Automatic and Manual Transmissions in Classics

Written by Mike Wilson on June 20, 2018

While it’s true that automatic transmissions were made with the idea of promoting pure driving enjoyment, without the worry of complicating the experience, some would argue that there is nothing that compares to downshifting into a tight corner and shifting up while accelerating on the way out of it.

The question we’re looking at is if you’re looking to buy a classic vehicle, what do you need to know in regards to a manual transmission versus an automatic transmission?

Over the years, manual classics are becoming rarer as automakers have shifted towards the production of automatic vehicles. Why is that? Well, it’s because automatics are (forgive the term) “dummy proof” in the sense that once you put your car in “D” (or any variation thereof in classics), the car manages the gears for you. You have the benefit of being able to drive and really enjoy the vehicle without any hassle.

Manuals are, as the name implies, manually controlled transmissions. These transmissions rely on the driver’s ability to best control how the car behaves. This also means that should the driver not be experienced, they could be doing more bad than good. Meaning they could be causing damage or require more maintenance overall.

We’ve found that those who tend to seek out manual classics are looking more for the “sport” or “muscle” classics to get the most out of their power.

This being said, if you’re comfortable and confident with your ability to drive a stick, either option should work for you. After all, there are endless beauties on both sides of the fence and we don’t see anyone saying no to a gorgeous classic convertible because of a transmission. Well… maybe.

Traditionally, manuals are known to be more fuel efficient. Some also say that manual cars tend to be safer as well, as the driver is more engaged with the vehicle, requiring more concentration. This in turn means less idle time for the brain to become distracted.
The only thing you need to know is that transmissions, irrespective of type, will likely require maintenance at some point. With that, manual transmissions tend to be more bare bones and so are less complicated to repair or maintain. However, if you’re someone who burns your clutches, you may want to opt for an automatic and save yourself the repetitive cost.

Automatic transmissions will likely be more expensive to repair and maintain for the simple reason that they’re a more complex system. Additionally, you’re dealing with a classic, so you can’t simply take any required piece of the shelf in order to repair it.

Otherwise, either automatic or manual transmissions will provide exponential enjoyment as you cruise around in the summer evenings.

The bottom line really comes down to you and how you drive.


Happy (auto)shifting!

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