Automatic cars suck. Of course I am biased, but I have a short(-ish) story that will clearly explain why manual transmissions need to be saved. Before I begin my story, let me just say that I have driven both for an extensive period of time. My first and current cars were both manuals, while my Infiniti G37 X Coupe that I drove for a year was an automatic. So I’ve seen both options and I’m definitively stating that manual transmissions are better, so we have to save them, somehow.
It all started when I was looking for my first car. At the time, I wasn’t even sure what kind of car I wanted. Well now that I go back roughly six years in my mind, I’m pretty certain I wanted a Nissan 350Z. My family has a long history with Nissans and I didn’t want to go against the family, like someone who shall not be named who got a Honda Civic, aka my sister.
My father wasn’t, and still isn’t, the kind of man to cave into something. He simply just won’t do it. So the entire time I was in the process of getting my permit, I imagined cruising around the streets of NOVA in a loud, obnoxious and totally tuned out 350Z. Apparently my father didn’t see my dream and had a different plan.
Now, I’ve never really talked about my first car before, but it wasn’t my dream car or anything close to it. It was, however, something that I will never forget and I wish I kept it.
One day, my dad called me on my cellphone, which was rare in itself, since he rarely uses his phone. He’s a manly man. So his primary method of communication is yelling. Either way, he yelled into the phone that he was at our local Nissan dealership and was going to bring a car home for me to test drive. I gleefully waited in the house for him to come. As usual, just like the manly man he is, he was late.
I heard something in the driveway, but it didn’t have the intoxicating sound that the 350Z was known for. The sound coming from out side was muffled, barely noticeable. I quickly ran throughout my house hoping that he had gone against his own intuition and had brought a 350Z home.
Running outside and seeing what sat in the driveway slightly broke my heart. Sitting in my driveway was not a 350Z that I so badly craved, but a Sentra. A freaking Nissan Sentra. Now I was pretty devastated, but I could see my dad’s gleaming white teeth from 20 feet away from the car. He didn’t even get out of the car, just honked for me to get in.
I regretfully moved towards the car thinking how a Sentra was even a plausible choice. He didn’t say anything as I got in. He happily put his seatbelt on and pulled out of the driveway. This is where things started to interest me. I had been inside a manual car before, but it was a Nissan Frontier, so it wasn’t even remotely close to what I would call sporty.
At the time, we had two SUVs and the Civic, which were all automatics. So I was surprised to see that my father had brought a manual car home for me explore. But as we got going, something that I’ve never experienced happened.
You see, I thought this was the standard Sentra, but I was mistaken. It was a 2003 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V, arguably one of the best handling FWD of its time. It could get to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, had a limited-slip differential and could corner like a generic athlete undertaking a very rigorous exercise – in other words brilliantly.
While I didn’t have a Nissan brochure for the vehicle in my hands at the time, I fell in love with the car for how swiftly it attacked corners with my father behind the wheel. My dad’s an Indian version of Steve McQueen, at least to me he is, and he wrang that Sentra by its neck. He took corners with a deft, confident hand and seemed to thoroughly enjoy shifting gears, which resulted in a satisfying click.
I hadn’t seen him enjoy a car like that before and it was truly a sight to behold. We took the really long way back to the dealership and I enjoyed watching my dad act like a pro racer around town. Instead of being a nuisance, the car’s manual transmission allowed him to connect with the vehicle and that wouldn’t have happened if he couldn’t shift through his own gears.
We ended up getting the car and while I did trade it in for an automatic vehicle a few years later, I’ll never forget the lasting impression that my first manual car left on me. It made me a better driver, allowed me to get a connection with the vehicle and gave me better insight into my father. None of this would’ve happened if it was an automatic car and I am forever in love with manual cars because of this.
Automatic cars are easier to live with, to drive in traffic with and to text and drive with. But at the end of the day, when you’re driving on an open road with someone special next to you, nothing beats being able to row your own gears.