In the US, where everyone has a cause, it’s possible to buy a fairly complete wardrobe bearing the ‘Save the stick’ slogan. Stickers, too, are available to those who want to take up the cause. One wag came up with ‘Anti-theft device: this vehicle is equipped with a manual transmission’. It’s a gently amusing line with, perhaps, an unintentionally serious point.
The car industry is phasing out the manual gearbox, often claiming it is helping drivers by removing distraction when actually the truth is that economies of scale and emissions legislation are reducing choice, and sports cars in particular are becoming so powerful that the average driver would probably ruin their car’s clutch or transmission faster than they could dial the number for the maker’s roadside assistance.
And actually, setting aside the pleasure that is to be derived from driving a manual, operating one rather than letting an automatic do the work makes for a more attentive driver. All four limbs get involved in the physical act of driving, so there’s less temptation to handle a smartphone, more focus on the act of managing the machine and – assuming it’s a good gearbox – more pleasure to be had from perfecting all those upshifts, downshifts and heel-and-toe moments.
Obviously, it’s almost too late to do anything about it. Electric cars spell the end for the stick shift. So if you want to continue to revel in the simple act of changing gear, set aside a car that will continue to offer you the interaction. Here are 10 that will get you engaged.
It’s hard to overstate what a transformation the six-speed gearbox made to the Seven when it was introduced in 1993. The close-ratio unit made the lightweight roadster even more invigorating to drive, keeping the sweet-revving Rover K-Series engine singing away at the top of its rev range, with barely any discernible let-up between each gear. It had, and still has, one of the shortest throws of any manual gearbox and remains the highlight of the range after nearly three decades of service.