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Hemmings Motor News Blog

Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

Posted October 14, 2021 4:00 AM by dstrohl

It seems rather absurd that manual-transmission enthusiasts get vociferous every time a manufacturer announces it's dropping the stick from a model line. After all, if someone truly wants to save the manuals and if they genuinely enjoy the DIY aspect of rowing through the gears, they'd figure out how to retrofit their car with a stick shift.

That's probably a vast oversimplification of the matter, yes, but as the old saying goes, why curse the darkness when you can light a candle?

My colleagues have offered their curses on the darkness this week. The manual transmission is a reminder that machines are just that, something tangible that we can understand and operate and exert some domain over. The more the machine does for itself—be it selecting gears, turning on the headlamps, or regulating the air-fuel mixture and spark-plug timing—the more command of it we lose, and the further disconnected from it we become.

I'm under no illusion that it's easy to swap a manual transmission into a modern vehicle. For decades now, carmakers have developed many cars specifically around an automatic transmission, with zero regard for a manual option. Long gone are the days of perusing the Hollander to see which transmissions share bellhousing bolt patterns or which platform-mates could donate a pedal set with a clutch. Transmission-tunnel dimensions are specifically tailored to automatics, and transmission controllers have become further integrated into many cars' on-board diagnostic systems. If that weren't enough of a deterrent, you also have to keep in mind government regulations on emissions. Regarding transmission swaps, the California Air Resources Board notes: "Transmissions and transaxles changes alone are not legal. Transmissions and transaxles can only be changed along with their matching engine. The total engine transmission package must conform to the engine change requirements above."

But should difficulty stand in the way of desire? Manual-transmission swaps are hard but not impossible. Anything made by human hands can be unmade and remade by human hands, especially if those hands have access to a reciprocating saw and a welder. Adapters are easy enough to design and build, especially with the prevalence of CAD and plasma/waterjet/laser cutters these days. Even if it's impossible to source a set of bolt-in pedals, every car has a firewall, and online catalogs have universal clutch master cylinders and clutch pedals in a near-endless variety of configurations. Floorpans—even those with tunnels that interfere with your choice of transmission—are made of nothing more than stamped sheetmetal.

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#1

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/14/2021 8:42 AM

I suspect most people lack the skills or resources to accomplish this. I know for sure it is way beyond my capability.

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#2

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/14/2021 5:57 PM

CARB is the poster child of government over-reach.

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#8
In reply to #2

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/19/2021 12:03 AM

Some of the CARB rules make no sense at all. For instance, your car can't have the intake modified unless the parts are CARB approved. So, if you change the air intake box and put a cold air intake on, it must be CARB approved. If it runs cleaner, but isn't CARB approved, you fail the smog test!

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#3

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/15/2021 5:57 AM

Good god, after going through that CARB "thout shalt comply" listing, I wonder why we are led to believe that the USA is the land of the free. You may as well be in the EU, land of the oppressed (and depressed), and little foresight.

So my question is, what do you do with all the vehicles that have been mod'd and souped up that are on the road now. Are they illegal or do you need to gain special compensation to drive the vehicle legally, or do you now drive these cars in across into another state to enjoy the experience?

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/15/2021 5:21 PM

Our politicians seemed to have forgotten that they were elected to serve the People, not the other way around.

Let's Go Brandon !!!!

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/18/2021 2:39 PM

If we'd had CARB at the turn of the last century, we'd still be riding horses today... Just sayin'.

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#7
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Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/18/2021 6:51 PM

Can't have all those horses. Think of the GHG emissions of methane.

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#4

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/15/2021 8:31 AM

A good friend of mine ( who does have the skills ) had the transmission in his F150 bite the dust. He looked into a 5 speed manual swap out and found it would cost more ( all new parts ) to put in a 5 speed manual than to have a shop rebuild the automatic. Yes, he chose the shop rebuild. On the same note, I purchased an F150 new, and when I requested a standard transmission, I was told I couldn't even order one from the factory. Bummer, but such is life. My wife likes to drive the truck, though, so again, such is life.

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#9

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/19/2021 12:06 AM

A few years ago, a client told me that we can make cars theftproof. Just get one with a clutch! Think about it for a minute. Most Gen X and younger adults/kids don't know how to drive one, so how are they going to steal it?

If my memory is correct, he was thinking of buying a sports car (Porsche Cayman or something like that) and he didn't want his son driving it, so he wanted a stick.

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#12
In reply to #9

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/19/2021 2:36 PM

OH! My wife has a stick, she calls it by its proper name, a broom.

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#13
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Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/20/2021 2:04 AM

Love it!

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#10

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/19/2021 12:09 AM

I wanted to put a 5 speed in my 1994 BMW 540i, but CARB would be all over me. Also, I have a feeling the computer may not like not being in control of the solenoids and there wouldn't be any sensors on the tranny.

I gave up on the idea, though I would've really liked it. And if it were just a mechanical change, it wouldn't be that difficult, since BMW made these cars with a 5 speed (I'd just need to get the parts and of course install them).

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#11
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Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/19/2021 1:17 PM

Yeah, that's the rub with so many mods you "can't" do anymore.

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#14
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Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/20/2021 2:18 AM

In this state, there are soooo many things we can't do.

1. You can't change intake parts, smog parts, engine swaps, transmission swaps, etc on the car if it's not CARB approved.

