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Stick shifts are going Extinct


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Manual transmission cars are disappearing, but purists prefer to drive a stick shift

Some die-hard drivers say you aren’t really driving a car unless you are in a stick shift. 

But the manual transmission is dying out. 

 

Just 41 out of the 327 new car models sold in the United States in 2020, or 13%, are offered with a manual transmission, according to data from Edmunds. That is a tremendous drop from less than a decade ago. In 2011, 37% percent came with manuals. 

 

 

Here is video explaining it,

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Always thought the 4-speed O/D automagic that one person could lift was the beginning of the end. Today I have a four speed Muncie, a five speed Merc and the rest are clutchless.

 

Glad I never have to take one of the manuals through I-4 rush hour traffic. My class A RV had a five speed manual that was bad enough though the Centerforce pressure plate in the Judge is much easier on my left leg than the 3500 lb one I had earlier. Had a six-speed in the Crossfire and 1st was instant Traction Control and 6th was too short for me. Oddly enough my tow cars gets the best MPG on the road.

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My '69 C10 SWB Chevy Pickup truck was a 6 cylinder with three on the tree originally. I put in a 350 V8 to replace the 6 cylinder and a Muncie M20 4 speed that is a lot of fun to drive. Love driving a manual shift.  I also have an original 5 speed manual transmission in my little '74 Porsche 914 that took a some time to get the feel for where the gates where, but it makes for a great ride. 

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1963 Corvette split-window coupe.  Original 327, 340 hp, Borg Warner T-10 4-speed.  Positraction.  No power steering.  No power brakes.  No power windows, no power door locks.  No air conditioning.  No heated seats or mirrors.  Armstrong steering pump.  Creature comforts: heater and dome light.  Navigation system: road atlas.  It does have a radio but I'm not sure why as I can't hear it over the music from the side pipes which exit just behind the open windows.  Enough said.

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Sounds like mine except no radio and large plenium FI. Been a race car since day 1. Bought for a large in 1970.

vetteautox.jpg

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No, just got tired of replacing cluches after a year or two of rush hour traffic. Now do not go anywhere so does not matter as much.

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Well, when you rent a car in the UK they always try to sell you an automatic because, as one clerk said to me "Americans don't know how to shift". I got to respond that "I was driving manual shift cars before you were born." The automatic has never caught on there. I'd say 98% of the cars have manual transmissions...the exceptions being the very expensive Mercedes and other "foreign" cars.

 

A friend of mine bought his college-age daughter a car with a manual shift. She was never bothered by friends borrowing it and never had to be impolite and refuse to loan it because none of them could drive it!

 

Personally, I'd rather shift but my everyday car purchasing budget forces me to take what I can get...

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Took a trip to Ireland 3 years ago.  At the car rental agency the customer ahead of us (American - sorry) was complaining that he wanted an automatic.  The agent was patiently explaining that he hadn't specified that his reservation so there was no automatic available.  He was still complaining when my wife and I left in our Toyota Corolla diesel 6 speed manual.

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I always thought that automatic transmission was an American phenomena. But it has become the norm here in Aus, as well. But in Europe, the density of manual transmissions was something like 97% just ten years ago. The autos are gaining ground there, though, and are now common in rental fleets in Europe. But I have many European friends who will not get behind the wheel of an automatic transmission car.

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Twice I have instructed my young assistants from Poland how to drive an automatic.  Totally unfamiliar to them.  A few laps around the mall parking lot, and they were good to go.  Both women said that the strangest thing was that they continued all week to reach for the shift lever.

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My problem was not the shifter (some of first cars were a LHD Jag and a RHD MGA) but pushing for the clutch when braking.

Edited by padgett (see edit history)
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In 1934, both REO and General Motors developed semi-automatic transmissions that were less difficult to operate than a fully manual unit. These designs, however, continued to use a clutch to engage the engine with the transmission. The General Motors unit, dubbed the "Automatic Safety Transmission", was notable in that it employed a power-shifting planetary gearbox that was hydraulically controlled and was sensitive to road speed, anticipating future development.

 

 

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Last fall my wife and I went on an afternoon driving tour in vintage Fiat 500s in northern Italy. One of the issues the owner said he had was that most Americans did not know how to drive a stick shift. The problem was particularly acute with younger males who would swear up, down and sideways that they knew how to drive a manual transmission only to have problems immediately upon leaving the staging area and getting on a public road. Their solution was to require a check out session on a long private driveway prior to allowing you to drive on the tour. Needless to say, I passed. Fun little car to drive.

