The Sacrifice

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Nobody else drives my car, ever. Except when they do…

I’ve tried to stick to this rule since I purchased my NFR in 2009. I’ve seen too many owners’ cars wrecked by their “friends” to ever trust anyone else behind the wheel. Almost without exception, guest drivers fail to consider that exploring the limit in someone else’s pride and joy might be a poor decision. The last time I broke my rule, I ended up watching from the passenger seat as the overly enthusiastic driver hit triple-digit speeds in a 45mph zone. I got lucky- the only thing damaged was my fuel economy, which is distinctly marginal anyway.

Why is it, then, that even owners like me will subject their car to one of the most mechanically abusive acts possible, not just suspecting but knowing some harm will be done?

I refer, of course, to teaching someone else to drive a manual transmission.

The ability to operate a three-pedaled vehicle is a skill I firmly believe all licensed drivers should possess. Along with changing one’s own oil, fixing a flat, and opening a beer on the edge of a workbench, it is an essential component of self-reliance. Sadly, in this era of flappy-paddle “sports cars”, AAA, OnStar, and free maintenance, many young people lack the desire (or in some cases, the opportunity) to develop such expertise.

Historically, the requisite knowledge for all of the above would be passed from father to son, or in some cases from other family members. Today, though, 85 percent of all new cars sold in the United States are automatics, and that number grows annually. Programs such as ZipCar enable the convenience of driving without the experience and emotional bond of car ownership. Most new-car warranties require or provide dealer maintenance. Domestic bottled beers are twist-top, but I digress…

My parents, like most others, had two cars. Both saw duty as family cars, so, in deference to the realities of road trips and my mother’s unwillingness to learn stick, were inevitably automatics. I wasn’t about to let such trivialities bother me; I taught myself on a Boxster I “borrowed” from the local Porsche dealer. To this day, I admire the salesman’s ability to keep a straight face while the odor of burning clutch pervaded the cabin.

A close friend recently decided to purchase a first-generation Miata. He could not, at the time of that decision, drive a stick shift, but he decided to go ahead with the purchase regardless. Anticipating the need to drive the car back to his apartment, I reluctantly agreed to allow him to learn in my S2000. Much stalling and angry transmission noises ensued. Fortunately, after a few lessons, another friend volunteered his Accord coupe, which proved much easier for a beginner, being blessed with a progressive clutch and the ever-elusive phenomenon known as “torque”.

In this day and age, then, it falls to those of us who still possess a proper automobile to spread the gospel of the Third Pedal to our friends and family wherever possible. Some sacrifice will doubtless be involved- worn clutches, unhappy tires, a few ground synchronizers. It’s worth it, though. Seeing your student start to catch on, perhaps leading to the purchase of a manual car of their own, and hopefully culminating in them taking on students of their own, proves unexpectedly rewarding. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go order some replacement parts.

If you’ve recovered from the post-traumatic stress, please share your automotive teaching experiences below.


Images courtesy of richmc, vwpiloto and flyingtoaster

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