The day a manual car saved wakahare’s life
A little over two years ago, a close relative of mine was carjacked as he waited at the gate. The gang of four youthful boys didn’t seem to be in any particular hurry and were cordial enough to let him take out his belongings. However, things took a turn for the drastic when the carjackers got into the car to make their getaway, only to discover that it was a manual car. The problem it seemed was that none of them knew how to drive a manual.
They fumbled around and eventually asked for a crash course in driving a manual at gunpoint from my now horrified yet amused relative. Having explained and demonstrated, the carjackers reversed out of his driveway and my relative rushed inside.
Once safely inside, he peered through the peep hole to find, to his amusement, that they were unable to put the car into first. Thinking it foolish to struggle with a car they couldn’t drive, they took to their heels into the darkness. Personally, I have never considered the thought that I would soberly purchase an automatic car. Driving for me is about being fully involved, matching the revs as I downshift up a hill to get that sweet spot.
A well balanced manual car, no matter the output from the engine, is a joy to drive. I have often compared it to a borderline sexual dance between man and machine and an automatic simply doesn’t compare. But I’m often reminded that most people couldn’t care less.
Yes they’re more engaging, but a mum on the school run stuck in traffic with offspring in tow couldn’t care less, she would consider the constant rowing of gears a nuisance and so would every sane person.
If you like going off-road, modern cars are fitted with intelligent automatic gears that in the hands of a novice will embarrass a pro in a manual low range box. Modern automatics are now just as efficient, if not more, than their manual counterparts.
They are comfortable and smooth in stop start traffic and when calibrated properly and matched to a sufficiently powerful engine, they shift just as fast. Most manual enthusiasts were appalled to learn the Nissan GTR – R35 would come with an auto.
They (we) considered that the manual was the only way to go for a purist, but the sad truth is that most sports cars now come with a DCT automatic which shifts faster than humanly possible.
When I started driving, an automatic car was an oddity, everyone I knew drove a manual, including the ladies in my extended family. Now manual cars are consigned to the base entry level models and commercial vehicles and maybe one or two performance cars. The rest of the world happily trundles along in their automated boxes and have no idea why the rest of us make a big issue out of it.
On one hand I completely agree, nobody really needs to drive a manual and despite my arguments, car makers are not going to reverse their slow march towards a self-driving future.
My issue lies not with owning an automatic but with the inability of a person to drive a manual. Because I drive a manual I can tell how much time other drivers will take to accelerate because I understand how gears work.
This is the reason matatu driver’s are so confident! They know that your automatic will not be able to close the door on them when they want to cut in, so they simply do it, over and over again! Because I drive a manual, I can also appreciate the subtle pleasures of balancing on a hill or downshifting to overtake.
Even in an underpowered econobox, a manual gives you much more confidence on the road than an auto ever will. There is also the small issue of attractiveness. It’s a well-known fact that women love a man who is skilled in many things, one being the ability to drive almost any car.
Their fathers and uncles doubtlessly can drive a manual and woe unto you if you can’t, for you will be compared to them. Even more woe unto you if the apple of your eye can drive a manual. I have consulted with many manlier men than myself and we all agree, any woman who can drive a manual is always a perfect 10, no matter her looks.
The long and short of it is this, you don’t have to drive a manual in this day and age, but you should be able to if circumstances demand. Unless you are a car thief in which case it’s better for the rest of us if you can’t.
Author: Stephen Mbuthi
This article first appeared on People Daily