Sunday, May 11, 2008



Below is a letter I sent to Jim Mateja at the Chicago Tribune, one of the nation’s foremost auto writers. The original letter from P.O. in Montgomery, IL can be found at I rarely comment on cars or the car business in the Insightful Pontificator. Both were popular subjects in the IP’s progenitors, the Insightful Weekly Commentary and the Insightful Irregular Commentary, and are missed by many of the readers of those seminal publications. So, when I get the chance, I like to comment on what remain two of my favorite subjects.

I know that automatic transmissions are convenient and easy and can sometimes make sense if one drives in heavy traffic regularly (With today’s soft clutches and easy throw shifters, however, the latter argument has largely been rendered moot.), but until my left leg is no longer functional or they stop making real transmissions, I will drive a manual, thank you:


Hi Jim,

I haven’t written in awhile, but you had to know you’d hear from me in response to today’s letter from P.O. in Montgomery.

Who would buy a Cadillac without automatic? Anyone who likes to drive, rather than merely steer or, given the way people drive today, aim a car would not only buy, but insist on, a Cadillac, or any car, with a manual transmission.

Apparently, however, there aren’t many of us who still like to drive, rather than pretend we are driving. While the standard transmission in the Cadillac CTS, which advertises itself as a domestic alternative to European sports sedans, is indeed a 6 speed manual (a real manual with a clutch, not one with “F1 type” buttons on the rear of the wheel so yuppies can fantasize about taking laps at Monte Carlo while they negotiate Grosse Pointe Road), finding a CTS with such a transmission on a dealer lot is akin to finding an honest man who has chosen a career in politics. To be fair to Cadillac, it is almost as hard to find a BMW or an Audi sedan with a driver’s transmission. Unfortunately, driving seems to have taken a back seat to yakking on the celphone, eating, watching “nav” screens, preening, or the myriad other activities people find compelled to do in their cars, so the manual has gone the way of the Oldsmobile.

Thanks, Jim.

Mark Quinn

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