Vanishing Point

I have spoken often of my distaste for much of modern life, and here’s just one more thing to make me want to pack a picnic lunch and an assault rifle, and go find a tall building somewhere.

Sadly, the end of the manual transmission is near, and the unfortunate truth is few people will miss it. Most young adults don’t know how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, and they aren’t interested in learning. Many modern automatics offer better fuel efficiency and quicker acceleration than their manual counterparts. Porsche now delivers 75% of its 718 and 911 sports cars with automatic transmissions. The new C8 Corvette is only available with one. When the stick shift loses Porsche and Corvette buyers, you know it’s quickly heading for the rearview mirror.

But it gets worse.

In the future, cars won’t only be automatics; it appears they’ll increasingly be automated, electric vehicles. The satisfying throbbing of the exhaust and the pleasure of driving will also become victims of progress. Traveling in a personal vehicle will be as exciting as riding in an elevator with windows.

And this guy adds his take, talking about

the dystopian future in which you’ll sit passively in your computer-driven car with government-mandated speed limits and instantly-revocable travel permissions programmed in.

In the next year or so I’ll be needing to get a new car because the old Tiguan has north of 115,000 miles under its belt.  Don’t be surprised if I get something with a stick shift (assuming I can find one, and even if it does limit my choices), if for no other reason than to shake my fist at the Empire.


And just let some future asshole government mandate “smart” guns with chips embedded so that they can be “controlled” by some central source — essentially, the same principle as automated cars.

At that point, my prospective trip up to the rooftops won’t just be a joke anymore.


  1. I’m one of those rare people that actually prefer a manual transmission over automatic. I believe a manual keeps you more in tune with what your vehicle is doing at all times while driving it. Fact is, a vehicle with a manual transmission will NOT perform without direct input from the driver, whereas an automatic transmission vehicle almost doesn’t need a driver to perform. That can be perilous. In the 52 years that I have been driving at least 75% of the time it was in vehicles of every shape and size with manual transmissions and my current 1991 S10 will be 30 years old next month and it has a 5 on the floor and it fits me like a well worn glove. The only complaint I have with a manual transmission is that while driving it can be difficult at times to maneuver in heavy urban traffic while sucking down a Wendy’s triple and a Big Gulp at the same time.

  2. I too, prefer rowing thru the gears. Day after President Trump won, I went to my Cadillac dealer and ordered my 2017 ATS-V coupe “Elvira” with the manual (six-speed Tremic with dual-disk clutch). It’s the last car I will buy and is one of eighty-nine two-door, three-pedal coupes, Cadillac produced in ’17.

    My other two vehicles are – “Deerslayer”, a ’37 Chevy pickup with a 5-speed Borg-Warner T5 and “BillyBob” a ’55 Chevy pickup with a 4-speed Muncie M22 rock-crusher.

    I live in the city but I never grow tired of shifting gears.

  3. I think what it comes down to is that most people use their cars either for travelling, or commuting. For commuting the “elevator with windows” makes sense, you saw all this shit yesterday (and every work day for the last umpteen years), there’s nothing interesting, and you much rather get into something that you can tell “take me to work” and take a nap while you go. Exactly what most people who commute via train or bus (which I did for decades) do. An automated Uber if you will.

    Even for travelling, most people just want to get there, they’re not so concerned with enjoying the trip. Shame really. I drive thru some very pretty country regularly, and I try to appreciate it even though I’ve seen it before. My Jeep isn’t exactly a high-performance car though, and if I tried to drive it in a manner that would make the transmission type matter I’d need one of those stickers that says, upside down, “If you can read this please flip me back over”.

    I’m agnostic on the topic of manual transmissions though. There was a time in the not-so distant past when you needed a manual to get the best performance out of your engine, but I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. I had a 1989 Mustang 5.0 which I drive for 27 years, it had a automatic (because I drove in NYC traffic) and it could chirp the tires even without the clutch. In fact I dusted a 300ZX Turbo at a red light because his idea of “launch” was the floor the gas and pop the clutch, turning all that wonderful horsepower into tire smoke instead of forward motion.

  4. I’m a VW Jetta TDI person – not just 6 speed manual – but prefer the turbo deisel. when my 2009 ‘s body gave out at 175,000 miles – I found a 2014 with only 12,000 miles on it on Carvana – I plan for this to be my last car.

