In recent days, due as much I suppose to dumb luck ( or the lack of it ) as anything else, I have had something of an epihinal reawakening. That is to say, in the last few days, I have been forced to drive a car with a manual transmission. And in short, I LOVE IT! Though it goes without saying that I love to drive… well, pretty much anything I can get my hands on, from semi trucks to a cushman – I had simply forgotten what an unabashed thrill it is to do something as basic as shift gears for myself.
Current automotive design dogma shows us that manufacturers are doing everything in their power to remove us and isolate us from the basic raw driving experience. Their efforts clearly have been focused on two things, one; making driving as antiseptic and sterile an experience as possible. No wind nose, no road “feel” in the steering wheel etc… and two; doing whatever it takes to make the crumb jumping screaming smelly tissue masses known as children as tolerable as possible to mom and dad once they are locked into the non descript shinny metal box otherwise known as the family car. Dvd players, and more lcd screens than a times square porno theatre are the order of the day. Anything to keep little Dillan and Brittney from actually interacting with their parental units. (remind me again, why do you want children if all your going to do is spend all your time ignoring them?) But I digress…..
We have as a species, been I think, forcibly removed from what it means to actually operate a motor vehicle. To the detriment of safety says I. – The less a driver is in touch with his or her car, the less ability they have to deal with something that is unforeseen or unexpected, like for instance, the sudden catastrophic decompression of a tire. As sad as it is, something as simple as a blow out at freeway speeds, (well not California freeway speeds, or commute speeds anyway) is more likely than not to result in some kind of horrific outcome that may or may not require the services of a mortician.
We should be ashamed of ourselves. Certainly luxury and performace can coexist. Take the Germans. A vehicle built in Germany for the German market, does NOT come with cup holders. Of any kind. Anywhere. The thinking is that your job once in the vehicle is to actually take some pride in operating it. Your not there to gulp gallons of overpriced nationally branded coffee, or pour ridiculous amounts of carbonated sugar water down your throat. Your there to DRIVE. And moreover, to enjoy doing so. Far too infrequently, anymore do I go out to the garage and take the car for a drive. For no other reason than to simply, well…. Drive. Certainly there have been a number of reasons for this that I could point to. 5 dollar a gallon gas. Stupid fucking cops who lurk at every turn and hide in every bush, all too willing to deal you a ticket for the tiniest infraction of speed or vehicular code. And of course it goes without saying, that its just no fun to take a drive, when all you do is fight traffic and spend all your energy to keep from being involved in someone elses bad day. All that having been said though, there is something about driving a car with a clutch that in short, cannot be replaced, duplicated, or overstated.
This most recent involuntary experience for me has helped to redefine in my own mind, what it means to be a driver. To desire nothing more than to simply interact with your automobile in the most intimate way possible. In fact, my next project -wether it's going to be the 34 or the Zephyr- is going to get a MANUAL transmission.