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February 4 Weekly Open Thread -- The Stick Shift: Better than a Club?

Submitted for your approval, we find the following Yahoo! News story that should be of some interest to auto-heads the world over: Would-be Carjackers foiled by stick shift:CarThief

An attempted stickup was confounded by a car’s stick shift, when would-be carjackers failed to understand the mechanics behind a manual transmission.

Randolph Bean tells WOFL FOX 35 that two men attempted to steal his 2002 yellow Corvette at gunpoint outside an Orlando hospital, but they ended up running away after they couldn’t figure out how to drive his car.

"They apparently couldn't start it,” Bean 51, is quoted as saying in a police report. “I had to tell him four different times to push in the clutch, because it's a standard transmission."

Apparently, not something you learn in driver's ed anymore. We've pondered this issue before and not come to any firm conclusion as to whether the death of the "standard" transmission has been greatly exaggerated or not, but perhaps this little incident may start a comeback for the good ol' stick shift. Now, to really throw off a potential thief, perhaps a 3-on-the-tree is in order. . . . .

As always feel free to discuss anything else car-related.

Also, video of the news story here which is also where the photo comes from.

--Anthony Cagle

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3 on the tree definitely is a barrier. Even for someone who has driven one it takes some real getting used to when you encounter one after time off.

I attend a charity auction for my sons' high school every year. Valet parking is provided by student volunteers. In the years when we've driven the GTI, I've made a point of warning the kids that it's a stick.

One year, I found myself having to patiently explain to one of my son's classmates how to put the GTI in reverse.

"One year, I found myself having to patiently explain to one of my son's classmates how to put the GTI in reverse."

Ha. That can even be a problem to the experienced at times. My first time driving in Egypt this past year I did fabulously well. . . .until I had to go backwards. Could NOT figure out how to get it (I think it was a Chinese car) into reverse. Had three or four of us -- Egyptian and Euro-American -- standing around trying to figure it out. Turned out you had to lift a little ring on the shift knob up before it would pop into R. I was so embarrassed.

Speaking of 3s, they say bad things come in 3s. I saw 3 Aztecs on a 15-minute drive into Nashville just now.

Egads!

"Turned out you had to lift a little ring on the shift knob up before it would pop into R."

You guys are making me feel ancient.
Back in high school, I drove my brother's 61 VW convertable while he was overseas in the Air Force.

It had a setup like that. It was a aftermarket shifter and you had to lift a ring on the gear lever.

Back then, every self respecting high school boy knew how to drive a stick.

On my 4-speed 79 Camaro, you actually had to pull the stick UP and go opposite 2nd gear for reverse (weird, I know). Even though the top of the gearshift clearly stated LIFT for reverse, it was almost comical watching people who weren't used to such things try to do it - 99% of the time I'd have to physically show them.

I vaguely recall on our old Fiat you had to push *down* on the stick before it would go into reverse.

I've only driven a 3-on-the-tree once and that was an old pickup truck years ago. I knew how to do it in theory but took it out into traffic my first time anyway. "How hard can it be?"

It seems like there's no "standard" way to access reverse on a standard transmission. The recently-departed Hyundai had the lift-ring arrangement. In the GTI, reverse is next to first, but you have to push the shifter down in order to move it over into the reverse gear position. In my old CRX, it was opposite fifth, and there was a lockout that prevented you from directly shifting into reverse from fifth.

Let's not forget the dogleg, where Reverse is where First should be. There have been many ground gears and red faces as drivers thought their car was in First, but instead, they rammed the car behind them.

I learned to drive in the '50's on cars with standard transmissions and neither power brakes nor power steering. 3 on the tree was the norm, and after getting used to sychronizing the clutch and gas, it was rather easy. The big problem was stopping on a hill. Some models had a hill-holding function. The automatics of that day were at most three-speed, and some may have been only two-speed. In some cases, like a friend's father's Caddy, it was placed in reverse when parked. One topic, or approach was leaving the car in gear while coming to a stop sign or a stoplight. The idea was to use the engine's compression to slow down rather than put unnecessary wear on the brakes. Back then, all cars had drum and shoe brakes.

One more reason to learn to drive stick, is so one can steal more cars.

Hmmm, I can drive a stick and I've never stolen a car... :-/

An unfortunate side-effect of automotive standardization. Floor shift, column shift, push-button, fluid drive, pre-selectors, and planetaries...all will flummox the average guy who's never seen anything other than a prindle.

I've long thought that part of driver education should be not to merely demonstrate a basic ability to point down the road and push the go pedal; but prove at least a rudimentary knowledge of how a car works. As part of this, specially-constructed "trainer vehicles" should be utilized. They would have no power steering or brakes, to teach the force required to move and stop. They would have manual, non-synchro transmissions, to teach efficient engine speeds, gear ratios, and rev-matching. They would have manual spark advance, to teach efficient engine power and re-enforce knowledge of motor mechanics. And they would have an open windscreen, to give a tangible sense of the relationship of wind pressure and speed.

Far too many kids spend their entire lives in overinsulated tanklike SUVs, with no concept of the power and forces under their control...and as a result, poor drivers careen down our streets in these four-ton death machines, paying more attention to their iPhones than the road, helpless to the smallest mechanical error.

Ahh, three-on-the-tree... I had one on a Ford pickup from 1983. (Yes, they kept building them that way into the '80s!) The clutch was full-manual, too -- no hydraulics. If you didn't know the truck, the clutch would grab hard and shoot your knee into the steering wheel rim faster than you could let out an unprintable word. Now that would stop those carjackers cold in their tracks!

My favorite memory of that truck's shifter has to be the time I took it in for new tires, and the poor unfortunate kid assigned to bring it into the bay just sat there behind the wheel, staring at a lever on the column and three pedals on the floor with that "What the heck do I do with this?" look on his face. I had to explain that toward you and down was first, toward you and up was reverse, and watch out for that clutch. Two stalls and one bruised knee later, it was in the bay and he tossed the keys to one of the (chuckling) older mechanics to deal with it...

My Spitfire has a transmission that won't engage reverse unless you pull up on the lever and jam it forward and to the left. This became an ingrained habit - pull up and to the left, pull up and to the left. Then my pal offered to sell his Z3-M to me. Naturally I bought it. Sitting in his driveway that evening I couldn't see the markings on the shift knob for reverse (the lit shift knob had a bulb out) so I did what came naturally: pulled (hard) and ... pop! - the knob detached and I punched myself blindingly hard between the eyes with it. Thought I'd broken the bridge of my nose but the swelling went away in a day. Love that car!

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