I had various ideas circulating in my head for a post in rebuttal to yesterdays manual debate over oppo. My original idea was to write a scathing post about how defending the manual transmission is pointless and contrived. I then decided to write a satire on why the engine starting hand crank should be reintroduced in cars to mock the way people defend manual. But then I decided I would write my honest and true experience with the holy manual transmission.
I daily drive a 2002 Volkswagen GTI 1.8t and it is my baby. It never goes a week without a wax and polish and I've continuously modified it since I bought it as my first car two years ago. The only problem is, it's an automatic; A 5 speed Tiptronic. Except, it's not really a problem at all. I always drive in "manual" mode and I love it. For living in Chicago, it's ideal for the environment it lives in and I enjoy driving it.
Now, about 6 months ago I was presented with a golden opportunity. The opportunity I had been waiting for as a car guy, the opportunity to learn how to drive manual. I went over to my buddy's house and we talked cars for a bit in his driveway before he popped the question. "Do you want to learn Manual?" he said.
My heart almost stopped and I sheepishly muttered, "yeah, sure I guess"
He drove me to a local parking lot and we stopped dead center in the middle of it's vast open asphalt plains. The car in question was a 90's Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 I6 with a 5 speed, a borderline unicorn, especially here in the states, not to mention Senna himself owned the exact same car, down to the very color. We switched seats and he instructed me on what to do. I stalled at first but quickly got the hang of it and I knew how to drive manual about 30 minutes later, finally. And afterwards I was ecstatic, I couldn't sleep I was so excited. But then it hit me after the buzz wore off. It wasn't special
It wasn't special at all, it was fun sure, but the magical aura that I thought I would experience just wasn't there. It was disappointing. But I got all I could ever want out of that experience. It was fun, engaging, I learned very fast and it was in a car that most people will never see in their lives much less drive.
As a gear head, it was the most disappointing moment in my gear head life. Watching Initial D for the first time was more memorable than learning how to drive manual.
And it wasn't because learning manual itself is disappointing. It's because of my experience on Jalopnik prior, there was no conceivable way that it could have lived up to the hype. Did I love it? Sure, it was fun and my next car will most likely be a manual. But it wasn't the certain special thing that people here so avidly defend for naysayers.
I thought I would hate my car after learning manual, but I was wrong. I appreciated it even more so than before. I loved it more for what it is, and if that means an auto 5speed with a torque converter and computer controlled shifts from a side slot on the auto shiftgate, who cares? I didn't.
I believe I've now come to a revelation in my gear head life. It's not about the transmission, or the engine, or the suspension, or all of those things in unison, it's about how a car makes you feel. I love my GTI even with it's auto Tiptronic. Some people may say I'm not a real car enthusiast because I don't drive a manual, but why should that be a measure of car admiration?
Don't let anyone ever tell you that you don't love cars as much as anyone else just because you don't drive a manual. Don't let anyone try to minimize your passion because you prefer flappy paddles over a stick. We're all on the same team here, and while the manual transmission is a great thing, it's not the only great thing. And by no means should it ever become divider amongst this great big family we call the car community. From grassroots drifters in Japan to offroaders and mudders in America we all share this great passion for freedom and personal expression through these great machines.
So leave the manual argument aside, and pull up a seat or a spare tire, crack open a beer, and lets talk cars.