Odometer (Legend): 518,703
Odometer (ILX): 25,657
Some of us drivers will never be content to let an automatic transmission change our gears for us (see “Save the Manuals“). In this blog post, I’m going to share five types of manual transmissions that strike me as unique in some way. But first, some pictures of my 2013 Acura ILX taken this afternoon my commute home.
The building seen here is the Scottsdale campus of the Mayo Clinic; it’s one of five Mayo campuses in the greater Phoenix area. I like the architecture at the front entrance to the facility which is near Shea Boulevard and 134th Street, so I pulled the ILX in there for a couple of shots.
Here’s the rundown of five fascinating gearboxes that I’ve recently learned about.
(1) Saab Sensonic. I learned this week in an article on Hooniverse that there is such a thing as a “clutch-pedal-less” manual transmission. It seems similar to the type of drivetrain we had on our family’s Yamaha Kodiak 4-wheeler back in the 1990’s: a manual gear-shift lever, but without the clutch.
From the Hooniverse write-up:
The Sensonic system is a clutch pedal-less manual. In the footwell are the pedals from an automatic Saab 900NG, but there’s a regular-looking shifter. There’s a micro switch in the gearshift that uses the clutch for you, so you just drive with your left foot on the footrest and shift normally as you go along. The system was originally deemed good enough for Saab to hastily introduce a retrofit pedal setup for Sensonic refugees to get back into regular shifting action, as the system often ground to a halt with warning lights a-popping and the shifter immovable.
How weird would it be to drive a manual as if it were an automatic? I liked how the article talked about “ghost-clutching.” More often than once in my life, I’ve slammed down on a brake pedal in an automatic car forgetting that it wasn’t a clutch.
(2) BMW’s SMG Transmission. This stands for “Sequential Manual Gearbox.” My brother had a 2002 M3 with this setup (a $2,400 option). The car was equipped with a clutch, but it was controlled by a computer. The car could be driven in fully automatic mode, or in a mode wherein gear shifts would be activated either by paddle shifters on the steering wheel or input to the shift lever in the center console. There was no clutch pedal. I still have a tough time calling this a “manual.”
Following are some pictures that we took in my hometown of St. George, Utah in December 2009. My two younger brothers have always loved their cars as much as I love mine, so the 3 of us lined up our rides for a photo-op:
- Tyson’s 1994 Legend LS Coupe 6-speed: 407,000 Miles
- Payton’s 2005 Subaru WRX STi 6-speed: 50,000 Miles
- Bentley’s 2002 BMW M3 SMG 6-speed: 80,000 Miles
Both of my brothers have since moved into the diesel truck world and no longer have their sporty cars. More info here on how the SMG transmission operates.
(3) Mitsubishi “4×2 Super Shift” Transmission. Here’s a car with EIGHT forward gears. Back in the early 1980’s (and up until 1990), Mitsubishi offered a transmission that operated a bit like a bicycle’s on its Tredia and Cordia models. The transmission had four gears, but also two secondary gears – Power and Economy. Two gear shift levers — did this car require 3 hands to drive?
From the Wiki page:
In practice, it was very difficult to use all 8 forward speeds in sequence as every second change required movement of both gear levers at the same time – something which was almost impossible without using both hands. Many owners settled on using the transmission in low ‘Power’ mode the majority of the time, and only using the secondary selector to select high ‘Economy’ mode when in 4th gear, effectively creating a 5th gear from 4th ‘high’.
(3) 2014 Corvette 7-speed Transmission. SEVEN gears; that’s right! The C7 Corvette was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this month, and in the perpetual quest for “more is better,” Chevy has followed suit with Porsche in now offering a seventh gear in its manual transmission-equipped cars. This will mean great fuel economy from a 6.2 liter V8.
My friend Matt was at the Barrett-Jackson auction here in Scottsdale, Arizona this past Saturday night, January 19th 2013 when the first C7 (VIN 0001) was sold for $1,050,000 to Rick Hendrick. Interesting to note that the below pictured car that rolled across the auction block is in fact NOT the vehicle that Rick will get. This is a show car. Rick’s will be custom built to his specifications at Chevy’s Bowling Green, Kentucky production facility later this year.
(4) Three-on-the-tree. I really want to try driving a vehicle with a steering column-mounted shifter sometime. My grandpa’s old 1950 Buick Special had one of these. Here are a few of the old pictures that we have of his car.
What a boat this thing must have been to drive!
- Straight-8 engine (248 cubic inches): 110 horsepower
- Transmission: 3-speed column shift; synchro-mesh in 2nd and 3rd
- Weight: 3,655 pounds
- Base price: $1,856
I love the toothy grille and rare “Jetback” / fastback bodystyle. Someday I will own and drive one of these classic Buicks. The last picture here was taken during grandma and grandpa’s honeymoon.
(5) Acura 6-speed Manuals. I love how low the Legend revs on the freeway (fewer than 2,500 RPM at 80 mph). The following is a chart from page 134 of the owner’s manual entitled “Maximum Speeds”. Notice that the car is capable of 125 mph in fourth gear and still has two gears to spare!
The ILX 6-speed is one of the smoothest shifters I’ve ever driven. My friend Sivaram, who drove a Legend 6-speed for 10 years, says the thing he misses the most about being in an Acura (he now drives Audi) is the smoothness of his shifter and the fact that he could change gears with just the effort of a pinky finger. I love the ILX’s “hill start assist” feature that prevents the car from rolling back when it’s on a hill. Though, it keeps me from being able to demonstrate my fancy footwork!
I ran across some old pictures that I wanted to scan and share. It was around 2002 when I first saw a high-mileage Acura that inspired me. It was this 1987 Acura Integra LS with 5-speed manual. My friend Israel located in Vista, California had this one:
It had 320,000 miles on the odometer and ran great. I wonder if it’s still on the road, 10 years later?
Anyone In The Market?
My last couple of blog entries have featured ads for Legends for sale from various parts of the country. Here’s a needle-in-a-haystack kind of find: Very nice Legend LS coupe 6-speed with only 42,000 miles (that’s only 2,200 per year!). It’s finished in Milano Red with the Ivory (Type F) interior. Somebody in the Minneapolis area needs to pick this beauty up.
Today we’re getting some much-needed rain in Scottsdale, Arizona, but the ILX was sure footed and capable. Pulling out of a Burger King drive-thru in the ILX at lunch, I read this sign as “Thank Come You Again.”
In other parts of the country, winter weather is taking its toll on cars. A friend shared with me this photo page which captures some of the devastation caused by today’s icy rain in Salt Lake City, Utah. Anybody notice the 2nd generation Legend in the picture?
And another. This looks to have been a pretty nice 1990 Legend L coupe before the accident.
Stay safe out there!
This weekend, I’ll be time-traveling to an historic 1880’s mining town in southeastern Arizona called Bisbee. Tune in for the write-up in a few days!