The Beauty of Manual Transmission

The Beauty of Manual Transmission

My first car, a 1986 Nissan 200SX was a 5 speed manual transmission, that the interior and stick shift pictured.

So forgive me if I wax poetically about the virtues of a “stick shift.”

I’m told only 10% of cars now are manual transmission, most of those are either low end economy cars, serious sports cars or heavy duty trucks.

Manual Transmission gives you more control in your car, when you get more power, when you need more speed or even slow down.

Yes it can be jerky, loud and some effort.

But it’s a race car like feel that you cannot beat.

Over the weekend I rode shotgun with a longtime friend in his Infiniti G35 and he insisted on a manual transmission when he got the car. It’s a more luxurious version of the Nissan 350Z, serious power, growling exhaust and tight handling.

But it took me back to my Nissan 200SX, not that my car had that kind of prowess, it was quick and handled well in its day but nothing like the G35.

I also had a 1996 Mazda 626 that had a manual five speed transmission. That car was so well balanced, even with a 2.0 four cylinder engine it took of the line extremely quick, handled really well for a four door family car and was an absolute blast to drive. And even got great gas mileage because of that manual tranmission.

I used to say when I was younger that a car needed to have the three S’. Stereo, sunroof and a stick.

That Mazda was the last car that had all that and I traded it in the summer of 2003.

Yeah 13 long years since I owned a manual transmission and now I’m getting nostalgic.

So yeah I’m looking at a car and you could say it’s a midlife crisis vehicle but to me its more a driving car. Don’t get me wrong, I love my SUV and its growling V8 and it has the sunroof and killer sound system.

But its an automatic transmission.

My wife even says I drive her Chevrolet Malibu with my hand on the floor shifter (also an automatic transmission), like it’s a stick.

Remember it’s how I learned to drive. I drove my last year in high school and first 2 ¼ years of college (negotiating traffic from the Southside to Lincoln Park going to DePaul University), with a manual transmission.

Now I will tell you it’s an effort to go slowly in bumper to bumper traffic with your foot on the clutch and the brake, going through first and second gear and back again.

And stopping  and starting on hills isn’t a lot of fun, trying not to kill the car or roll backwards into traffic.

But man open road is the best. If you make the light at Grand Avenue or better yet Chicago Avenue going northbound on Lake Shore Drive, it’s a fun drive as there is.

Well maybe wide open Interstate 57 south of Matteson is great too but there’s no scenery except a paint plant.

So it’s the feel of truly driving, controlling your own destiny (and gears and RPMs), and just rolling along.

Thus so many of us who had sports cars as young people, wish to have that free feeling again because its about going fast which as you age becomes harder and harder to do.

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    Charles W. Johnson

    I'm a lifelong writer (since I was 8 years old), and have been doing this blog in some form or fashion since 2004. I'm a DePaul University alum, class of 1999 and prior to that Brother Rice class of 1994. . And I appreciate you taking to the time to read what I have to say, feel free to email

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