The end of shifting your own gears, by CJ Wilson: Motoramic Experts
CJ Wilson is a star Major League pitcher for the L.A. Angels. In his spare time, he races cars and owns his own race team (CJ Wilson Racing), using it as a platform to benefit his charity work. Wilson has always been a car guy, practically owning every Porsche on the market — including a rare Carrera GT — as well as recently purchasing one of the fastest production cars of all-time, the new McLaren P1. In his first column as a Motoramic Expert, Wilson talks about the death of the manual transmission and an upcoming electric world. - Ed
Time marches on and so does technology.
I'm not old enough to remember the lamentations of early drivers as the wooden wheel got phased out, nor the steam boiler, nor the rumble seat. And as such, I'm not quite old enough to remember the good ol' days my dad talks about with 10 cent gasoline, '57 Bel Air fins, and drive-in theaters. Today however, the gasoline engine is clearly in the twilight of its career (because good cars have soul--if you believe like I do) and the manual transmission has long begun the descent into the nether.
For a large majority of drivers, this is merely a convenience, as it is easier to plug in your car to a wall than to fill it up at a pump, and easier to let the car sort the gears out itself as opposed to exercising your left leg. But I'll admit to being an enthusiast, and logic isn't always top priority.
My name is CJ Wilson. Outside of my day job as pitcher for the LA Angels, I race cars. I own a race team. More to the point, I simply love to drive.
Involvement in that driving is what has kept me largely out of trouble behind the wheel. Sure, I have a few speeding tickets, but don't text and drive, email and wheel, or tweet and weave. My first car was a manual transmission Mercedes 240D — and boy was it slow. But driving a steel pig like that makes a young driver learn to look ahead, check your mirrors (no right side mirror in the 240) and conserve fuel when you could (diesel in California was, and still is, very expensive). The manual transmission meant that when going up a hill, I had to shift to 2nd or 3rd (from 4th) to avoid stalling. But hey, my head was in the moment. I was terrified most of the time, and all the better for it today.
In sports cars, the manual was the only real option for guys like me. That is, until about 15-20 years ago when the F1 transmission on the Ferrari 355 and the TipTronic transmission from Porsche burst onto the scene. My first sports car was a used 1997 911, and after the experience in that old Merc 240, I felt like I had to get another manual transmission; the used cars with auto-boxes were said to be "uninvolving." So as a young, aspiring, but not yet major league sports star, I grew accustomed to traffic, hill holding, and all that comes with a manual transmission experience. I became a better driver, remaining aware, became more aware (learning about speed traps, even on toll roads) and avoided accidents, texting mishaps, and running over debris in the road. My friends and their regular automatic cars hit each other or complete strangers, and sometimes inanimate objects. Now, I'm not trying to come off as totally elitist or condescending, but some of my friends and family are truly awful drivers.