An 1980 Dodge D50 called Project 6 Shooter owned by Jonn Farr of Indiana featuring a over the top paint job as well as an unique stick shift. Autorama at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan on March 10, 2013. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
OK, hands up.
How many of you can drive a stick shift? (You can’t see me, but I’m holding my hand up.)
I ask because I recently ran across a couple of reports about carjackers who stole cars but then had to abandon them because they were equipped with manual transmissions.
Admittedly, it’s a pretty neat anti-theft device but not one in which I would place a lot of faith. But there really is data available on manual transmissions deterring auto thefts.
This will date me but I can remember when I was a kid that automatic transmissions were an option on cars, now it’s just the reverse.
According to money.msn.com, in 2010 sales of stick-shift cars and lightweight trucks comprised just 6.7 percent of the U.S. market, down from 22.2 percent in 1990 and a significant 34.6 percent in 1980.
When I took driver’s training in high school, I learned on both automatic and manual transmissions, which included both “four-on-the-floor” and “three-on-the-tree” (a three-speed manual on the steering column).
In fact, most of the teens I hung with (OK, just the guys) wanted to learn to shift because shifting was cool. Heck, I knew guys who would drive an automatic but pretend to shift when they pulled alongside another car.
And for years, it was understood that manual shift cars cost less than those with automatic transmissions, were cheaper to repair and got better gas mileage.
But automatic transmissions have made big advances in all those areas, so manual transmissions are becoming less and less popular.
I taught both of my daughters how to drive a manual transmission, which they resisted mightily.
We spent a lot of time in empty parking lots lurching back and forth and yes, they did burn out one clutch, but I think it was on the verge of going anyway.
Once they learned to coordinate their hands/feet/shifter/clutch, they actually found it to be enjoyable.
OK, no one has to own a vehicle with a manual transmission but everyone should learn how to drive one and here’s why:
■It’s fun to have control over the gears — to wind it out on a straightaway or to downshift to save on the brakes.
■Dead battery but no jumper cables? You can start a vehicle with a manual transmission by pushing the car and then popping the clutch (it’s even easier if you’re on a hill).
■It’s easier to maneuver a manually equipped vehicle out of a snow drift or rut.
■It’s good to know how to drive a stick shift in case of an emergency and the only vehicle available has a manual shift.
■It brings out the Steve McQueen in you (and nobody was cooler than McQueen driving a very bad boy 1968 390 V8 Ford Mustang GT four-speed fastback in the movie “Bullitt.”)