Jim’s Blog: Is a Manual a Bonus?

Is a manual transmission a bonus when you’re shopping for American muscle?

That might seem like a dumb question — but I think the answer is changing.

There’s a certain glory that comes with winding up a big block and dumping a clutch. You can’t get that same feeling with an automatic no matter how high your converter stall speed is or how many gears you have. Automatic cars may be faster and therefore “better” today, but to a lot of us that’s missing the point.

Manual trans cars, at least on the whole, have tended to bring more money at auction because of this. But is it always going to be this way? 

In a past issue of ACC, Auction Editor Chad Tyson pointed out that the numbers favor the row-your-own cars, at least in the muscle car world. It’s still true today.

But how many kids do you know who can drive a stick today? That’s not a swipe at a younger generation — it’s a reflection of the car world as a whole. Cheap cars used to have manual transmissions, and driving stick was therefore part of everyone’s toolkit. But manual cars just aren’t around in great numbers anymore — or they’re specialty cars — and that has changed the dynamic. On top of that, automatic transmissions have just gotten better — go for a spin in a manual Hellcat and an automatic Hellcat and tell me which one you’d actually buy.

I’m still a believer in the clutch — I put a T56 Super Magnum from Summit Racing behind the LS in my ’79 C10 — but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the difference in muscle car prices between autos and manuals level themselves out as we drift further away from the original muscle car era.

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  1. Jim, I have a friend right now trying to find the newer SS with a cheese grater for his wife. I was taken off guard when he asked for my help in finding a stick sedan that was sporty and not an Audi or BMW and the low level of options to fill this requirement. I was also surprise to find out that the sticks that are being sold right now, that women are out pacing men in this market as well.

    However, if the question of muscle cars/trucks it is my opinion if it is an older muscle car such as a C2 or pre 67 SS the idea of a 4sp vs a Powerglide, than yes you want a stick and the numbers will show that. But I can share that I drive a 04 SRT-10 for my daily, the 04’s were single cab sticks only and I love it, until I get stuck in stop and having to work the clutch.
    Lastly I drove 2 C7’s back to back a few months ago. Both were opt similar but one stick and one auto. What I noticed was the requirements needed for me to work the clutch forced me to sit in a position much more uncomfortable than the auto. I drove the stick first and walked away disappointed due that, before I drove the auto. The auto prove to be so much more fun and yes by the seat of your pants capabilities. So, with this it is no surprise to see folks opting for the auto’s in this brave new world.