I must admit that I have had what to many sports car enthusiasts would consider blasphemous thoughts—considerations of buying a car with automatic transmission. In the 40+ years that I have owned my own car, only for a single year was my car one that had automatic transmission.
I have written numerous times over the past five years about my love for cars and my love for driving. To me, the joy of driving is exponentially increased when you can run a car through its gears. By no means am I a racer but I do usually get a big grin on my face when I can accelerate rapidly on a fun road. In surveys I’ve taken in the past about cars, I’ve self-described myself as enjoying driving with a spirited style, zipping around curves at a rapid pace.
I am a firm believer in being able to drive a manual transmission car and when my three kids were approaching driving age and contemplating their first car purchase, I highly encouraged them to buy one with a stick shift as, in my opinion, that was the best way to learn how to drive a car with a manual clutch.
Sadly manual transmission cars are becoming harder and harder to find. I was encouraged many years ago when my favorite magazine, Car & Driver, a journal authored and edited by car enthusiasts, started a campaign to save the manuals.
Interestingly in Europe, manual cars are the norm no doubt because of their inherent improved gas mileage, an important attribute when you consider their gasoline sells for the equivalent of five to six dollars per gallon. But here in the US, even the iconic American sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette, typically is sold with automatic transmission nearly 75% of the time.
Many years ago I had a scare that I would have to give up driving a manual transmission car when I was suffering from sciatica due to a ruptured disc. After several months of thinking my pain free life was over, back surgery thankfully alleviated this pain and other than an occasional flare up when I have overdone it, I have been able to blissfully zoom down the road shifting as I please.
So when did these fun-killing thoughts begin? Well it was actually two years ago when I was searching for my next car purchase. At that time, I was considering getting one of the resurrected American Muscle cars, since I was too young to own one in their original heyday in the 1960s and early 1970s. But 40 years later, my car needs could not singularly consider my driving pleasure.
I had three grandchildren with the potential for more that I would want to “spirit” away on fun drives. And as a young parent, having painfully struggled to strap small children into their car seats in the back of a 2-door car, I was not willing to repeat that process even for a muscle car. I seriously considered a small 4-door SUV that did not include a manual transmission option until I discovered a more practical 4-door sedan, with manual transmission and a turbo-charged engine to boot!
And I still had two Mazda Miatas with their lickity split stick shifters to joyfully tool around in whenever I wasn’t transporting one of my grandchildren (although they are still fun to play in).
On one of my business trips while I was out walking, this thought of purchasing a car with automatic transmission resurfaced. Why I don’t know. I’m certainly not in the market for a new car given that my two-year old WRX has less than 20,000 miles. It might be the fact that typically when my wife and I go anywhere together; we typically take her Subaru Outback. It is a very comfortable car and easy to drive.
Or is it just that I am reaching an age where a comfortable, easy to drive car is the preferred transportation option for, I hate to say it, a senior citizen, one more suitable for my aging body? I guess then it is no wonder that so many Corvettes are sold with automatic transmission given the median age of an owner is 61 (meaning ½ of all owners are less than 61 and ½ of all owners are more than 61).
As with any car lover, we are constantly thinking of what our next car might be—always-fun deliberations. Since I had thoughts about buying an automatic transmission car two years ago, it might just be those muses coming back to the forefront of my mind. But whatever the cause for the resurfacing of these thoughts, I’m still “relatively” young and should be able to continue to enjoy driving my fun little cars.
Here’s to Zoom-zoom!