By on July 10, 2017

1991 Toyota Camry in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
When I poke through automotive graveyards in search of the rare and the interesting, I always take a look at late-1980s/early-1990s Toyota Camrys for the very rare All-Trac all-wheel-drive versions and extremely rare manual-transmission versions.

So rare that its existence in the wild is merely theoretical, however, is the V6-powered manual-transmission Camry… and I just found one in Denver. Let’s take a look! (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2017

BMW 2 Series, Image: BMW

BMW plans to streamline its manufacturing process by providing fewer model variants and eliminating less popular engine or equipment options. The goal here is to free up capital for research and development spending in the coming years, according to a Wednesday announcement from the brand’s chief finance officer, Nicolas Peter.

With most German automakers already pushing heavily into the realm of electric vehicles, BMW’s strong presence in China is forcing it to further bolster its efforts in EV development. The country’s particularly aggressive emission regulations and mandates on electric vehicle sales means any manufacturer hoping to persist within its borders will have to ensure 12 percent of its fleet is electric by 2020 — and BMW isn’t ready.

As a result, the automaker is trimming fat wherever it can find it. Unfortunately, that means eliminating the manual gearbox for the 2 Series in the United States and abandoning certain engine options for models across the globe. While BMW wasn’t explicit as to which motors won’t be returning, odds are good it will be the fun ones that don’t sell as well, plus the diesels.  (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2017

Image: 1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, via Craigslist

Check out these two words: Turbo Coupe. They roll off the tongue nicely, and all car enthusiasts should know exactly they mean — or used to. In 2017, they usually mean someone with a mullet is nearby, driving a beat-to-hell Thunderbird with peeling logos and ruined paint. Likely while listening to Whitesnake.

Our example today is what the term Turbo Coupe used to mean. It is perfect, painted a gleaming black, and on the floor there’s a five-speed manual. Here I go again…

(Read More…)

By on June 26, 2017

2018 Subaru WRX STI, Image: Subaru

When Subaru launched the fifth-generation Impreza with a CVT, a collective sigh of relief was heard after enthusiasts learned it would still provide a standard five-speed manual transmission. However, it didn’t guarantee that the next incarnation of the WRX wouldn’t abandon the clutch pedal to maximize sales and minimize zero to 60 times.

After all, most people don’t purchase manual transmission vehicles anymore and the WRX already comes with a CVT. It would be easy for the automaker adopt a dual-clutch as a pricier option on sporting Subarus and leave the variable tranny in the base trim. Nobody was so worried about it that they lost sleep on the matter, but there was just enough doubt to have us all occasionally wringing our hands. (Read More…)

By on May 15, 2017

1993 Plymouth Voyager in Colorado wrecking yard , LH front view, © 2017 Murilee Martin

The original K-platform-based Chrysler minivans, built for the 1984 through 1995 model years, sold like mad, helped kill the station wagon, and forced the competition to get serious about selling minivans in the United States. Buyers could get the 1984-95 four-cylinder Caravan, Voyager, or Town & Country with a five-speed manual transmission, though few did.

Here’s the first 5-speed second-generation Chrysler minivan I have ever found in a wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on March 13, 2017

2004 Saturn Ion in Denver wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Saturn Ion is one of those cars you still see on the street today, perhaps not enough to notice, but it’s of minor historical interest as the Saturn-branded cousin of the Chevy Cobalt/Pontiac G5.

Most of the time, the Ion is just background noise to me in the GM section of a big self-service wrecking yard, something I pass by while looking for a Cimarron or Reatta. However, I had heard that the Knoxvegas Lowballers 24 Hours of LeMons team had adapted Ion electric power steering to their mid-Duratec-powered Geo Metro, and I was curious as what this alleged steering column-mounted rig looked like. (Read More…)

By on February 27, 2017

2017 Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback, Image: Ford

It disappeared in the night. There was no fanfare. No protest. No grand announcement. Barely anyone even noticed. They all just kept buying amorphous transportation blobs with available all-wheel drive. No one took the time to look at the options list on the compact car bolted to the dealership floor.

That’s right. In the United States of America, the 2017 Ford Focus hatchback is no longer available with a manual transmission outside of the ST and RS.