  5. I used to prefer a manual transmission but after one too many sessions of a couple hours of stop-and-go traffic I decided my future vehicles would be automatics, and I haven’t looked back since. As Mark D said, the majority of vehicle use is for commuting for most people so whatever perceived advantages a stick may have just become liabilities. For many years my commute has been 45 minutes each way and can turn into 90+ minutes in a heartbeat depending on weather and idiots; by the time I’m done with the daily slog I didn’t want to contemplate getting behind the wheel again. When 99% of your time in the car is simply going to/from work or the store an elevator with windows is just fine.

    I, too, thinks it’s sad that manual transmission options are going the way of the dodo. But of all the people I know only 1 chooses a manual. Decreased demand is certainly one of the factors, if not the major one, causing the manufacturers to drop them.

  6. While I can appreciate the concerns of commuter traffic with a stick shift I, for one, lament their passing. I grew up on a farm in the Midwest. My first “driving” experience was a tractor. But my first road vehicle driving experience was a ’49 Plymouth one ton truck with three-on-the-tree. Farm kids were always driving before they were of age. I drove past a sheriffs deputy in the country when I was 14. He never batted an eye. Graduated to a ’62 Rambler, also three-on-the-tree. I just remember how fun they were to drive.

  7. In upstate NY in the 60’s you could drive a vehicle with Farm Plates at 14 ( and no actual License ) . I drove our 55 ford stake bed with the “Crash Box” and no muffler all over the county with no issues at 14.

    Just returned from a trip thru the high county of Colorado. Drove over 6 Mountain passes at 10,000 ft plus in an Kia SUV with an automatic with no Problems. The New automatics that allow you to move the lever to the left and change to ” Sort of Manual” work just fine in the mountains.

    I’ve owned Porsches for the past 30 years all with Manuals, but the next one will have a PDK ( Dual Clutch “Automatic” Transmission. ) But the new non- manual transmissions are not the same thing as the old Fluid Powered ” non-Clutch ‘ transmissions. It’s a completely different animal. Don’t conflate them. They are much better than you realize and a vast improvement over either of the old style transmissions.

    The other point is that most electric cars only have one or sometime to speeds. and they are the future ( unfortunately ) ……… But my 996 GT3 will still be in my garage when I feel the need.

  8. I do not shed any tears for the late 3 speed on the column.
    Some engineer should still be roasting over a hot fire for that invention.

  9. I went to the local Porsche shop here in Christchurch, NZ with a mate who was kicking tyres for his “late life crisis” purchase.

    Shock! Horror! If you want a manual Porsche it’s either a GT3, or a special order Boxster or Cayman.

    Is said to the guy, “you are fucking kidding me, right? No manual 911?

    He said blame Europe and California. To sell cars in those markets they have to hit “all of fleet” emissions targets which pretty much rules out manuals.

    Currently, the Boxster / cayman is on the old platform which still allows for manuals.

    Sales guys advice, buy a GT4 now, probably the last of the breed.

    Might add a year or so ago, shopping for a new car for my wife, no manual mercs, only Type R Hondas can be manual, no manuals in Ford range except micro/ mini cars, and some mustangs, same with local GM offerings.


  10. Hmm…I drove a stick from 1985 to 2013. But when I had to buy a new car, finding a stick was like finding a Dreyse needle gun with an intact firing pin. So I’m stuck with an automatic. At least it lets you choose between a cruise and a performance mode (the wonder of modern electronics).

    In truth, I’m not sure what I think about it. The advantage of a manual transmission is being able to shift down BEFORE you accelerate – to have the power instantly ready to hand. On the other hand, the automatics have actually gotten pretty quick. We won’t even mention the semi-automatic clutchless transmissions.

  11. When I pay off the wife’s car (6th new one I have bought her in 36 years), I will buy what will probably be my last truck and it will be a new vehicle. She has never had a used vehicle. I have also had 6 vehicles over the past 37 years. A used Toyota SR5 pickup (4 year old when I got it), used F100 4×4 (12 year old when I got it), a new Saturn SL-1, new F150, inherited Toyota Tundra (POS, 11 year old when I got it), and another inherited 2004 Ford Ranger (7 year old when I got it) that is my main source of transportation now. I did leave out a 74 Stingray that has been 35 years in storage that has 47k miles and is 90% restored that I have been working on for 8 years (L48, 4-speed 4:11 posi).

    I prefer a 4 or 5 speed but automatics have improved to the point that the auto is a superior product. The modern auto gets better fuel mileage, tows better, and shifts faster. Paddle shifters are just as not as much fun.

  12. I learned on and drove manuals for many years. But the missus had a bad experience trying to learn a manual from her dad, so it’s been autos for the last nearly 20 years. They actually are a superior product in new(er) model vehicles.

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