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This sounds strange to say, but cars are too easy to drive now.  People wouldn’t be able to look at their phones if they had to switch gears, worry about flats, reach for buttons, use 2 hands to steer, and hold on over bumps.

 

Automatic transmissions in performance cars are engineered now to outperform manuals.  People who buy them have to suck up buying a “slower” car to get a manual.

Edited by 39BuickEight (see edit history)
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I grew up in the motorcycle world at a very early age. When starting to ride trials bikes, the shifter and brake were often reverse of what today people call the standard......shifter on the left foot, brake on the right. Add in the different up and down shift patterns, and the splits of one down and four or five up............and toss in the occasional foot clutch and suicide shifter..........and it all becomes automatic to get on or in a machine, spend five seconds to figure out the set up.....and away you go. Same thing with right hand drive. When you get to the early right hand drive stuff.......often the throttle is in the middle of the two pedals. Fortunately I have never seen the clutch and brake pedal reversed in any car of any age. My first car experience was driving a Stanley at 7 years old.........a great car to learn on. Recently I drove a new all electric motorcycle..........a strange and interesting sensation of twist and go. Frighteningly fast, strangely quiet and smooth. Very little feedback from the machine...........and I think it’s the most dangerous thing I have ever driven........quite a statement after all the junk I have put through the paces. 
 

The left hand throttle set up on a motorcycle and hand timing advance has always been the hardest thing for me to deal with. I remember a bunch of WWII vets with Indians who would set up the controls backwards so people couldn’t steal their ride. Interesting bunch of guys........now all long gone.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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A couple years ago I dropped my daughters manual transmission VW at a garage parking lot for new tires.  Later in the day I went to pick it up and they had not touched it.  Turned out no one knew how to drive a stick shift.

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There is a difference between pleasure driving and commuting in traffic, 

 

I would not even consider driving a clutch in an everyday car today

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Wife got a new 2020 Ford.

 

It's bad enough it's automatics now,  but when changing from drive to reverse I still reach down to the console for the shift lever and it's not there. I have to look down and see what letter lights up as I turn the shift dial through a bunch of driving mode choices. 

 

And I when  I want to shut the engine off, I still reach for the ignition key that is not there. 

 

At least it still comes with a steering wheel. 🙄

 

Paul

Edited by PFitz (see edit history)
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I rented a right hand drive Mercedes in England.......took me ten minutes to get it to move........no shifter, and the knob was not marked.....you had to press the brake, then turn the knob...........ridiculous! The display was digital, small, and off to the side.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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I have to keep focused when driving my small fleet. The '25 Buick has a reverse H shift pattern and requires double clutching. The '29 McLaughlin-Buick is a regular three on the floor, but still prefers double clutching. The '40 Packard is three on the tree.The one that gets driven the most in this hot summer weather though is my "new" '99 Jeep TJ Sahara,with it's five speed stick. My wife drives the automatic Escape.

As long as my knees will still bend,I'll enjoy driving manual.

IMG_1771.JPG

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Despite their complexity, automatic transmissions usually outlast the life of the car or truck its in; where replacing a clutch in a manual transmission vehicle was considered a 'normal wear item'.  One could count on having to replace it once or twice under normal use during the vehicle's lifetime.   I believe that is one major reason the automatic has also won favor with most buyers.  Getting a transmission fluid change costs a lot less than materials and labor to R&R a clutch.

 

Craig

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On our 91 Honda we had 310k on the origional clutch, my 94 S-10 had 145K and the slave started to leak, so we ordered a kit, the disk still looked half good. And we live in the hills of Mass. Mostly it's downshifting and driver habit that kill the clutch. I'm never easy on any car. I have seen new cars fail with two thousand miles on the clutch..........and even though the car was taken back to the dealer six times before failure, they didn't cover it. 

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I made it a point that my kid's first cars were sticks.   Being in New England the Tacoma 4x4 with the 4 banger has been perfect.   My daughter has made the point on more than one occasion that it is emasculating for some of her male friends that they can't drive her car.

Edited by alsancle (see edit history)
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7 hours ago, John348 said:

There is a difference between pleasure driving and commuting in traffic, 

 

I would not even consider driving a clutch in an everyday car today

Same here. Heavy traffic killed my desire for a stick shift a few years ago. When I did do highway commuting a Diesel Jetta stick was fine and for pleasure a 340 4 speed 69 Dart Swinger.

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Nothing new, in 1970 I returned from a few years in SEA. Rented a Cutlass and had to get the Avis lady to come out and show me where the key went, had never seen a key in the column before.

