Automatic versus manual transmissions

I just got back from the Minnesota State Fair, so today’s post is going to be shorter, just my thoughts on automatic versus manual transmissions.


Automatic versus manual transmissions

Pistol Grip shifter in a Dodge Challenger

Picture by SoCalFan, on Flickr

Or This:

Automatic versus manual transmissions

Hurst dual gate shifter

Picture by skistz, on Flickr

In the debate on automatic versus manual transmissions, I prefer manuals.  Having said that, if I was going to build a car for just drag racing, I would definitely use an automatic.  Unless you are the next Ronnie Sox, I doubt you can shift a manual as fast or as consistently as an automatic.

For a car that I was going to drive, and maybe take to the track now and then, I would choose a manual.  I like the greater interaction with the car.  I know they are more work in traffic, but I have driven a manual transmission equipped 2008 Ford Focus through traffic for three years, and if I had that commute again, I would pick another manual transmission car.

I know that manual transmissions are a dying option in cars.  More and more people are choosing automatics.  That plus the fact that the manufacturers can program an automatic to do better in the EPA fuel economy testing, means there is less and less incentive for manufacturers to produce manuals.

Another issue is the emissions.  While they can get a manual to pass the emissions test, it is yet another expense.  And having driven a 2008 Focus with a manual, the electronic throttle is kind of annoying.  After doing some research on it, it turns out that the electronic throttle has a lag when you let off the gas to keep emissions down.  In the car that I owned, it meant that I had to adjust my shifting to slow it down a touch so the engines RPMs would drop enough so I could shift smoothly.  Not huge, but it was kind of annoying.

Even with all that, I still prefer a manual.  I take pride in the ability to drive one, and drive it smoothly.  I will say that it may take me a bit to get used to that particular car, since each has a different feel, but I can drive it.

Unfortunately it seems my preference for manuals is in the minority, and it means that when I want to teach my kids how to drive a stick, the most difficult part may be finding a stick for them to drive.


Automatic versus manual transmissions — 15 Comments

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  2. I love the now niche nostalgia of driving a standard. If I was blackmailed to have a FWD or sidewinder, it’d b auto since FWD is crap. I hate how the engine bay is crammed with the block and tranny and makes for clutch replacement really laborious. Plus, I like having a rear axle and despise replacing “axle shafts” every 125k.

      • I like standards, but since I’m a mechanical, I look at it analytically. On RWD, all u gotta do is remove the driveline and undo ur bellhousing. Ample room to pull back the tranny and not have to wrestle with 3-4 inches in between like FWD.Now, if it were a rental, or someone’s car, then it’s the best of both world’s. The concept of FWD is not employed but much if any of the Europeans. Initially, Chrysler utilized it with their crap K-cars in the ’80’s to produce a a cheaper, more interior roomed sedan. And, I’m a Mopar fan.

        • I 4got to indicate the mid to upper echelons of the Euroxitics. For the cost of those, they need to justify it by not trimming the corners. If it has a tranny tunnel, it’s ok 4 me.

          • Front wheel drive is just fine for most people, since they don’t really car and just want a car that gets them from point A to point B. After all, if not for people like that, who would buy Toyota’s?

            I have come to the conclusion that people who have an interest in cars beyond an appliance or a status symbol are few and far between. Hence the market domination of FWD automatic transmissioned vehicles.

  3. I just like the wonderful simplicity of the cars of yesteryear. But, ur right most ppl don’t consider them to be anything more than a accessory. Now, they’ve got 8 speed autos and that’s rendering the standards in humdrum sedans obsolete. Except for the niche sports/neo-muscle cars where autos are the minority and standards are the norm. IDT Lamborghini makes an auto ?

    • I agree, the simplicity of old cars is great. But so is the power and drivability of modern cars. Maybe that is why I like the idea of swapping modern engines into old cars so much.

      But there is still something about a carburetor and a loping idle.

      I don’t think Lamborghini makes a car with a manual any more, just the “flappy paddle gearbox” but I could be wrong.

  4. That’s right, those semi-automatics in Mercedes and Audis. I’m doing a 5.9 w/Mag heads into a (don’t u dare laugh!) ’81 ‘doba. Yes, they’re…ugly. But mine is black on black, cherry int., gramma car, RWD, and 2 door.

    I’m gonna go w/a OD A500/518/618 since the 727 is just…2 sought after, scarce, and primitive. And thats fine. But I have to mod the crossmember anyway, so y not upgrade for the eventuality of extinct 727’s ? That’s y I went to Mag heads also, eventually, they’ll be extinct also. Mopar Muscle did a ’80 Mirada w/ a 440. A real looker too. 4 Mopar F/M/J bodies anyway.

    • I don’t know if I would say they are ugly. They are unique, when is the last time you saw one? Nothing wrong with a 5.9 with magnum heads, much easier to find that a 440, lighter too.

      I think the 4 speed auto is a good idea, overdrive is a big help on the highway.

  5. I’ve only seen 1 here in town 10 years ago. They’re too rough, and…unrefined. I like the “coke bottle” shapes of the Chargers, RRs, and ’68-’69 ‘cudas. I can’t find LA 5.9 heads 4 a realistic cost, or a 727. No, I’m not slamming the Mag heads. Better than the 8.3:1 LA’s. I guess it’s the Mopar equivalent of the “Clevor”. Although, I bought the .455 lift Purple Cam with the LA heads in mind. If I’d known be4 hand, Id prolly opt for a .470. Got like 220/225 duration which should do great for a 3200 lbs. car. The block is CLEAN.Just the heads were cashed. .030 overbore. But, stock slugs, just ordered .030 rings. Whats ur pet project(s) ? If I’d known how easier it’d b to get B/RB 727, Id a opted for a 383/727 rather than the 5.9! I live in Rottenwood,AZ 90 minutes norf of Phx.

    • The pet project I have now is a 1966 Impala. It is the car my wife took her drivers test in. Just a mild 327. A good cruising car, and a big enough back seat to fit the three kids.

      After it is done, then comes a faster car. I love the 68-69 Chargers, but they are ridiculously expensive. My first car was a 1977 Cordoba, and if there were more suspension parts available, I would look at that for a project car, but I like the pro-touring idea, and not many chassis upgrades for the later B bodies. I do have a soft spot for Dusters, so that may be the next one.

  6. 2 or 4 door ? I hear the 327 was 2nd only to the ’69 302 Z28.That used the 327 blo k ? or crank ? I had a jerry rigged ’74 Swinger 440 727 4:10. Didn’t keep it more than 16 months. 5-7 mpg in ’03/’04 killed my wallet then! I want another ’85 Regal to swap a big block into. I had a line on a ’82 231 V6 T-Type block, but bought the Dart instead.

    My favorite pony is the ’68/’69 ‘cuda. The A-Body cuda. I like Caprices, and Impalas. Not Novas, don’t like coupes. my dad has a ’72 Comet, 5.0 3 speed standard. I have a 7.5 in a ’77 E250 that was parked indefinitely. Maybe I’ll w8 4 him to die and swap in a 5 speed or

  7. the 460? That 327’s like the 340. Expensive aftermarket. But it’s a GM, and not as pricey as the Mopar stuff is. I had 2 Chargers: 1 ’73 & 1 ’74 Rallye. 318 & 400. No, they never ran. The 3rd gens rnt all that desirable.

    • It is a two door. The engine is already rebuilt, we just need to paint it and get it put together. Still saving up for the paint, unfortunately that is a lot at one time.

      The third gen chargers are a unique car to me, it really depends on how they are painted on if I like them or not. They are definately less expensive, as are most cars once you get past about 1971.

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