PH Blog: manual labour

Now, I'm not about to get into a flaming war with Steve Sutcliffe over this. But, respectfully, I beg to differ with his view that anyone flying a flag for manual transmissions is a Luddite.

Paddles less involving? CSL begged to differ
Paddles less involving? CSL begged to differ
Actually I don't. We probably are. But it's something to be proud of, not ashamed about.

You can read Steve's blog on the subject here. But he's bang on that there's no future for the manual gearbox given that manufacturers don't really want them, drivers don't really want them (well, the majority of drivers) and on road and track automated gearboxes are faster, more consistent and, increasingly, more efficient than their manual counterparts. That two quintessential drivers' cars - the Renaultsport Clio and 911 GT3 - won't have a manual option in their forthcoming new versions tells you all you need to know about how the manufacturers of those two hugely respected cars see the market is going. Indeed, BMW was there a decade ago when it offered the M3 CSL as an SMG-only deal. And that hasn't exactly harmed its reputation or desirability.

Dual-clutch only for new Renaultsport Clio
Dual-clutch only for new Renaultsport Clio
Steve asks if we'll really miss changing gear ourselves. Well, a few of us will, me included. And we'll probably continue driving cars that let us do it. Because we want to, not because it's faster, more convenient or any other logical reason.

Nobody rides a horse any more because it's a useful, viable means of transport. And yet plenty of people put an awful lot of time, money and effort into keeping their nags for the sheer pleasure of it. If there was no romance in it we'd just end up putting them in burg- ... oh.

Some redundant technologies inspire this kind of passion, others don't. There are plenty of vinyl junkies out there and, again, there's satisfaction and a geeky pleasure in the inconvenience and imperfections of the format that outweighs the guaranteed quality and accessibility of CDs or downloads. But while I'm sure there are still fans out there you'd have to be pretty bloody minded to feel the same way about cassettes.

And it's the same for the new GT3 too
And it's the same for the new GT3 too
Steve's frustration at the fluffed changes in his TVR race car that wouldn't have happened had it been equipped with an automated shift brings us full circle too. Mightily annoying at the time for the man at the wheel. But a treat for anyone spectating and watching an angry Sutcliffe carve his way back through the field. Is it about now we start a campaign for manual gearboxes in F1?

So he's mainly right. For mainstream manufacturers and racers, wannabe or actual, for whom every second counts the manual is effectively dead. But I'll miss them when they're gone, and I'm sure I'm not the only one on here. Let the diehards' bleating commence: "three pedals good, two pedals bad!" I'll be joining in!


Comments (293) Join the discussion on the forum

  • mrclav 18 Jan 2013

    My niece and nephew find it hard to believe there was a time that people lived without the internet and mobile phones even though pretty all of us on here remember that time well.

    That's pretty much how the manual gearbox is going to go unfortunately.

  • Type R Tom 18 Jan 2013

    I'm more concerned that it's another thing to go wrong, will cars last 15+ years any more before they become uneconomical to repair?

  • Itsallicanafford 18 Jan 2013

    IMO...on the subject of the M3 CSL, i would argue that it has harmed it's reputation. The SMG box is Ok, but it does show its age now and date the whole car. If the the M3 CSL was designed as a manual, i think prices would be Circa £50K+ (or higher, it is a very special car indeed), not £30K that they are now, and what is one of the best would be one of the very, very best...IMO of course, the SMG debate rages long and hard on the specialist forums.

  • Otispunkmeyer 18 Jan 2013

    Im in two minds really

    For day to day driving, this place is just too crowded to be doing with a manual box. I don't really wanna sit with my foot on the clutch for hours on end while I slowly shuffle forward in traffic on the motorway because some nonce lost a wing mirror and the traffic wombles want to close 90% of the road for 2 hours. Give me an auto please.

    But for a b-road blast. Manual every time. Its much more satisfying choosing the right gear and snicking it home with perfect clutch/accelerator work.

    I watched a Colin McRae video from his Subaru days the other day. Noticed he had a proper manual box, not a sequential shift. His gearbox work looked magnificent. Surely something to aspire to.

  • MyCC 18 Jan 2013

    Interesting that the Americans still demand them in performance cars, look no further than them being offered a manual version of the new M5.

    New automated boxes are fantastic and fun but it dulls the experience a little, making it 'too easy' to drive fast and feel a little remote.


    My CC.

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