A lot of men these days are unaware of the myriad details involved with successfully operating a motor vehicle. The new breed of automobile certainly does not encourage curiosity, and only the most adventurous will wind up their sleeves and get under the hood. Consider the automatic transmission, which created both a technological barrier to self-sufficiency and a sissification of the average driver; no longer was man in control of machine in every aspect. Not that this control isn't an illusion to begin with; it's actually a series of linkages, laws of physics, and tiny robots that control the vehicle.
Nevertheless, every man should be fully capable of hopping into a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro or 1985 Ferrari Testarossa and driving frantically away from the scene of a really cool heist with great jazz-tinged music playing in the background. To accomplish this, you must be able to drive a stickshift.
First, a diagram that shows how a transmission works:
Essentially, when you sit in a car with a manual transmission, you will be presented with a stick (on your right in the US, on your left in every other country in the world) and a set of pedals (three in the US, sixteen in every other country). To make car go, follow these easy steps:
- Start the motor. Depress the clutch (call it names or tell it that it is going to be part of the global economy and will soon be offshored to India). With your left foot (in the US, your right foot in all other countries), step on the clutch pedal. Engage the transmission (I suggest a conversation about clouds). Turn the key or press the button that reads "Make car go now." Alternately, cross the red and black / white striped wires in the steering console. If the motor does not start then fix it, or open the hood, yell and scream, explode the car.
- Step on the accelerator with your right foot in the US, your left hand in all other countries. You want the motor to start climbing in rpms (revolutions per minute in the US, revolutions per meter in all other countries). If you have a tachometer, you should see the needle indicate a tach of 6000. If you don't have a tachometer, press and hold the accelerator on the floor until the pitch of the motor hits a high D sharp. If you don't have a tuning fork, step on the gas until the motor makes your seams tingle.
- Shove the shifter into a slot marked with any prime number. Remember: prime numbers to start, even numbers to stop. I used the following little saying to remember this: primed to go, even to slow. Except on 8 speed transmissions, or when counted in Chinese, or when the car is facing Mecca.
- Slowly....very slowly....let out the clutch while simultaneously stepping harder on the accelerator while at the same time adjusting the clutch attack angle while at the same time adjusting the motor speed to match the clutch flywheel speed to the mated friction surface speed of the clutch (see Fig 1 above). This is called "harmonic balance" and it is imperative that you wildly pump the clutch once you find this to maintain it until the vehicle lurches forward. The point at which the clutch starts to make smells and screetch is called the "friction point." Keep the clutch "balanced" in this "friction point" (see fig 1 above) until forward motion is atained.
- For all forward gears, repeat steps one through 4. As you accelerate, you may wish to slow the speed of the motor to avoid killing the people in your direct path. You, uh, you know? Can you, uh...you really want to do that now. No, seriously. HOLY CRAP SLOW DOWN!
- I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell. Don't cry....no....look, please don't cry. Listen, it's not your fault. It's not you, it's me. I'm just, I'm under a lot of stress and it's really hard for me to get a grip. I'm...oh god, I promised myself I wouldn't cry.
- Ok, now, shift into reverse (see Fig 1). To back the car up, you'll have to not only shift the transmission backwards, you'll have to swap your left and right foot, since shifting into reverse actually reverses the action of each component of the car. Turning the stereo down, for instance, will tune into a new station. Now, repeat the above steps in reverse, and with each new gear you'll be going backwards slower! Isn't that fun? Oh, and it's prime to slow and even to go, now. Got it?
- To stop, pull up on the handbrake until it clicks seven times. Do this with both hands. You will have to steer with your knees while simultaneously activating the clutch and the accelerator. That big pedal between them is the brake pedal that you use to slow the car in corners, and will be covered in an advanced manual.
Next week: how to hunt and fish using improvised munitions.
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