Here Are Your Best Stories of Driving Stick for the First Time

Seriously, these are fantastic.

byJan 29, 2022 4:28 PM
Here Are Your Best Stories of Driving Stick for the First Time
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Last weekend, I asked you a question: what was your first manual transmission experience? I figured a few of you would have stories to tell, but holy cannoli you came through with some good ones! Two hundred comments and countless email messages later, all of us at The Drive were blown away by the number of responses from the community.

It didn’t seem fair to keep all of these stories under wraps, so here for your enjoyment are some of my favorites:

Honda

Babysitter on the Loose

"My first was a Fiat 124 Spider in 1976.  I was only 16 and babysitting for neighbor kids who wanted to go to the swim club for a dip, so I drove their father's prized convertible. I got there okay but didn't know how to get it into reverse and had the kids push me out of the parking spot to drive back. Needless to say, that didn't go over well with the parents when their friends at the club observed the parking lot scene and informed them what transpired." - DPM

Umm... Dad? Dad?

"When I was 16 and got my permit my dad just said 'Alright, start drivin'' and then he fell asleep. Keep in mind I had never driven a stick let alone a car lol. Now all I drive is manual." - Jeff B.

The White-Knuckling Salesman

"In October of 2003, I bought a new 2002 Ford Ranger; it was a base 2.3-liter five-speed regular cab short bed. I refused a test drive and signed all the papers. Afterwards, the salesman (who was in his late 50s, I'm guessing) walks me out asking if I had any questions, which I replied 'yeah, how do I drive it?' I explained I had never driven a stick before, and he offered to help me learn with a drive around the block in my new truck. He showed me the basics and I got behind the wheel. I was actually quite proud as I got the hang of it fairly quickly. 

But then it happened: I needed to make a left turn at a intersection to get back to the dealership. I stalled it twice while attempting the left turn and found myself blocking traffic. Then the salesman tells me: push in the clutch, hit the gas, and let the clutch out to finish the turn. Now, for whatever reason, I ended up doing a rev limiter clutch drop in first gear on my new truck while making the left turn. I basically did a full power slide through the turn. I got it back under control and made it to the dealership without incident after this. The salesman asked me for a cigarette after this. He had never smoked before that day, he claimed afterwards. Not my proudest moment, but at least I learned how to drive a stick. Now I prefer manual transmission vehicles and I have a 1992 Miata now." - Larry S.

2002 Ford Ranger, CarGurus.com

From a Horse-Drawn Sleigh to Drag Racing a 1936 Ford Coupe

"I started driving a small tractor for my dad in the hay field raking hay on our ranch in Colorado (just over Coal Mountain from Crested Butte) in 1950. In the winter, we had to use a one-speed team of horses pulling a big sleigh (deep snow and too cold for a tractor to start even when we climbed up on the radiator, jumped off and stomped the crank) to feed the cows and horses. No bales in those days, my brothers and I used pitch forks to work the hay. It was common for it to get to -20 degrees there so we would burrow down in the hay to try to keep warm.

When I turned sixteen I built a '36 Ford Coupe with a 283 Chevy in it and learned how to drag race on narrow country highways. Smoking those narrow hard tires of the day was a great sport! Then I made my way to LA in '64 with my new wife and precious little cash, got a job at Hansen Chevrolet repairing used cars. I LOVED it because we always had Corvettes (used Corvettes would sell for $1500) and 348 Chevys.

Crazy fun times! Drag strips everywhere! Irwindale on Wednesday nights, Orange County or Lions on Saturdays, Riverside Hot rod drags (I was so embarrassed when I blew my Olds rear end in my '40 Ford Coupe with the L88 Chevy in it!). Since I lived near the San Fernando Drag strip, I went there the most. Thank you for the memories!"  - Hemi Don

Playing Chauffeur at 15 for a Partying Uncle

"I was 15, helping my uncle at his marina in Sister Lakes, Michigan. Around 10 a.m., he would have me drive him in his three-on-the-tree Bronco...to the bar. He'd get a snootfull and off we went, me as chauffeur. Wish I had that Bronco now. Eventually, I graduated to Porsches, and finally, a 1999 Ferrari 355 Spider in Tour de France blue and a gated 6-speed). Glorious."  Norman K.

Learning on the Fly on the Way to a Hockey Game

"I played goalie on a recreational hockey team, meaning no backup, so it was critical that I make it to the game. One evening, Ken (who normally drove me to the game) said he had suddenly felt quite ill and couldn't make the 30-or-so-mile drive to the game.  He had called a few other people on the team, but they had already left for the game. So Ken was gong to lend me his car, which was a stick shift. I said I had never driven a stick shift before and Ken said he'd give me a quick lesson when he came by to pick me up. My quick lesson was driving him back home and then I was on my way.

I wasn't the smoothest but was doing OK until I just missed a green light about two blocks from the rink. I was stopped on quite an uphill grade, and when the light changed green, I stalled it and restarted the car only to stall it again. The cars behind me started to honk and I totally missed that cycle of the green light. The next time the light turned green, I just really revved the engine, dropped the clutch and smoked the tires getting out of there. When the game was over, I found someone else who was experienced driving a stick to drive Ken's car home.  That experience started a lifelong love of driving manual transmission cars." - HPuck

Filling in Unexpectedly, and a Lost Muffler

"Way back in the mid 70s, my new girlfriend owned a 1973 Triumph Spitfire. I went with her to a doctor's appointment about 100 miles from home, and she ended up having a surprise minor procedure done and couldn’t drive home. They had given her some pain meds before we left and she basically passed out. We waited a while, but eventually it was getting dark and we headed home. So I learned how to drive a manual in downtown Houston at night. I made it back and the only issue was the muffler falling off about halfway home. I suspect that I may have killed the motor a few times and there may have been some grinding but we made it home in one piece." - Rod R.

There's always room for more, so if you have not told your manual transmission story yet, trust me when I say we enjoy every one. 

Got a tip? Comment here or send a note to kristin.shaw@thedrive.com.