Last month, the Chicago Tribune had a story about how manual transmissions are on the way out—a dying breed, offered in fewer and fewer cars, with only 2 percent of cars sold in 2018 having a third pedal, the story said. It’s something, on this website, we’re all familiar with. It’s something we all groan, sigh and roll our eyes about, because most people favor ease and we can’t change that.
But a couple of days ago, the Chicago Tribune posted a follow-up to that story, full of the emails the writer, Robert Duffer, got in response to it. Honestly, it’ll just make your heart happy to read them.
They’re not bitter and disgruntled like most of us who follow the rather somber car news each day, like Audi’s dropping of the manual from 2019 on. They’re just nostalgic and committed to shifting their own gears, no matter how they have to do it. It’s sweet.
Duffer said in the follow-up that “not one reader wrote in to extol the virtues of the automatic transmission, how it’s easier to use, more efficient and quicker than manuals,” and that instead, the consensus was that the manual won’t die in America until someone pries it “out of these drivers’ cold, dead hands.”
Here’s one of the more nostalgic emails he got, from the Chicago Tribune:
“I learned how to drive stick on a Sunday in the Old Orchard parking lot in 1965 (malls were not open on Sundays then). My then-fiance had a huge powerful Chevy and told me that once I drove a stick, I’d never want to drive an automatic again. Well, 53 years later, and he was SO right!” wrote Nanci F., of Skokie. “I’d rather ride a bicycle than drive an automatic!”
Here’s one about how a manual is just more practical:
“In addition to the reasons mentioned in your piece, driving and parking in Chicago (or any other snow-laden locale) is easier and, I think, safer with stick shift,” wrote Chicagoan Carol K., who’s been driving stick shifts for over 40 years. “Such things as rocking my car out of a parking spot while stuck, slowing by downshifting on slick streets, driving down Chicago side streets in deep(er) snow, among others.”
We can all agree with the conclusion on this one:
“I’m not a car enthusiast, but it’s far more fun to drive — it feels like you’re one with the car! I love it,” wrote Paula C., of Chicago.
And here’s one about how life is sometimes just easier when other people can’t operate your most prized possessions themselves:
“I encourage my friends to secure a manual transmission for their youngsters, that way no one will ask to borrow their car,” wrote Marti R
There are more emails here, and they’re certainly worth your while.