experience.