After the demise of my first car, my 1991 Subaru Legacy, I decided that my next car had to be a manual transmission car. After all, the cool sports cars I wanted in life were stick shifts, and I wanted to be a cool car enthusiast that could drive the cool sports cars.
There was only one little problem: I didn’t know how to drive stick. Furthermore, neither did my parents.
No problem, I thought to myself. How hard could it be? I could just wing it.
There was a beautiful silver 1993 Ford Taurus SHO with a stick shift advertised for sale by a small used car dealer in town. I decided to go over there and take a look at the car. It stuck out like a sore thumb among the rows and rows of plain family sedans, practical minivans, and the occasional truck and SUV.
The salesman noted that he normally wouldn’t sell a car like this, but a family friend of his wanted to sell the car, so it showed up on the lot. He asked me if I knew how to drive a manual transmission car — it was the only manual transmission car on the entire car lot. Of course I do, was my reply.
I got in the car, twisted the key, and promptly stalled the car. Tried it again, same result. The salesman politely took the keys from my hand and asked me to leave.
Okay, it’s not as easy as I thought.
The next car I looked at was the Audi A4. It was also at one of the little used car lots in town. This time, I brought along a friend who knew how to drive stick, and had him do the test drive for me. I sat in the passenger seat and tried to gauge the test drive, but you really can’t form a driving impression from the passenger seat. My friend said it drove fine, so I took him at his word and bought the car for $7,500.
That was a lot of money. My parents did the very Asian thing of setting up a savings account for me, and putting all of the money I’d receive over the holidays and as gifts into the savings account and never letting me touch it. Any money I earned from doing chores and, later, working in the family business also went into the savings account untouched by my fingers. So I had a sizable savings account balance (at least it felt that way to a college student) that I thought I could splurge on a fancy automobile.
Well, sort of fancy. The car had the four rings on the grille, but other than that, it was extremely basic. It had the base 1.8L turbo 4-cylinder mated to a 5-speed manual transmission routing power to the front wheels only. The interior was cloth, not leather. In short, this was one of the cheapest trims of the B5 Audi A4 that one could possibly buy.
Still, I was excited that I now had a fancy car.
Another friend drove the car back for me to my father’s laboratory business and left it in the parking lot. When I told my parents that I had bought a manual transmission car, they were not enthused.
I was on my own to learn how to drive the car if I were to get the car from the lab back home. Naturally, when you don’t know how to do something… you Google it.
It was on Google that I found the advice to begin with clutch work first before moving on to shifting gears. With a printout of what I had found on the web, I started practicing on the deserted industrial road in front of the family business, first spending nearly an hour just learning to move the car with the clutch pedal alone, before then spending another hour learning how to shift up and down the gears.
I managed to drive the Audi back to my parents’ house and was thrilled. I now knew how to drive a stick shift! I’m a Real Car Enthusiast now!
I would go on to teach another half dozen friends how to drive stick, following the same exercises that I learned from. I boasted that I could teach someone to drive stick well enough to drive us back home in one hour, and to date, I’ve held true to that promise.
The internet, my Audi, and me
Now that I had a fancy car, I needed to keep it looking good. I had never detailed a car, but the internet knows all, so I went looking online for detailing advice. That’s when I found the Volkswagen/Audi enthusiast car forums.
This was my very first exposure to online car culture. All of these people, with cars just like mine, doing cool things with them! I immediately fell in with the crowd, though I didn’t feel confident in posting much of anything on the forums, since I knew so little and all of these online experts obviously knew so much. Some dude online recommends some super fancy German detailing supplies that are very expensive and hard-to-find? Well, I read it on the internet, so it must be true, right? Go ahead and buy that stuff.
So while the naive me was taken up by plenty of — now with 20/20 hindsight — complete bullshit, there was plenty of good stuff I learned on the forums. For one, I learned of all of the horrible things that can go wrong with a B5 chassis Audi A4 or Volkswagen Passat.
