As I was cruising the town this evening and rowing through the gears on my little Ford Fiesta (I know, it ain’t much but it gets me around) it occurred to me just how many North Americans in my age bracket will never experience the joy of driving a vehicle with a manual transmission.
In the words of Bob Seger, “Call me a relic, call me what you will; say I’m old-fashioned say I’m over the hill,” but there’s just something so romantic about a row-your-own gearbox. Whether it’s manipulating the clutch to achieve the right amount of slippage to get going from a standstill or just the feeling you get when the transmission glides fluidly into the next higher gear, nothing connects human to machine like a clutch pedal and a stick or column shifter.
Anyway, not only is a manual transmission vital to my driving experience but also my driving safety. Now how does it affect my safety? Well as a manual requires you to be more engaged while you’re driving, it’s a lot harder to let your mind wander. I’m the typical autistic drifter in that I drift into deep thought even doing everyday tasks and “zone out.” Actually, the only accidents I’ve personally caused came when I was driving an automatic vehicle. I’ve never caused an accident in a manual. Coincidence? I think not.
Alas, if this is one of those “autistic survival” things I’m perfectly OK with that. Due to the relative unpopularity of manual transmission vehicles in North America whenever I’m car shopping I normally find fantastic deals. My Fiesta was brand new but already a year model old when I bought it last January. It had sat on the lot for months because nobody wanted it. As such, I was able to score the vehicle $4,000 off MSRP and put that savings toward an extended warranty. Hell of a score too, it might be a mere subcompact but it has some nice features and the 1.0L turbo/direct injection inline 3-cylinder puts out a lot of power and torque and gets amazing fuel economy – I’ve gotten as high as 44 MPG highway on regular 87 octane Chevron/Texaco gas (compare to 37 EPA for the 1.6L automatic). Oh, and this particular engine is only available with a manual transmission. Sorry passers-up, your loss, my score. 😉
Anyway, I’m weird I know. Comes with the territory. Don’t sue me.