The presence of manual transmissions in new cars has been declining for several years, thanks to low take rates, improved fuel efficiency from automatic transmissions, and high-tech dual-clutch automated manuals that make clutch pedals redundant. Despite all that, some young drivers are getting the chance to learn how to shift for themselves, courtesy of Hagerty Insurance.
Hagerty, which insures classic cars, presented the Hagerty Driving Experience at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan last Friday, giving 35 young drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 a chance to learn how to drive a manual transmission using vintage iron.
The company estimates that 90 percent of new cars are sold with automatic transmissions, so many young drivers don't get the chance to learn how to drive a stick.
Friday was also Collector Car Appreciation Day, giving Hagerty a natural marketing tie-in. Not all cars at the event were vintage, though. There was some newer sheetmetal on hand, including a 2011 Lingenfelter Performance Engineering 2011 Camaro SS Convertible.
The day started with a classroom session in which the youngsters learned the art of shifting, and then the group was split in two, with one group practicing their skills on everything from a 1928 Packard Phaeton to a 2011 Ford Mustang GT. The second group learned about standard car maintenance.
Some of the vintage cars presented unique challenges, such as a "three-on-the-tree" gear shift and heavier clutch pedals.
Perhaps if more young drivers mastered the art of changing their own gears, the manuals can be saved?