I soon embarked on a quest to fix everything that was wrong on my Audi A4. The cruise control died somehow on a long road trip to Windsor, Canada. There were dead pixels in some of the displays. The timing belt hadn’t been replaced. The suspension could use some freshening up. The oil needed to be changed on a regular basis.
For what it’s worth, I think the Audi is the car that finally got me recognizing that oil changes were a thing that needed to be done, and the humble oil change was the first “working on a car” activity I ever did.
But many other things had to be done by a shop. I simply didn’t have the tools, the space, or the know-how to do any of it.
As it turns out, even when using independent mechanics, servicing an Audi ain’t cheap. I took the Audi to an independent service center three times for three grand in work, and at the end of it all, I still had a needy Audi with cruise control that still wasn’t working.
Getting rid of the car
I had the Audi for two years before I decided that enough was enough. I had gotten brave enough to attempt replacing the control arms myself before rust reared its ugly head and stopped me dead in my tracks. As no amount of PB Blaster seemed to some stuck hardware, I sent the car along to my mechanic once again, and when I got it back, I promptly put it up for sale.
The first person to come look at the car basically fell in love with it. I sold it to him for $5,000.
I don’t usually remember how much I’ve spent on a car, but I do with this one. I bought a car for $7,500, spent $3,000 on it, to end up with a car I sold for $5,000. I loved the way the car drove, but after this experience, I swore to myself that I would never, ever own another German car out of warranty. Any time a friend confides in me that they’re thinking of a B5 or B6 chassis Volkswagen or Audi, I make sure to share my tale of woe with my 1998 Audi A4. It usually does the trick.
I also learned that car fandom can throw a rose tint on one’s glasses at best, and blind oneself to reality at worst. After I sold the Audi, I couldn’t fathom how some people online could be so enthusiastic about their Audis, even as they were posting in fits of rage about something broken on their cars, or the arcane procedures needed to oust mechanical and electrical gremlins. It was a crash course in the dynamics of online car communities and fandom that I needed to have.
Of course, in the years since, I’ve found myself on the other side, lavishing love on ridiculous cars that would make even the most committed Audi fanboi wonder if I needed mental help.
My next car was going to be cheap and reliable. I had taken up autocrossing and decided that it was finally time to own a sports car.
You had a similar experience as I, and the same determination about owning another German car out of warranty. I too owned a 1998 B5 A4. Mine was the 5V V6 Quattro, also paid $7500. After spending way too much on repairs over 3 years, and looking at $3K in the upcoming year (timing belt, clutch), I traded it in for $2K on a 2012 Chevy Cruze Eco. Best decision I ever made – the money I saved in gas alone (no premium, 80% better gas mileage) almost covered the note (was driving 650 miles per week at the time) and I no longer had to worry about calling my boss and telling him I was in the ship. Again.
And the cruise control on that car worked. Yes, I had the same problem, too.
I owned 1992 Intrega with manual transmission for 8 years. I bought used from a neighbor in the same court of my townhouse. I had my regular mechanic checked and test drove the car before finalizing the price. I didnt know how to drive manual either. I knew the principal how it should be done, but never able to get out the first gear. I kept stalling the engine! A lot of friends and coworkers promised to teach but never materialized. After two months in my garage, the neighbor who sold the car offered to help. We drove to warehouse section of town in Central NJ, he started to show me how to get the car moving from first gear without stalling. His first advice was “Don’t worry about wearing out the clutches like a lot of American keep talking about”, the guy was from Jordan. The real trick was to match the gas/engine rpm with clutch pedal releasing, it sounded easy enough? But it was not that easy if you never drove one. Eventually about 15- minutes continuous practice I counted about 20 stalls. On the slightly downward slope I got the car moving in the first gear, then moved 2nd and 3rd gears, and slow down to down shift the 2nd and then first. Then problem was the grinding the gear when I shift from 2nd to first. We kept trying few times, then the real problem happened, the police car was behind us. Apparently some security guards from one of warehouses called them, the warehouse people did not like strange vehicles in around the warehouses. We left home.
