We have seen milliard iterations of this very headline, from thousands upon thousands of car magazines, forum posts, and bloggers, manual transmission or automatic transmission?
And yet, each and every one of us knows how the story ends, an automatic, dual clutch transmission will best its driver operated counterpart most of the times.
But, since when have we been rational, fact driven people?
Most car enthusiasts, regardless of their background, will agree that the driving experience is a pinnacle of automotive culture, whether it is tracing your way through a winding back road, blasting full speed past the vast nothingness that surrounds the American highways, drifting around the bends of a mountain pass, or sliding over dirt and gravel.
We can all agree on something, driving matters.
This automatic versus manual conflict seems then, like a battle of tradition against innovation, and to most of the internet blogosphere, it is that way.
Wikipedia-quoting keyboard warriors champion the likes of GTR’s, McLaren MP4’s, and all sorts of supercars that are computerized marvels of engineering. Still, more and more companies are striving to get rid of manual transmission gearboxes, not because of performance, but for the sake of sheer profit.
An ugly truth most gear heads are reluctant to accept, is that, not every consumer is a car enthusiast, it is only natural that large companies pander to their most profitable demographic, which is often comprised by those who only see a car as a means of transportation.
So, what happens to the rest of us, the ones that love driving for the sake of enjoyment?
Is the manual really dead?
Or is it just waiting for us to breathe new life into the art of driving?
I say it is up to us, the ones that cherish experience and mastery over synthetic victory, to not only save the stick shift, but to grant it a place not only as a memory, but as a skill to be mastered and taught to those who will succeed us.
You might be asking yourself, How is that possible?
Well, it all starts with each one of us, striving to master the manual transmission gearbox, as a pillar of driving prowess, and as a tool for improving performance while on the track or strip.
In the few years I have been driving, few things feel better than nailing a downshift when going into a corner, feeding the power, and making the best out of any engine.
The lap time chasing purists will always go full digital, but for those with an analog heart, the manual transmission will always be our haven of mastery.
Some time ago, I was asked by a non car guy, to explain the joy of driving a stickshift.
If memory serves, my reply was this:
It’s like grilling your own burger patties in your backyard, and making your own hamburger, your way, it won’t be perfect, but it’s always yours.
An automatic would be like going to McDonald’s, everything is done for you, and it even comes wrapped in branding clad plastic.
The guy was stunned by my response, but he finally understood what it was all about.
It upsets me that America, a country so defined by the power of the working man, the individual, can neglect the most rewarding form of hard work and dedication: Driving.