I’ve been brainstorming writing this for a while. I’ve got a lot of friends in the generations above me, and have heard a lot more millennial/young person hate showing up more and more, especially when it comes to car enthusiasts. A lot of that is the nature of the social media machine, but at the same time, y’all gotta take a step back and think about your actions that helped cause this.
One particular item that grinds my gears is the car enthusiasts’ hatred of “kids that don’t know old car stuff”, especially the “millennial anti-theft device” aka the manual transmission. I know I’m a relatively rare exception, but both my wife and I know how to drive a manual transmission, and we’re both millennials.
I’ve seen too many memes and articles about botched car thefts due to a younger person not knowing how to drive manual. But way too often, I KNOW that the person sharing the meme doesn’t even OWN A MANUAL TRANSMISSION VEHICLE. How’s your kid going to know? How can you hate on a kid who never even had the opportunity to learn? When a kid and all his friends only have access to automatics, OF COURSE they won’t know how to drive a manual! When all they are surrounded by is modern cars, OF COURSE they won’t know what a choke is, or a carburetor, or drum brakes, a three-on-the-tree shifter, manually-selected hubs, or any of the countless items that are no longer factory-installed on cars because we’ve advanced as a technological society.
I was raised in a VERY intense car family and I know what a carburetor is based on sight; but I didn’t actually know how to tune one and didn’t own a vehicle with one until I bought an old Datsun on my own (hilariously enough, against both my parent’s wise advice). And guess what? Carbs suck. So do points. And drum brakes. That truck was only decent to drive because it was used for an extremely short commute in southern California at elevation – where it stayed in tune on its own by the nature of its use. I sold it as soon as my commute got longer than 10 minutes and included a bit of freeway because that Datsun was a deathtrap at speed. Frankly, most original “old” cars are too. Go to a car show. Pop the distributor caps off any non-modern-engine-swapped pre-EFI car (good luck finding them, #lsswaptheworld), and I’m betting you it has some sort of electronic ignition over points. Check the brakes, bet they swapped to 4-wheel disks off something newer. Unless its a period-correct restoration, these vehicles are upgraded to modern tech to be a safe, drive-able vehicle. FYI, the last carburetor-equipped vehicle available to the general public was sold in 1990 – thats nearly 30 years ago!
But, as I get older, and as the rest of society does, how about if we actually care about manuals, we own and maintain vehicles with them, so that we can teach the future generation the joys of driving a manual? Manuals are a current technology, look at the recently-developed 7-speed manual and rev-match ECU strategies, for example. We have two manual transmission cars, one that was swapped (by my father and I) from automatic to manual, for extra bonus points. You can guarantee that my kid is learning how to drive a manual, and how to work on their own car. We don’t have auto shop offered at most high schools thanks to a flawed economic policy and sense of duty to our community, but that’s a separate rant. You don’t even need to be an expert to know & teach routine maintenance; and its educational, economical, gets you away from a screen, and fun all at the same time. That opportunity is getting rarer and rarer.
I can think of many recent examples of people buying what is clearly a performance car, clearly an “enjoy it on the weekends” thing, that a manual is going to be a perfect use case for, and the automatic version was selected instead. Yes, a manual, overall, is a harder thing to locate, but not when you’re looking at the performance variants, or performance-only cars like the Corvette. Looking at you, Boomer dads with automatic convertible C5’s and guys with automatic Mustangs “because their wife wanted to drive it”. Fuck that, teach her, teach them all. But no, now your kids, or grandkids, or younger car enthusiasts have one less opportunity to learn about the joys of selecting one’s own gears. You are the reason for that “millennial anti-theft device”, not the millennial themselves. Shoutout to my mom with her 6-speed manual hardtop C5 AND 5-speed manual 86 Mustang GT. Shoutout to all the knowledge, time, inspiration, and opportunity that my mom, my Opa, and the Cryptic Father spent on me so that I could gain the appreciation for cars that I have today.
Without opportunity, there can be no advancement. So instead of reposting another meme or news story about those “dumb kids”, how about you go out and teach one? Then you’re actually helping, for once.