In the next few weeks I had been practicing in my town house development before I got into the public roads. And for six months, I got a lot of middle figure ftom other drivers when I stalled in the traffic.
The guy also gave a good advice on when you need to shift — as soon as you get the car moving, shift up 2nd, at speed 30mph shift into 3rd, 45mph into 4th, 50mph and above uses 5th. Downshift is just reverse the order. That is what I have been doing even these days when I drive a manual car. I don’t pay too much on the tachometer.
I later learned one thing making Intrega a bit difficult for first learner was its clutch release higher than other cars. You can agrue merits and deficiencies of the long travel clutches.
Also I learned about few weeks ago, this model of Intrega is the personal vehicle of Emperor of Japan for last 30 years. His private car is a 1993 4-door Honda Integra with manual transmission. It is a JDM of course.
Interesting and familiar story.
“… I couldn’t fathom how some people … could be so enthusiastic about their Audis, even as they were posting in fits of rage about something broken … or the arcane procedures needed to oust mechanical and electrical gremlins…”.
Yeah, me neither. And me too as well.
I bought a new 2001 5 speed V6 Passat GLX – loved driving it; hated the car itself; will NEVER buy another VW (and by extension any Audi). But I did buy it and I already knew at the time that the high purchase price was just the beginning.
I offer no excuse. That terrible car was just so beautiful.
There are facts and there are feelings and I do not make any attempt to explain your perceived conundrum about expensive European cars and their fandom.
With regard to teaching stick I feel instructors are advised to follow the flight training model and do a thorough ground school of stick shift parts and operations. My theory is if you know the facts of how and why a system is designed and works, you can then properly operate that system.
For example, flight ground school taught me the fact that when a plane turns the perpendicular-to-the ground lift of the wings is lessened by the fact the lift is tilted in the direction of the turn, and accordingly the plane starts to descend. Ergo, pull back on the wheel when making turns to maintain altitude. Know the facts; operate the system.
But, teaching stick to a person with whom one has a deep and personal relationship – like, say, a wife, may not be advisable under any condition.
I tried to teach my first wife stick; it did not go well.
My second wife hired a professional instructor to teach her stick so she could drive the Miata.
The latter worked much better than the former.
I’m enjoying this series.
Haha, I’ve been trying to teach my wife how to drive the Westy for the last six months, and she keeps making excuses! The pandemic has lead to (relatively) empty streets and a golden opportunity to practice, but it just hasn’t happened yet.
No doubt, an old bus is an intimidating vehicle to learn on. The devil that sits over my shoulder sometimes says to me, “hey, why don’t you go out and get a convertible – maybe a clapped out Boxster or a Z4 or something? Maybe she’d be more inclined to learn on one of those? Another car is just what you need, Scott, old buddy, old pal…
I plan to teach my sister stick shift, she only started her driving course when the pandemic came and the driving school got closed. So maybe she won’t have any traffic rides any time soon, but on closed track (industrial areas in nearby towns) she could master all three pedals.
Hopefully the teachers (my father and I) will remain patient 🙂 we have a perfect car for this at home – an old beater, you can’t tell if a scratch is 10 minutes or 10 years old 😀
Love these stories. Years ago I got my wife driving the manual transmission on a little dirt bike (Suzuki TM75) but the feeble 5 hp, low gearing and a spongy clutch made it almost impossible to stall or lose control so she did well
We moved on to cars next, but my 4 speed Jeep Scrambler wasn’t easy to drive. So we ended up in a delightful Suzuki Jimney rental, in Aruba. Low tide and a deserted beach made for a huge expanse of flat empty terrain to practice clutch and shifting. Unfortunately my wife simply couldn’t wrap her head around the concepts of rotating engine parts, the non rotating wheels and the need to keep them apart. She gave up with considerable frustration.
I’m sure I’m a terrible teacher and I’ve encouraged her to get professional driving lessons. She may do so one day.
