Posted in Hemmings, Henry Ford II, Transmission

Why the death of the stick shift is almost irrelevant to the classic car scene – David Conwill @Hemmings

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For 1935, Ford offered customers “effortless driving.” Today, that clutch pedal is just too much work for the average new-car buyer.

I hear somebody, maybe Volkswagen, has announced the end of manual transmissions—with other manufacturers almost certain to follow suit. Honestly, I don’t care much.

Any development on new cars is only of peripheral interest to me. I’ll likely never buy a new car. If I did, it would be some kind of roomy, economical family hauler—not a sports machine (the kind my colleague Mark McCourt insists need three pedals). The manual transmission has been extinct in family vehicles for a long while now. I’d much rather spend my money on something like a 1940s De Soto Suburban anyway.

The newest car I’ve personally owned was the 1993 Ford Escort I had from 2001 to 2009. I replaced it with a ’61 Ford Falcon and have largely tried to stick with stuff of ’60s or older vintage ever since. Largely, I’ve also sought out manual transmissions in these older vehicles, though my current car (foreseeably a long-term keeper) has a Powerglide automatic.

Henry Ford II said it himself, way back in 1970: “I think the glamour of the automobile is decreasing… People are looking at it now as a machine to get from place to place to do something else.”

Manual transmissions are like every other manual item of the 20th century that has been automated: air-fuel mixture, spark advance, heck, even staying in your own lane and not tailgating people. Satisfying to those of us that enjoy extracting fine control from a machine, but mostly just an irritation to the average new-car buyer who seems to view driving itself as a major inconvenience anymore. Expecting 21st century, multinational corporations to cater to the enthusiast is a pipe dream. Why not ask for access to their proprietary software while you’re at it?

Better to stick with old cars and create your own reality. They’re not going anywhere, barring draconian legislation that bans driver-operated vehicles from the roads. Even if gasoline goes away, enthusiasts have already started exploring dozens of ways to repower old cars.

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Classic Cars, Americana, History, Internet Broadcasting & Podcasting

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