(Read More…)

By on February 14, 2017

Aston Martin and Mustang, Image: www.dailycarblog.com

Bill writes:

I am considering adding a fourth car to my family fleet, and I’m seriously weighing the options between a new Ford Mustang GT coupe with a manual or a 2005-2008 (or so) Aston Martin DB9. This would be a car I would drive around 3,000 miles per year.

In anticipation of your first questions, my other cars are a 2004 Honda S2000 AP2, which I plan to keep forever, a 2013 VW Touareg VR6 and an utterly original 1991 Mercedes-Benz 420 SEL (W 126) with just 113k miles. I can afford, within reason, higher ownership costs associated with a luxury GT as long as the engine doesn’t have to come out of the car for service (like seemingly every Ferrari before the 360).

It looks like a DB9 coupe with under 30,000 miles can be had for around $45k or so. I’d love to find a manual gearbox but they are rare.

Please give me three good reasons why I should run to my local Ford dealer and find a ‘Stang. Or not. Thank you! (Read More…)

By on December 12, 2016

1988 Toyota Camry in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Car writers are expected to love wagons with manual transmissions, but most of my love is reserved for the likes of three-on-the-tree-equipped Ford Country Squires and maybe the occasional 4-speed Datsun F-10 Sportwagon. Still, when I run across a Junkyard Find as rare as a second-generation Camry wagon with five-speed, I photograph it.

Here’s one that I spotted last week in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on November 18, 2016

2016 Honda Accord Sport Six-Speed Manual Shifter, Image: © 2016 Jeff Jablansky/The Truth About Cars

We knew it was happening, but the actual extent of three pedal abandonment remained somewhat elusive. It was more of a feeling than a grim statistical representation. Now we have a number, and it’s dismal.

(Read More…)

By on October 19, 2016

2017 Subaru Impreza

Subaru has coughed up how much the all-new 2017 Impreza hatchback and sedan will cost.

The new Subies offer a few surprises in regard to pricing, especially on the higher trims, and a shocking loyalty to the five-speed manual transmission — an increasingly rare beast in the automotive landscape.
(Read More…)

By on October 17, 2016

1994 Volkswagen Passat GLX in Colorado Junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

There was a time when many American buyers of family sedans — particularly European family sedans — ordered their cars with manual transmissions and didn’t think such a choice was a big deal or weird in any way.

Those days are gone, forever, but a trip to your local U-Wrench-It yard is likely to turn up something like this 22-year-old B4 Passat, complete with VR6 engine and five-speed manual transmission. We’ve had trucks for our last four Junkyard Finds, so it’s time for a car! (Read More…)

By on October 10, 2016

Ferrari shifter (Christian Junger/Flickr)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ferrari has officially added its name to the list of automakers that will no longer offer a manual transmission.

The company’s chief technology officer, Michael Hugo Leiters, explained the decision at the Paris Auto Show last week, citing performance and technology as the motivating factors.

Goodbye, gate. (Read More…)

By on August 29, 2016

1996 Nissan Maxima GXE in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Maxima has been with us since the 1981 Datsun 810 Maxima, which became the Datsun Maxima, then the Datsun Maxima by Nissan, and finally the Nissan Maxima.

Starting out as a Z-car-based sporty sedan, it grew into an electronic-gadget-packed luxury sedan, then became bigger, more powerful, and less crazy with each successive generation until we arrived at the current competent-but-not-particularly-exciting Maxima.

The fifth-generation Maxima, made for the 1994 through 1999 model years, seems to be the last for which the manual-transmission option was selected by a significant minority of buyers; you could get one after 1999, but I never see anything but automatics in my junkyard travels.

Here’s a mean-looking ’96 that I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on July 26, 2016

Autocross Ranger, Image: TheRangerStation.com

Matt writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’m anticipating that my 1997 Subaru Legacy wagon, with 210,000 miles on the clock, will need replacing soon. I’m lucky in that my wagon is a five-speed manual with the 2.2 EJ motor, so it has been fairly bullet proof. I’ve been looking around at affordable commuter five-door hatchbacks (Mazda3, Impreza, Focus, etc) to replace the Legacy as the replacement needs to be able to fit multiple kids and sports gear, as well as be my daily driver (~45 miles roundtrip work commute).

Here is my question: I would like something a little sporty as more than half of my commute is on fun, twisty, back roads.

(Read More…)

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