I remember your article about your VW. I did test drive a similar car with 2.0 liter engine with automatic transmission before I got my 2003 Accord V6. The VW was 4k more expensive than my Accord. I have to say that vintage VW drive much better than that generation of Accord. I did notice the VW had some momentary death spot when you pushed gas pedal from a complete stop — I recall Road and Track had the same conclusion, it blamed to the emission control software. But I didn’t know VW reliability so bad.
My current favorite car and also affordable to my budget is the current generation of GTI.
I got a chance to drive the same vintage Audi, I found its shifter was very good and smooth, my Intrega shifter was no match, that Audi with VW 1.8 liter turbo engine had only 150 hp but its torque peaks under 2000rpm. That made the car very easy to drive for a light foot driver like myself.
About woman learning to drive a stick shift, I once told my niece to marry a men who has a patient to teach her master a stick shift. She now married to a guy with Civic type R without learning to drive manual. I guess she is in love.
My first expensive German mistress was a VW Eurovan, and I’m thankful to it for teaching me how to wrench. I bought the van cheap, but its maintenance kept me constantly returning to the shop. Eventually, I had to start turning the wrench myself because I couldn’t afford the constant repairs. When I sold it, I lost a little money, but I gained a lot of great experience. I credit it with helping to turn me into an enthusiast.
Kudo’s on teaching yourself to drive a stick. The procedure you outlined is one of the best methods that can provide success. Of course, now you’ve learned that “because I read it on the internet” holds just as many chances for major errors, as well as successes, LOL!! I’m anticipating your next automotive adventure. You’ve got me belted in….so turn the key! 🙂
Loving the German cars while hating the problems they came with is an attitude that most likely started with British sports cars and the Prince of Darkness.
After a childhood of sitting in the front seat of the school bus, watching the drivers shift thru 4 gears …..
It was a cinch to jump on a Honda 350 motorcycle, in 1970, and pick up on shifting gears.
The clutch was in the left hand-grip …. like bicycle brakes. The shifting was done by clicking a knob with one’s right foot.
Next, my 1st car was a ’65 Cutlass convert …. with 3 spd. on the floor.
I learned to drive stick on ’68 Bug i borrowed from a family friend, which I recall as being strangely fun to drive with its light, unassisted steering and tight linkage and controls, a huge difference from the malaise-era big sedans I was used to driving in 1980. I recall I picked up the skill quickly; my main rule was that if it began to stall or do anything else untoward, just mash the clutch pedal to the floor and try again. Every new car I’ve ever purchased had a manual transmission, though I’m afraid my current car may be the last one given scant availability (at least in the U.S.) today.
I taught a few folks to drive standard shift.
The best teaching trick I found was to start with a “stall proof” vehicle. So either a “granny gear” truck or 4×4 transfer case in low range.
Without the fear and frustration of conking the learning curve seemed a lot smoother.
No, it won’t stall but it sure can be made to lurch and buck. LOL
But the overall simple crudeness of the typical properly geared training vehicle kept things in check, about like an old farm tractor. Then I found a refined conk-proof car. It was either a Subaru or dual-range Colt, I don’t recall for sure now, I used both.
Whichever, with it’s nimbleness my student grasped the standard shift thing quickly. Too quickly, ahead of basics like steering. At a bank’s drive-through she jumped the curb. It didn’t stall because of the low gearing and her ample application of accelerator, but it sure tore things up.
I had a 2000 B5 2.5 quattro and it wasnt better. I thought I was buying a creampuff with 76k miles but nothing was done to the car. I did the timing belt first thing because it was original @$1800 because they have to remove the front bumper and take half the engine out. Next it needed $1400 in suspension work. Then I was driving one day and the brake caliper locked up… $1100 in brake work. Next was tires and small misc items to be replaced. Car was $5900 and I put almost $5k in repairs. sold it for $4500. No more Audis for me.
