The Demise of Manual Transmissions
Where did all the manual transmissions go? The manual transmission was an obstacle to driving my father’s car that took me memorable days of burning his clutch before I finally won the battle. Of course, I could have driven my mom’s car, but it was a station wagon that wasn’t as cool as my dad’s stick shift car.
The stick shift was the symbol of the race car. Before boys were old enough to drive, they’d hop into a car with a stick shift and commence shifting while making racing engine noises.
After being something almost exotic to master in driving, the stick shift manual transmission began to undergo a distinctive drop in its popularity. In the early 70s, Porsche came out with one of their 911 models that you could shift gears in without using the clutch. Old car enthusiasts read about that, scratched their heads and figured that the days were numbered for manual transmissions.
In the early 2000s, the manual transmission assumed the role of an economy item. One of the least expensive vehicles you could buy in Thailand at that time was a single-cab pickup truck with a manual transmission. An automatic transmission added to the vehicle’s price.
One of the final insulting blows to the old stick shift came when Ferrari and other exotic car manufacturers dropped the shifter altogether and started building their cars with steering wheel-mounted paddles that shifted the gears at the touch of a finger.
Today, it isn’t easy to find a car built in the past couple of years with a manual transmission, and almost none of the younger drivers knows how to drive a stick shift.
But with electric, single-gear cars looking like they’ll be the cars of the future, the manual transmission will eventually go the way of the typewriter and the rotary phone.