The Noble Life of a Lesser Car Part 2, Manual Gearboxes

Some time ago, I wrote a little post about how a lesser car can give more; and I hold the same opinion even now.

Love my job?

Well, yes! When I think about what I do now for a living and what I used to be as the head of an engineering firm, this sure beats it like scrambled eggs.

It’s not all prim and proper luxury cars I move – BMW and Mercedes, or high end Audi (i.e.: Lamborghini) that become so repetitive that I get that “not again” feeling when I see it on social media – but I get all sorts, and I can say nobody else I know drives the same variety I do.

Approaching extinction of a good thing?

I hear people moan the loss of the manual transmission – not just the loss of new models that have this excellent “feature” – but the skills that come with it and the attentiveness it demands of the driver to make the pilot of the vehicle more focused and less likely to have a prang. (Side note: personally, I ever only crashed automatics).

But I just drove three different manual models. I always appreciate the direct connection and control that it gives to the driver. The way you can slow the car without hitting the brakes the moment you lift off the throttle, the way you can hold the same gear through a bend without it shifting a cog at an inopportune time (E200, I’m looking at you), how you can push start when you accidentally left the cabin light on the whole night through, how you can illicit a song from the engine, just to know from the note, yes, the thing sounds right and the car is in good health.

Unfortunately, the popularity of this choice is going down fast, with drivers licences being issued mostly for those who are in category 3A (automatic only). This, I presume, is worldwide, for I see a dearth of new models with the manual gearbox option (except in commercial vehicles).

It is just simply… better

I hardly encounter a vehicle that was so blindly executed that it’s manual version could be worse off than the auto version for driver connection, control and the joy of driving. Even the poor vehicles (in the eyes of the general public) just have that right feeling when it’s in manual form.

Don’t you agree?

The lesser car, manual gearbox link

Now, the manual option seems to be limited to a few segments only – the sports car (but Porsche, you are quickly dropping this option with the latest 911? Or not?), the commercial vehicles, and the used cheap runabouts from Korea & China.

That’s what makes those cheap cars so endearing to me now. Am I too much of a die hard manual gear-head?

But my recent week’s drives in manuals, the fanfare-less, no star list of Peugeot Partner 1.5M van, Chery QQ 0.8M, Hyundai Getz 1.1M have convinced me that we still have have decent drives in oddball transport, just because they have the right sort of gearbox!

Maybe when I get to drive more of the luxury end of the spectrum with excellent automated manuals, I might change my mind, but now, I kinda miss the orange Lambo with the koala on the side. How you need to hold its revs to close to four thousand to get it to drive proper and not stall, and that’s best done with a stick in your left palm. It’s perverse pleasure to cane a car not meant for sporty performance, but the grin I get from overtaking that portly A180 with nowhere to go, priceless (pun intended). Especially when you paid so little for the car – the car is almost literally, priceless.

P.s.: I’m very glad the Chery QQ, with just months to go, remains a useful runabout till the end of it’s COE, having just been sold it to an Indian gentleman working in retail. He didn’t really pay for the car. No kidding.


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