When I was preparing to get my first car in 1971, I decided that I wanted a Saab 96, which was available only with stick shift. Even if there’d been an automatic option, I would have gone for stick as a matter of ego.
I’ve been on the audifans.com listserv since ca. 1997. I assume that if you’’d been on that particular listserv, I’d recognize your name.
My Audi experience was much better than yours. I bought an ’87 4000 quattro just after Xmas ’99. It came with a bunch of service receipts and was owned by a guy I knew and had met face to face at local Audi owners’ social events, so there was definitely a trust factor. When I let the car go in August ’15, it had ~263k on it. I sold it not because it had become terribly unreliable, but because parts were getting harder to find, and I was working 30 miles from home. Best driver’s car I’ve ever had. I think it helped matters that it was more electronics-free than later Audis.
I was in audifans.com as well with my ’93 S4 and 95.5 S6 Avant between about ’98 and 2008 or so – great site and the only way to keep older Audis going econonomically back then.
Wonderful story – there’s quite a bit I can relate to here.
You’re not the only one who’s bought a stick-shift they didn’t know how to drive. In the late 1990s I had a friend who did an identical thing; he needed a new car and wanted a manual transmission even though he couldn’t drive one. So another friend of ours went on the test drive with him, pronounced the car fun to drive, and my buddy Ross bought it on that recommendation. The next day, I took him out driving around an industrial district nearby, teaching him first the clutchwork, then switching gears – just like your Google search advised you to do. He caught on quickly. Well, except for one instance when he stalled on a railroad tracks and couldn’t get going again. But we eventually moved on, and he enjoyed his Integra for many years.
And oh, the story of your parents putting all of your holiday and gift money in a savings account! It’s not strictly an Asian phenomenon – when I was a kid, I had non-Asian friends whose parents did that as well. I’ve told my own kids about that and they’re horrified! While my parents never did that to me, I did it willingly… putting every cent I earned into a savings account so that I could eventually buy a car.
I liked the A4 quite a bit, and had driven two of them, but after having been stung by the ownership costs of a Saab 900, I wasn’t anxious to experience another costly-to-maintain European car.
My parents never did the savings account for me, but I’ve done so for my son who’s now 14. Problem is, he finds newer cars uncomfortable with overly firm seats and suspension. He’s claimed my old 93 Grand Marquis as his first car when he starts driving. That’s fine by me, he should save his money for university.
I’m sorry you were disappointed in your experiences with the A4.
I had a ‘96 auto 2.8 B5 A4 I owned for 12 years from 2001-2013. I had a great set of experiences with the car, having bought it with 70K miles and selling it with over 250K. I bought it for $12K cash while the B5 was still being produced (a buddy bought a nearly identical new one for over triple the price), maintained it, with oil changes every 3K, yes replaced the control arms twice and put an average $500 into it each year. I ran the car into the ground and was sad when I let it go.
The longest test drive I ever took was with the A4, but for reasons that I should spell out in a future COAL whenever I can find time to write.
I was going to buy a Passat, but so many A4’s came off of leases in 2001 that many were priced less than the Passats on the market at the time. I loved the car, and am occasionally tempted to buy another one, but plastics were used in key systems (heater core) in ways that disintegrate over time, and that has kept me away.
Hi, I’m really enjoying your stories … a different generational and cultural perspective that’s interesting and educational, and fun to read. I was lucky to grow up in an environment where most of the people I knew drove stick shift. My own family never owned an automatic in over 50 years of car ownership in the US. My best friend in elementary school: his dad drove a Beetle, his mom drove a Porsche 356, when neither brand offered an auto. Another friend’s parents had two stick shift Mercedes; the newer one a W114 that they specially ordered with a column shift 4 speed which they had liked in their fintail. Later I taught one girlfriend to drive stick, and she drove only stick shift cars for the ten or so years we stayed in touch. And my wife had a stick when we met, and drives one today, and both our kids are comfortable with them. As for Audi’s, never owned one, but we’re on our fourth VW and while not quite at Toyota levels of durability, the newer ones are still more reliable than anything from the seventies, and our A4 (stick) New Beetle which will turn 20 this year, is soldiering on well in the hands of our daughter.
