At BlogHer, I attended a "What Do Women Want in a Vehicle" event put on by the Ford Motor Company, held at their Chicago Assembly plant. I can tell you that a mechanical engineer who once had a job offer to work as an engineer at Ford was NOT the typical attendee at this event. When they had their roundtable discussion about the most important thing you love about your car that you would never compromise, most women listed the usual niceties (I can't even remember what they were. Automatic sliding doors?). There were a few items that I heartily agreed with, such as reliability and gas mileage (have you seen my spreadsheets?).
My must-have feature was a manual transmission. I said that I could never buy a minivan because of this. They were quite interested in my response and asked what it was about a manual transmission that I liked. "The control and being connected to your car." I LOVE to drive. I can drive for hours and hours, even longer than my gearhead husband can tolerate. When my father was in the hospital, I regularly drove three hours in each direction in day trips. I love machinery and being in complete tune with it. The other women looked at me peculiarly but they were all cool, to each their own. I'll have more pictures from the event, but here, indulge me as I show off all my lovely shifters.
Here is the shift knob for my car, a BMW 325xiT. This is actually the knob from Doug's old BMW 318ti. He had put an illuminated shift knob in that car (mmm, illuminated shifter, very slick!). My original shift knob had the knurled wood finish that you see on the console and it was ugly and hard. Leather is the only way to go (unless of course it is a Toyota Echo below).
This lovely red leather 6-speed shifter is on Doug's Corvette. The knob and boot originally had black leather, but he replaced them with the red leather to match the interior. Sexy, no?
Last but not least, this is the shift knob on our trusty Toyota Echo. It is not customized, and it has no leather, but it is still a stick. People are often surprised to hear that with two fancy cars we have such a bottom-of-the-line car. It even has crank windows! But the truth is, this car does all the heavy driving for our family. It has been the absolute cheapest car to own, from initial price, to gas mileage, to maintenance. It has 171k miles on it, original clutch, original rear brakes and very minor repairs. And it still gets over 40 mpg. When it finally dies (well beyond 200k), we'll be hard pressed to find as good a replacement.
The only thing that drives me crazy is the fact that the reverse gear is in three different places for these three cars. Mine is to the left and up, Doug's is to the right and up and the Toyota is to the right and down. Usually, I intuitively know where to go once I'm in the car, but every once in a while I need to look down at the shift pattern. And of course the wipers are opposite on the BMW and Toyota, and I'm always pulling the lever the wrong way.
Thank you for indulging me in my stick shift snobbiness!