First Moss, now Hawthorn, state emphatically that they prefer automatic transmission to a gear change which calls for manual skill. This must come as a surprise to many thousands of drivers who derive enjoyment from making swift, well-timed gear changes with the aid of a good floor gear lever. Hawthorn, in a long article in a weekly contemporary, exposes his belief that automatic transmission gives better acceleration times over a straight s.s. ½-mile than are possible with a manual gear change, that automatic transmission results in savings of time on long journeys and with greater safety because less effort is put into driving, and that automatic transmission gives quieter acceleration.
Granted that automatic transmission is wonderfully foolproof mechanism, that it is invaluable to the novice driver, pleasing in heavy traffic and attractive to casual or disabled motorists, in our experience sensitive throttle control to secure the desired change-down is more trying than operating a well-placed, rigid gear lever, while the lack of control over change-up speed is almost continually tiresome in fast driving, while, if an over-ride control is available, might one just as well actuate a gear lever as use an additional control to render the best intentions of the underfloor automatons inoperative or delayed? There is also the thought of all the extra fuel being burned to operate mechanism which is present mainly to overcome the deficiencies of the driver.
It seems rather droll that Hawthorn, of all people, who has attained his present eminence by making countless impeccable changes on racing gearboxes, and who was at Earls Court to sell Ferraris with normal synchro-mesh four-speed gearboxes, should so strongly advocate automatic transmission. Moreover, Mike does not “practise what he preaches”; at the time of writing his everyday car is a 3.4-litre Jaguar with a normal gearbox. Did he, indeed, write the article over which his name appears?