My Love Affair with Manual Cars


Every girl has a mental list of what she wants to see in a guy. Mine was the usual – smart, kind, funny, cute, active, etc. – but there was another requirement, too: knowing how to drive a manual car. I’ve had a love affair with manual cars for as long as I can remember. An old manual junker of a car ranked far higher on my personal ‘coolness’ scale than the slickest new automatic. I can even admit to developing crushes on boys in high school simply because they drove manual cars and that set them a notch above the rest.

This meant that I needed to learn how to drive a manual car because I would not be outdone by a boy. The problem was that my parents drove a Toyota Sienna minivan – most definitely not manual. That’s where the boys-with-manual-cars came in handy. I orchestrated driving lessons in the empty parking lots around Huntsville and garnered enough knowledge to be able to ‘fake’ knowing how to use a stick shift.

That’s when I met the blue Miata. My summer neighbours, Lloyd and Kelly, owned a beautiful blue Miata convertible that made me drool every time I saw it parked at the boat landing. Ah, that car epitomized everything I held to be cool and sophisticated and I lusted after it with every ounce of my being. Imagine my delight when Lloyd gave me a driving lesson on the hilly, bumpy cottage road. Then, one glorious day, he agreed to give me a ride to Toronto, except that when he picked me up, he tossed me the car keys and said, “I’ve got work to do. You can drive.” I stammered nervously, “I really don’t think I’m good enough…” “Oh, you’ll be fine,” he replied, and, with that, got into the passenger seat, plugged in his Bluetooth device, and settled in to work for two hours. Obvious end of discussion. It was sink or swim for me. Somehow I did it, driving to the outskirts of Toronto along the traffic-laden Hwy 400, in a state of pure elation.

I got to know that Miata much better because, several years later, I spent a summer living at Lloyd and Kelly’s house in Toronto. I worked as a waitress and biked home after the dinner shift, until they insisted I use the car for commuting through a somewhat sketchy area late at night. Those few weeks of driving the Miata home from the restaurant certainly cemented my knowledge of driving standard and made me feel like I’d figured it out.

Even then, I didn’t stop applying the manual car criteria to potential boyfriends. One relationship that didn’t work out might have had something to do with the fact that he didn’t know how to drive manual or, rather, had no interest in learning, and it turned me off. When a new cute guy named Jason picked me up for a first date driving a sleek red Acura with a manual transmission, I secretly swooned while trying to remain outwardly cool. I ended up marrying the guy, but I swear it was for more than just knowing how to drive manual!

I don’t understand the North American dislike of manual cars. Sure, it can be challenging to learn, but once you get the hang of it, it’s positively addictive. I also think that driving manual teaches people to be better drivers because you understand more of what the car is doing and are more in tune to the road. It makes a driver versatile, since most of the rest of the world is not automatic. I have a cousin who went to Germany for his honeymoon, got a rental car, and couldn’t move it off the lot. (Embarrassing!)

My husband and I have agreed that we never want to buy a vehicle that is not manual – yet another reason why a minivan is not (and will never be) in the plans for our family. Not only do we both love driving manual — always working on perfecting those downshifts — but I also want to do my part to keep manual cars on North American roads, because they’re just plain awesome! As you can see, my love affair has only intensified over the years.

P.S. I’m happy to teach anyone who wants to learn 🙂 Come on, girls…


8 thoughts on “My Love Affair with Manual Cars

  1. The miata is still going, although the convertible roof is a bit rough around the edges. Lloyd is talking about selling it, which breaks my heart. It certainly is fun to drive!

      1. I tried to sell the Miata last year and didn’t get a single offer. I am going to be trying again soon. I think you would look great in it tooling around Port Elgin. Just make sure it doesn’t rain or snow.

  2. I upgraded my manual driving experience with CNC machined aluminum cable ends and bracket mounts, much crisper experience than the stock rubber ones.

  3. I, Kris Andrew, do not know how to drive a manual. Ray does, he’s great at it and all of his cars have been manuals. He tried to teach me once. I screeched the tires and left tar in my wake. But my dream car is a vintage super beetle, and I will learn to drive standard for that sweet car. I love vintage cars. I like standard cars, I wish I could drive them, but I’m not a confident driver. Ray’s been bugging me for years to try again, saying i’ll be fine. I will someday. I’d like my kids to learn standard. I feel a little limited only being able to drive automatics. Just gotta work up the nerve to ask Ray to teach me; maybe sooner than later. I really want that car!

  4. Both of my sons love driving a manual car. They even went out of their way to purchase their cars with manual shift.

  5. This makes me laugh. In the UK, manuals are the norm and oh my, I love so much being here in Qatar where practically every car is automatic (although I guess all Aston Martins and Bentleys etc may be manual). I do remember my initial feeling though, which was that I wasn’t actually driving. I don’t think I’d ever go back to a manual now.
    Oh, and I was thinking how funny to go out with a guy because of the car, then I remembered I’ve done it twice! A rich Spaniard with a lovely sports car when I lived in Barcelona, then a country gent with a big posh Range Rover when I lived in Edinburgh. On my first date with my husband, he picked my up at the airport in a rusting Vauxhall Astra – you could only open the passenger door from the inside. His in-car stereo was a mini-disc player duct-taped to the dashboard. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s