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Entries in Manual Transmission (2)


Shifting Gears

Have you noticed the various conversations and comments that many folks do not know to handle a manual transmission with a clutch pedal, and some that masquerade that they do...and think of a clutch as a troque converter. 

Our current observations in no particular order:

If you are a true auto enthusiast not only do you know how to deal with a clutch pedal, but you also ride a motorcycle, and shift gears on the bike too. 

By now you have concluded that an 8 speed automatic with a well executed algorithm in most instances will do a better job than you in shifting gears.

To quote Ken Purdy from a few decades ago: "Unless you have a true high performance engine, get an automatic transmission"

In a race application a double clutch transmission with paddle shifts is dramatically superior to any manual transmission with a shift lever...take a look at Xtract.

Even HD trucks no longer require shifting with the classic 13 speed transmissions. 

Technology has enabled self shifting (automatic) transmissions to a level that was a figment of the imagination a few decades ago.

Our thoughts in no particular order: 

If you are of a certain age you learned to drive on a car with a manual transmission and most probably a column shift for a 3 speed...the "three on the tree" set up.

Back then as the driver you were the complete vehicle management system, brakes, traction control, stability control, acceleration, performance mode, it all resided in your head.

Today cars can literally drive themselves...think about this for a moment.

Back in the day, if your car had a "pedestrian" engine better stick a 3 speed automatic behind the thing.

From back in the day, if you were ambitious and had an engine with an aggressive camshaft, optimised for higher revolutions you had no choice but a manual transmission. High idle speeds, limited vacuum at lower revolutions, low torque at lower revolutions, made it awkward to mate such an engine to an automatic.

Shifting gears on a pedestrian engine, just for the sake of getting the car to move remains an inherently boring exercise which demands more input than the performance it generates...when an engine just revs and stops pulling strong...its boring. 

Smaller engines with a lower 1st gear comparable to a truck usually had uneven splits between the gears which aggravated the "more input less performance equation". 

We never shared the enthusiast equals manual transmission sentiment, our intellectual direction was and remains a high performance engine is old school fun with a manual transmission and a clutch pedal.

Our version of old school fun with a manual and a clutch pedal. 

Back in the day it was a small block Chevy that would pull to 6,000 RPM, that truly came alive above 3,000 RPM, mated to a 4 speed with good splits, a lower numerical rear axle ratio, a mechanical clutch linkage adjusted to engage immediately, and the instant connection between the accelerator and what developed at the rear wheels. In addition to all the sounds, exhaust, intake air rushing in, synchronisers working, rear tires squirming for name a few.

Interesting that in 2013 there are cars with automatics that outperform any old school car with a manual transmission including several layers of added safety features. There are old school fun cars that will immedately revive the V8 with a 4 speed feeling with a V8 and 6 speed with superlative fuel economy at crusing speeds.



Manual Transmissions

We all know that every automotive pundit prefers a manual transmission for the presumed control that it affords, and we constantly hear the lament of this model or that combination is not available with a manual. 

At the same time automatic transmissions have more gears than manuals. 

By now you know that we are not fans of manual transmissions unless its in very specific applications which always involve a clutch pedal, and at least a V8 and appreciable horsepower. 

We have been involved with cars for enough years to remember the early days of automatic transmissions, the cars with a 3 speed column shift manual transmission, Hurst floor shifts, 4 speed transmissions with a low gear to get a diminutive 4 cylinder to generate some torque to the rear.

Obvious enjoying a V8 with appreciable power, coupled to at leats a 4 speed manual with a stout shifter, and slamming gears every now and then. There is genuine joy and satisfaction shifting gears, hearing the synchronizers in the transmission, feeling the mechanical connections on every shift.

Because we go back a few years, not only do you shift gears, we have our own expectations of how a clutch should operate and feel. When clutches had mechanical linkages and were relatively easy to adjust, to quickly put power to the ground, the clutch was adjusted in a fashion that it would engage close to the floor (in principle the top part of the clutch pedal was free play). 

There are 2 advantages, once the clutch engages close to the floor it engages quicker, puts power to the ground (rear wheels) quicker. The other advantage there is little slippage of the clutch.

Obvious that a V8 with reasonable power is helpful with such a clutch adjustment.

Obvious too that its much easier to stall the engine. 

A few months ago, after always entertaining the "benefit of the doubt" that perhaps we were wrong, we had the epiphnay that many folks that prefer the "control" of a manual transmission, also prefer to use the clutch as a "torque converter". Perhaps its only us...that prefer clutches that engage immediately.

A few days ago we heard of abused/roasted clutches on cars with V8's and again thought of the "torque converter".

Our benefit of the doubt is hanging by a thread at this point.