I congradulate you for wanting and learning to drive a stick. Knowing how has opened up numerous employment opportunities for me. Last year I needed tires on my car. Sunday was the only day that I could get them so that meant going to Walmart. It was a nice sunny day so I sat outside rather than in the stuffy waiting area. I saw the young “technician” go to bring in my car but he stopped after opening the drivers door. He went back in and came out with a 65ish year old lady who proceeded to bring in my car. The tires were installed and I saw the lady back it out when it was done. I ended up paying her for the work done at the register. That’s when she informed me that she was the only one working who could drive a stick. WTF? I’d be going to a driving school but quick if I were in that situation. Oh, about the bank account savings. That was once a cornerstone of being a conservative. Not so much anymore.
I learned to drive a manual transmission car in Athers, Greece, as a visiting student with a public health program. I was assigned a rental car, a Fiat with a stick. I knew the principles and somehow, with about ten minutes of practice on the airport access road, got it down. Sort of. Modulating the clutch, accelerator and the handbrake on hills came pretty easily. What I had problems with was remembering to push the clutch pedal when stopping.
One of my current cars has Autostick and when in manual mode, I still sometimes forget that after a stop, the transmission will be stuck in First to the redline. Must be a permutation of the same mental,block.
The stickshift Fiat in Athens developed a problem that made it unsafe: the headlights, parking lights and and tail lights quit (Fix It Again, Tony!). I took it back to the rental,agency and it was swapped out for another one, after the agent was reassured thatbyes, “I know how to drive an AUTOMATIC car!”
When I was 16 or 17, somehow or other in conversation with the neighbour across the street (Mr. Klaus—as I recall he looked very much like Boris Johnson) it came up that I’d only driven automatics. He offered to remedy that, and we went out in his ’80something Audi Coupé. Easy terrain, the untrafficked blocks of our 1960s suburban development, and I’d spent years reading all about it, so I picked it up very quickly. After half an hour or so he had me drop him off at his house and said “Go practice awhile”, which I did. Fine.
A couple years later, my folks were planning a trip to Europe, and an automatic rental car couldn’t be guaranteed. Dad had learnt to drive on his father’s pushbutton ’56 Plymouth and had only ever had automatics, so I set about teaching him to shift gears. The 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T was many things, but “ideal teaching car” is not on the list. We didn’t have any spectacular events about it, though, and we got to the point where dad could make the car go and stop adequately, but he was never comfortable with it.
We had a bit of a laff at the reversal of typical roles, and I was glad we got along well, for that was definitely not the case with David and his father, elsewhere in the neighbourhood. I’d been one of two passengers in the back seat of David’s father’s ’88ish Camry one day while he was very ably demonstrating how to suck at being a dad. David would drop the clutch and stall the car, and his father would mock and belittle him for it. With an abashed audience in the back seat, yet. Needless to say, David would drop the clutch and stall the car again, and his father would kick the scorn up a notch. For some strange reason, getting yelled at and bullied failed to inspire any confidence or skill in David.
Anyhow, my parents did indeed wind up with a stick-shift car in France, and they survived (which is kind of a miracle, given Parisian driving), but they generated some stories by dint of being unable to shift it into reverse—the Spirit had no reverse lockout, and the last stick-shift car my mother had driven was from the 1960s at latest, and it hadn’t occurred to me to counsel them that they might have to lift a collar or push down on the shifter to engage reverse.
