Is a manual transmission a bonus when you’re shopping for American muscle?

That might seem like a dumb question — but I think the answer is changing.

There’s a certain glory that comes with winding up a big block and dumping a clutch. You can’t get that same feeling with an automatic no matter how high your converter stall speed is or how many gears you have. Automatic cars may be faster and therefore “better” today, but to a lot of us that’s missing the point.

Manual trans cars, at least on the whole, have tended to bring more money at auction because of this. But is it always going to be this way? 

In a past issue of ACC, Auction Editor Chad Tyson pointed out that the numbers favor the row-your-own cars, at least in the muscle car world. It’s still true today.

But how many kids do you know who can drive a stick today? That’s not a swipe at a younger generation — it’s a reflection of the car world as a whole. Cheap cars used to have manual transmissions, and driving stick was therefore part of everyone’s toolkit. But manual cars just aren’t around in great numbers anymore — or they’re specialty cars — and that has changed the dynamic. On top of that, automatic transmissions have just gotten better — go for a spin in a manual Hellcat and an automatic Hellcat and tell me which one you’d actually buy.

I’m still a believer in the clutch — I put a T56 Super Magnum from Summit Racing behind the LS in my ’79 C10 — but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the difference in muscle car prices between autos and manuals level themselves out as we drift further away from the original muscle car era.

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