Today I have two Caddys. One uses a fake key that is not removable, other has a real key. Both have over 65 buttons and slides for the driver. I put velcro dots (because I have) on the ones I most use. I like the touchscreen in the 88 Reatta a lot better.

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We went to a horse farm party for the derby and they had young kids parking the cars. We were in the Honda S2000 with the manual 6 speed.  As the kid was getting in the car I asked if he could drive a manual shift, his reply was “what’s that? “. I made him get out and sit in the passenger seat. I took a quick spin around the farm showing him a stick shift. When we got back I parked the car walked up to the main entrance where the head parking attendant asked if I could move two more sports cars for them!  I took the same kid with me each time and he said he thought he knew how to drive one as we finished . When we left the party there were two more cars sitting out front so I told my wife we were walking to where the car was parked. 
Kids have no idea about stick shifts, I bet they would really have a confused look if it was a three on the tree. 

Have fun

dave s 

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My wife's daily driver and mine are automatics, although we both drove sticks for many years.  I have 5 pre-WWI antiques:

1914 Ford, two-speed planetary, hand throttle, all shifting done with the feet.

1912 Buick, three-speed unsynchronized backward-pattern manual, cone clutch, accelerator on floor between clutch and brake.

1911 Stanley, no transmission at all, hand throttle, reverse pedal to go backward, lots of dials and valves.

1907 Cadillac single-cylinder, two-speed planetary, low pedal for left foot, high and reverse on lever on the right, hand throttle.

1904 Oldsmobile, single-cylinder, two speed planetary, lever on right for all speeds, foot throttle, brake pedal for left foot.

I drive them all quite a bit.  They're a pretty good mental, as well as manual, dexterity test.  I don't use valet parking.

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My twin step sons, age 40,  have no idea how to drive stick nor does my wife but my step daughter, now 35, wanted a stick shift from the day she got her permit.  She bought an Eclipse and is quite good at shifting. 

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My 2007 VW New Beetle has a 5 speed manual. I use it as a toad behind my RV. I recently purchased a 2019 Challenger R/T with the 5.4 Hemi. They come with a 6 speed Manual or an 8 speed Auto. As this is my daily driver, I opted for the auto. It has been an awesome transmission so far. At my age, I like the comfort of letting the car do the shifting, although it does come with a “Sport Mode” where you can paddle shift it if you so desire. If I need to keep my clutch skills up, I take the bug for a drive.

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I have never owned a car with an automatic transmission and don't plan on ever having one.

 

 

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My Mother liked a stick and insisted my brothers and I had to learn how to drive it to her satisfaction before we could take the test.  She did allow us to use the car with the automatic for the test.  Dad could drive either, but preferred the automatic.  He grew up on a farm and liked easier than harder as he got older.  They had one automatic and one stick right up until Mom stopped driving at about 80.  I'm not sure one of my brothers has ever owned a car with an automatic transmission.  His daughter complained bitterly about that until one of her male friends was impressed that should could drive a stick.  She shut up after that.  

 

I have a mix, and prefer the 4 or 5 speeds, but am sold on the Prius for commuting through heavy traffic.  Stop and go with a clutch is just a pain.  Worse without AC- figured that out about 30 years ago.  

 

 

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I started driving a clutch at 9 on my brothers dirt bike. Then it was 3 on the tree, with my brothers 53 chevy, and dads 67 f100. I have had many a manual trans vehicle, but after driving a dump truck and having my knee not wanting to work at the end of the day, I could care less about them now. I am restoring a 4 sp car now though oddly enough. For my daily driver I would def. prefer an auto.

Side note, my older brother was driving an OTR semi. At the yard he was assigned a 'rookie' to break in on procedure. When the guy got into the dr. seat he was stymied for a few minutes then finally asked where the shift lever was. My brother pointed to the stick in the floor and said it was there. The guy had no idea how to drive a manual! and he had a CDL!!

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All of my kids learned to drive a stick and some of the grandkids can also.  I have a 16 T that they need to learn on then there is the 23 Dodge, 23 Moon and 24  Star but they like the 81 VW and PT cruiser all stick.

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On 7/27/2020 at 12:47 PM, Vila said:

I have never owned a car with an automatic transmission and don't plan on ever having one.

 

Basically, that's true for me. Although I have owned automatic trans cars, it's because they were either given to me or purchased for one of our kids. Never have used one for my daily driver.

One of the best things about my ex is she wouldn't drive an auto trans car either.

Took me six months to find my recently-purchased VW Jetta TDI daily driver, as only about 15% of those cars were manuals.

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