2. You can't eat in a restaurant in the city of Los Angeles, unless you show your vaccine card.

3. You can't get your hair cut indoors (in the city of LA), unless you show your vaccine card.

4. You can't go to a bowling alley (in the city of LA), unless you show your vaccine card.

5. You can't got into an enclose mall (in the city of LA), unless you show your vaccine card.

6. Here's the biggest restriction of them all - you can't take a bribe or force a university to give your son a scholarship and while you're at it, force them to make him a professor, even though he's not qualified - but as long as he was charged with sexual harassment, he's entitled to preferential treatment.

7. You can't eat at a fancy restaurant in the middle of Covid in 2020, unless you're the Governor of the State, because the Governor can't get Covid and wearing a mask will restrict his ability to spend time with his friends - who said you can't do this for someone's birthday?

8. You can't successfully recall the Governor of the State after he hands out large checks to the most deserving, entitled residents of the state. This just isn't possible.

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/20/2021 4:13 AM

It seems very much from what you state here that your current dictatorships have the public well controlled and under the thumb. Quite a contrast to what we are led to believe in the outside world.

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#18
In reply to #15

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/20/2021 3:32 PM

Our current regime is flexing their muscles again. Though one of LA's City Councilman (and former LA County Supervisor) was just indicted by the feds on a bribery charge with a well loved LA private college - think a large horse sitting at the gate with men hiding inside!

I love taking trips outside of our crazy area, because I get to see what "normal" people are like. I'm being a little hard on my fellow patrons - there are many really good people I know here in So Cal. The problem is that we're so busy with life, that we don't have the energy to fight the insane legislation and politicians. And when we try, we're squashed - there's too much money and power at stake.

So we work, work, work to pay for our overpriced homes, high cost of living and TAXES with the hope that someday, we'll have enough to comfortably retire. I say that we should be aware of the "new" rules, understand the punishment/cost if we break them and figure out if it makes sense to toe the line. And also keeping in mind that we need to keep saving (and investing) for our retirement.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/20/2021 3:32 PM

It sounds pretty dismal, but it really isn't. I get 52 weeks of beautiful weather, I'm an hour and a half from top beaches, 5 minutes to the mountains and great trails, one hour from an Alpine hike, some of the best Mexican and Chinese food at reasonable prices, awesome bike riding (street and mountain) - I can choose a nice laid back day in Santa Barbara, wine tasting in Los Olivos, people watching in Venice, hanging around the next generation of our leaders at Westwood, having a Huell dog at Pinks on Melrose, etc.

I just have to pay the cost of admission!

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#22
In reply to #15

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/20/2021 3:55 PM

Here's what the LA Times said about the new vaccine card law: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-10-06/l-a-to-require-proof-of-covid-vaccination-at-indoor-restaurants-salons-and-other-venues

Here's an interesting story about one of the men mentioned in the article and his response to the federal indictment - he stepped back from his council duties, but didn't resign - I've met this man and his actions match what I know of him. https://abc7.com/mark-ridley-thomas-indictment-stepping-back-la-city-council/11143810/

I read that he was "shocked" about his indictment. I guess "they" feel that the law shouldn't apply to "them" - this happened last year on the same LA City Council https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca/pr/los-angeles-city-councilman-jose-huizar-charged-34-count-indictment-alleging-wide

When corruption is accepted and becomes the norm, people get sloppy, because they feel they don't need to hide it. Then they get caught! Somehow, our Federal Legislative Branch keeps getting caught, but without penalty. The best rigged system out there.

I better shut my mouth and get back to work or those black helicopters will visit ...

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/20/2021 5:14 PM

I see a Boston Tea Party taking place. Cream bun, cream cracker anyone?

Well if the heli's arrive I will welcome them, this world has become plain stupid and corrupt, those in power have gone ballistic with power and we sit back and let them get away with it all. Only ourselves to blame.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=universe+song&view=detail&mid=868D439F33AD95DC541E868D439F33AD95DC541E&FORM=VIRE

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#25
In reply to #23

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/23/2021 1:49 PM

We are so busy trying to pay bills (or one up the neighbors - it's a thing here in So Cal) that we just let stuff happen. We complain about it, but what do we do? Most do nothing.

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#26
In reply to #25

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/25/2021 7:40 PM

What will it take to convince voters in California to change their voting habits? I would have thought by now something would change, but again I would be wrong.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/20/2021 2:44 PM

Ten years ago I would have said none of this would be possible. How wrong I would have been.

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/20/2021 3:19 PM

And the French revolution started because of a cake. And we know who won that day.

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#21
In reply to #17

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/20/2021 3:51 PM

You have a high class problem and you just need to lower your expectations.

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#24
In reply to #21

Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/20/2021 5:18 PM

A cream bun, a cream bun, My kingdom for a cream bun.

How about a cream cracker?

OK. Deal.

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#20
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Re: Not Happy with the Death of the Manual Transmission? Swap One In!

10/20/2021 3:36 PM

One and a half years ago!

The pandemic has brought a lot of change. Some good: Zoom meetings, e document signing and delivery of almost anything to my home. And of course a lot of bad: too many Zoom meetings, a loss of people skills, terrible customer service, fraud (on line and government programs), inflation, shortages, laziness and a mistrust of our leaders.

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