I lerarned initially on an International tractor jack rabbit starts etc but actual road vehicle learning was in an Austin Gipsy 4×4 no youve never heard of them I know but thats ok I progressed to a Landrover simply because the Gipsy was our neighbours work vehicle and it got replaced, automatic cars were very rare in 70s NZ but of course my father bought one just before I was due to take my test so that was done in a Morris Minor, I taught my daughter to drive a manual trans it wasnt hard idling engine ease up on the clutch pedal in fist gear accelerate once moving up shift at between 1700 and 2000 rpm rinse and repeat until you reach 5th, turbo diesel car so not much point in revving it high untill some vehicle control is learned, downshifting to begin with same thing progress thru the gears though 5th to 3rd is a useful skip shift, she still drives that car its getting a bit battered from minor knocks and scapes but after half a million kms or so still runs fine, Citroen by PSA a far better brand than VW could ever become,
Ive just seen the sevice bill on a friends partners Audi new pads and rotor all round and oil and filters $2.3K hugely expensive cars to keep on the road and thats without the shocking reliability, I wouldnt have one as a gift.
Different countries, different universes: it was the late 80s and I was at a tire shop, in my home town, in Brazil, waiting for my car to be serviced when I noticed a commotion around a 1960s Chevy Nova at the parking lot; I went there to see what was going on with that unusual car; the situation was none of the technicians knew how to move it to the service bay since it was an automatic car.
The self-teaching of stick shift around the neighborhood is definitely a familiar scenario. I had to do that myself after a similar purchase 8 years ago. Years earlier I had convinced a friend to teach me to drive stick on his old Ford Escort, but when deciding to buy a car of my own with manual transmission I failed to realize the difference a brand-new clutch makes! I stalled the car more times than I would care to admit on my way home from the dealer, in rush hour traffic! Hence the self-guided lessons around the block until I could confidently get it going without stalling. All of this did not impress my wife one bit, and she understandably showed no enthusiasm for learning stick for the 3 years we owned the car.
An additional insight from 3 years of driving that not-too-powerful car was that manual transmission is enjoyable mostly under limited circumstances that were outside my usual driving environment. Where I live, most of the main roads are flat and straight with 50+ mph speed limits and stoplights. So when the lights turned green I would be frantically rowing up the gears to get to speed while the pickups and large V6 American sedans around me would just be putting their foot down to the floor and flying by or angrily tailgating me, depending on the lanes available. After taking the hint from my wife and going back to automatic on my next car, I found myself feeling much more relaxed on the road!
Great story, and well done doing the research and figuring it out yourself.
An Audi may well be our next car, for much the same reason. What else is available with a manual transmission?
Another fun article, thank you John!
I love manual trans cars! There’s something incredibly satisfying about executing a perfect gear change, and the feeling of being an integral part of the car’s procession. My first car, a 1971 Ford Escort, was manual, delicious gearbox in those things. My next car, a 1984 Ford Sierra, was auto, which I also enjoyed, and I’ve owned plenty of both since – my everyday cars were auto, as that was so much easier for stop-start city traffic, and my ‘play’ cars were manual.
Being French, our current everyday Peugeot is both manual and auto – it’s a robotised manual transmission, so has no clutch pedal and functions like an auto, but you can hear and occasionally feel the gearchanges. Journos at the time hated it, but I really like it – it feels like the car is alive. Of course when I want the real manual experience I go for a blat in my magnificent elderly Ford Sierra – grunty V6 + manual trans = delightful experience!
My younger sisters and I were blessed, as our parents insisted that we knew how to drive a manual trans car, and ensured that while we were growing up the family car was manual. So in 1989 I learned in a Ford Sierra. My middle sister lucked out as when she was learning in the early 90s the Sierra had been traded on a Toyota Townace van. By the time my youngest sister was learning in the mid-90s the Townace had been traded on a Ford Telstar. The minute my youngest sister got her licence, my patents heaved a sigh of relief that their work was done, and traded the Telstar on their first automatic car – a Subary Legacy GT.
Anyway, I look forward to your next chapter John!
Great series so far. I also grew up in an Asian American household. Neither of my parents know how to drive stick. My brother and I both bought stick shift Hondas (used ‘88 Accord for me) and learned stick on them.
