What Was Your First Manual Transmission Experience?

The first time I successfully drove a manual was at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in a NASCAR race car. I was working on the marketing team for Ricoh, and an extra spot opened up on a junket to the Richard Petty Driving Experience with the sales team. It was sink or swim, and I was determined to master it quickly so I could get into gear and scream around the track with everyone else. I found it to be pretty easy because there were no hills, no stop lights, and the speeds were steady. It was exhilarating.

It was especially sweet, because the first time I tried to drive a car with a stick shift was a dismal experience. So I wondered: how was was your first time with a manual?

In contrast to my NASCAR drive, my first attempt at a manual was not nearly as positive. My parents bought a 1981 model (the standard four-door, not the sporty X-11) and when I was 15, my father (bless him) tried to teach me how to drive it. I had been shifting for my parents for a few years and I thought it was fun to throw the stick into gear when they depressed the clutch. But when it came to me putting all of the pieces together myself, I panicked. My patient and saintly father tried his best. 

I came back around after the NASCAR experience and got my head together, thankfully. In the last month I’ve had some test cars with manuals that were a blast: a Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, a Mazda Miata, and a Honda Civic Si. Each felt very different under my feet and in my hands, but each is a blast in its own way. Speaking of the Civic, the Type R has one of the best manual transmissions on the market and I’m looking forward to seeing the new one this year. 

Of the three, my favorite was the Blackwing; not just for the sheer power of the 472-hp 3.6-liter V6 twin turbo, but because it’s built incredibly well. The manual is forgiving and propels the Cadillac smoothly and quickly. That said, the Miata and the Civic will cost you significantly less and offer a grounded drive some people like even more. And if you’ve never tried driving a manual, I highly recommend finding a school and going for it. 

What was learning how to drive a stick like for you, and what’s your favorite manual? Spill it in the comment section! 

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