Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 19 December 2008

Oh, the stigma. Ah, the eeease

All my cars bar one have been what Americans – with admirable directness – call stick-shifts. Initially I had no option, the alternative was too expensive. Later, sharing a deep-seated prejudice with many other Brits, I rejected automatics on the grounds they were somehow louche. My penultimate car, a six-speed manual gearbox Lexus, was the most satisfying I have ever owned.

So why for the last two-and-a-half years have I owned an automatic? To encrusted types the answer is brief: it’s an old man’s car. But an equally truthful response might have been: I like the technology. I need only flick the drive selector a few centimetres towards the passenger and it becomes a manual gear-change, albeit without the need for a clutch pedal. The first car to offer that system I know of was a Porsche and it probably cost zillions. My present car is not a Porsche.

Take a trip inside the gearbox and there are more wonders. Traditional automatic gearboxes (called slushpumps in America), consist of two opposing but separate propellors linked by surrounding fluid. Such systems are wasteful of energy. Fine if you have bhp to spare, as most Americans cars have. Less so with European and Japanese hatchbacks.

But my car has a truly automatic gearbox. It incorporates two clutches, one for the odd-numbered gears, one for the evens. As a driver I remain blissfully ignorant of their function as they help change the six gears in milliseconds. Oh, I almost forgot: my present car cost two-thirds the price of the Lexus. More later about its remarkable engine.

5 comments:

herhimnbryn said...

I think this must be a 'male' thing!
Automatic or manual, as long as it goes, I'll drive it.

ps thankyou for the link...am honoured.

Sir Hugh said...

I've just had an operation on my left knee. I also have an automatic, and it means that I can still drive as I only need to use my right leg. A rare advantage but one I'm grateful for at the moment.

Avus said...

I am happy with either manual or auto, they both have their advantages. However auto repair bills are horrendous!
Having said that, I have just bought a "twist and go" scooter as a runabout (have owned 40-odd motorcycles with gears to date, too!) and am loving its ease and nippiness away from the lights.

Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: Oh, it is a male thing. That's why it's difficult to sell sports cars to women ("But who'd want to squash into that thing - there's no room."). However I think you would have preferred to drive my most recent stick-shift car (the Lexus) rather than my first (Austin Cambridge with synchromesh on first gear wrecked). Re link: You should been on earlier.

Sir Hugh: So automatics are not only old men's cars but they are also ideal for what the French call unijambistes.

Avus: Twist and go mopeds date back to the fifties at least. Something of a trial when it rains and the fibre belt starts slipping on the drive drum.

Avus said...

No slipping probs on the latest Honda 300SH. An elegant means of transport which will cruise at 80 mph and cover 80 miles to each (expensive) imperial gallon.
I am so chuffed with it I think I will do a post on it (and I never thought that would happen from a died in the wool motorcyclist!)