Fast forward a couple of decades and I’m still driving stick shifts, taught one daughter and am now teaching the other. No Audis, but we did buy our first VW last year. Knock on wood, no problems yet!
Loving this series! My father’s Oliver 550 tractor was my initial classroom for a stick shift. Looking back, that was ideal because with a tractor it is all about the clutch, and not so much about up and down shifting. My first road time in a stick was in a cousin’s MG Midget one evening, when I was probably 14. This added the road shifting to my decently developed clutching skills, and everything was Jake.
Every time I think that just maybe an old German car can be owned economically, I read something like this.
My father taught me to drive the family Datsun 1600/510 when I was ten. There was a small hill to get out of the parking space in front of the house, and I remember stalling the car several times before I got the hang of it – then I was fine.
When my brother was learning to drive in his mid-teens, I remembered this – I took him to a nearby hilly suburb and made him practice hill starts in our old Honda Civic until he could manage it every time.
I learned to use a manual with the XL75 Honda dirt bike I had, it was relatively simple for me to start using my left leg on the clutch when I started driving the family VW Rabbit later. I think it was still on the original clutch plate (and trans) when the engine was rebuilt at 100,000 miles.
The ONLY German cars I’d ever own without warranty coverage would be an aircooled Beetle or Karmann Ghia. The only thing that takes them out of service if you follow the advice of John Muir is rust.
A few decades ago there was a letter to one of the American advice columnists, either Abigail Van Buren or her twin Ann Landers, on the topic of learning to drive from a family member. The woman who wrote in acknowledged that she had no training in psychology and said, “I am not smart enough to explain it, but there is something about the relationship that makes the teacher impatient and the learner unable to take criticism.” I don’t know if she spoke from experience, but that seems to hit the nail on the head.
When I turned 16 my parents signed me up with a professional driving school, which was probably wise.
After we became a 2 car family, my Dad had a 10 year period where his car (always the small import) was a manual. My Mother actually learned to drive on a semi-automatic, but has never been comfortable with a manual, so starting in 1974 “most” of his cars became automatic (the exception being his 1980 Dodge Omni, which I think of as his midlife crisis car). He of course was familiar with manuals, his first new car (1956 Plymouth Plaza) was a manual, and while in Germany in the early 50’s he drove many Beetles (plus Army trucks like a Diamond REO) that all had manuals. His family was not well to do, so just having a car was a big enough deal, and it would be a stripper with manual and no radio or heater…
More than 20 years ago, my Mother went on a trip to eastern Europe with her brother, who for whatever reason tends to have odd problems happen on trips, so she wanted to be able to drive manual in case something happend to him….nothing did, but I took my Mother to the parking lot of a recently abandoned Walmart to re-acquaint her to driving manual…which she did, but still wasn’t comfortable with. Prior to that I tried to give my youngest sister my ’78 Scirocco, but she never got comfortable with manual so I ended up having to sell the car myself…maybe I’m not the best person teaching someone to drive manual.
I think I became infatuated with manual transmission cars early on, partly because for some reason I don’t myself understand I tend to like things that are not common…and manual transmissions were becoming uncommon when I got my license 46 years ago.
I also like direct control of manuals, but for me what I really like about them is the lack of a torque converter…I really like engine braking, and being able to slow down without using the brake. My 1st car was a manual, also had a manual choke (and carburator of course). I’ve only owned one automatic car, though my next car is likely to be an automatic, mostly because I’m getting older and (almost) no one else can drive my car.
I’ve had some leg issues where having a manual is literally a pain (no, not my knees, more of a foot problem)…but I’m in denial, knowing that my current car is going to be my last manual, since I prefer them. So I’m trying to hang onto my current (20 year old) car as long as I can, most likely. Interestingly that’s one of the expensive failures on my car, my shift linkage cable broke while I was near my home…fortunately was able to pull into a parking lot and figured out how to put it into 2nd gear via the selector lever on top of the transaxle…was able to drive the car home without shifting. I call it the time I wanted to be shifty but my car became shiftless.