Maybe Now Is A Good Time To Stop Saying 'Gearbox'

The gated shifter on a manual-transmission-equipped Ferrari 550. Photo Credit: Ferrari

Hi. How are you? Maybe I should ask “how’s it going?” or “how you doing?” or another American colloquialism, as we are both Americans who have grown up with American vernacular. You know what’s not a term we grew up with? Gearbox.

I never heard a single living person say “gearbox” when I was growing up. People said “transmission” if they talked about how you shift a car at all. “A manual.” “An automatic.” That was most of it.


You know who did say “gearbox”? British car magazine writers. I liked them. I wanted to be like them. They drove Peugeots. They drove Ferraris. They drove TVRs. I like TVRs.

So sometimes I would say ‘gearbox’ instead of ‘transmission,’ sort of as a way to feel a kinship with the TVR-drivers of the world. Sure, I was actually driving a ‘92 Camry through a bunch of alfalfa fields, but for short moments I could feel like I was only minutes away from motoring across Wales, howling towards Betws-y-Coed in a Caterham of some kind.

My repetition of the word was subliminal, but I think there was some hazy intentionality to it.

Now I see that I don’t really need to say gearbox to feel like I’m part of a knowing car enthusiast community. Transmission is just fine.


Also I’ve been by Betws-y-Coed in the years since I was in my local newsstand reading copies of Evo. It’s cold. And wet.

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Raphael Orlove

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.