Whatever happened to …

… standard transmissions?

Keeping with the car theme.

My first vehicle was a 1959 Chevrolet Apache pickup truck.  No, not new – I’m old but not that old.  It was well used when my father bought it for me for $50.

This is a rough idea of what mine was like.  Mine was black and had four wheels.  That’s pretty much the end of the similarities.  Mine has considerable rust, a wooden bed in the back, and S hooks on chains to hold the tailgate up.  To start it, you had to turn the key and then press the starter located on the floor just like you would a tractor.

BUT … it had a standard transmission.  Not on the floor of the truck like in the video but on the steering column.  It was affectionately known as “three on the tree“.  It was a great get around town, go to work, take girlfriend out, drive up to Goderich, and pick up stuff for mom vehicle.  It was a perfect vehicle for learning to drive but I did take dad’s car with its automatic transmission when I went to be formally tested.  And, I passed first time.

Standard transmissions also gave us new terminology.  Lots of people had standards and you’d hear that noise that comes when they don’t quite hit the gear.  “Can’t find ’em, grind ’em”.  or “Can’t hit ’em, **** ’em”.  Driving a standard, it was always important to use the manual parking break, we were told.

I’ve owned a lot of vehicles since that truck.  None have been as flexible or as fun to drive as the truck – except for a couple.  Since then, all my vehicles typically have been purchased used and the original owner made the decision on transmission.  There was once though when we went looking and I always do my dreamer activity and walk past the one or two Camaros on the lot until the sales person shows up to sell me one and we walk over to my financial reality – the Cavalier side of the lot.  Once we’d determined the price we were willing to pay, the salesperson said “can you drive a standard?”  Why, yes.  Yes, I can.  We went to the Oldsmobile side of the lot where I remember saying “I don’t want to drive my grandfather’s car.”  It was then that we stopped at this Alero and I was asked “would you grandfather drive a standard?”  I’m pretty sure he would but the community wasn’t buying into it and it was well marked down.  I loved that car.  My current car, a Fusion, has automatic transmission but does have an S selector which means you drive and shift with paddles on the back of the steering wheel just like a Formula 1 car.  It really is fun.

A while ago, I had to use a loaner and was presented with the current reality.  There was no gear shift on it at all.  Instead, there was this wimpy dial which you spin to point to your gear.  Who would own something like that?  Well, I have since met three new truck drivers with that “feature”.  Forget everything you ever thought about truck owners.  It is the future, I guess but I’m pleased to see that the Camaro and Mustang still have real shifters!  My wife’s Renegade has eight forward gears.  My arms tire just thinking about shifting that.

For a Sunday, let me know your thoughts via comment below.

  • Have you ever or do you currently own a standard transmission vehicle?
  • Can you drive a standard?
  • So, we have three-on-the-tree and four-on-the-floor.  What do you call it when you have five forward gears?
  • On an automatic transmission car, there is a N for neutral position.  Where do you find neutral on a standard transmission?
  • When you park your vehicle, do you use the manual parking break?
  • Did you pass your driving test first time?
  • Have you ever driven a tractor?  (I know, not really related but hey)

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.  Let’s have some fun with this one!


Published by dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

2 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Living in the city a lot of my friends didn’t learn to drive until late. We could drive at 17 if we took a formal drivers education class though and my single parent father really needed another driver so I had no choice but to learn to drive as soon as possible. Drivers ed used automatic transmission cars. My Dad owned a VW bus (remember them) that was a standard. So my Dad took me out in that as that was what I would drive for a while. He had another car that was an automatic that he drove most of the time.

    So I learned to drive standard as eventually did my siblings. I later took that Bus to university so it served me well. Over the years I had cars that were standard or automatic depending on what was available in the used car lot. Often we owned one of each. My son didn’t want to learn the standard as he was afraid he would get stuck with that car which he didn’t like. Oh well. I still tease him that he can steer a car but not drive on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t imagine driving in the big city. Even taking a cab, is easiest just to close your eyes. Yes, I remember the VW bus have never driven one.


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