These days, paddle shifters are on everything from hatchbacks to luxury sedans. But not so long ago, they could only be found on certain exotica and racing cars. Some love 'em, but a lot of enthusiasts would rather have a good ol' fashioned third pedal and a stick. So who do we have to blame for this virus of sequential gearboxes? The man at fault may very well be the Sultan of Brunei. Back in the early '90s, his specially-designed Ferrari FX was the first road car to use a modern paddle-shift setup.
Based on a Ferrari 512M, the FX keeps the 440 HP 5.0-liter flat-12 engine, but nearly everythng else has been redone. The body was made by Pininfarina, and utilized aluminum and carbon fiber. All very well and good, but the really impressive upgrade was the gearbox. Keep in mind that Ferrari did not yet offer an F1-style gearbox for their road cars. So, the Brunei royals went to the Williams Formula One team to supply a F1-spec sequential transmission. That meant, in 1994, the Sultan's road-going supercar had a 7-speed flappy-paddle gearbox — four years before the Ferrari 355 F1 would debut as a '98 model. And it was all downhill from there. [via Supercars.net]