The Toronto Star: This School Gives ’em the Gears

This school gives ‘em the gears
By Linda A. Fox

Call it a “driving” ambition but I’ve always wanted to walk into an upscale dealership and take a snappy, imported sports car for a spin.

A few days ago, I finally did it. Top down; wind in my hair. A dream come true.

What prevented me all these years from this seemingly simple task? Not being able to drive a stickshift.

For 23 years I’ve wimped-out and driven automatics, knowing in my heart that every car I’ve really lusted after came with a standard shifter.

So it was with visions of speeding to the office in my Lamborghini (after the lottery win, of course), that I put myself in the capable hands of Carlos Tomas, operator of Shifters Manual Driving School (921-7845).

Shifters offers a course in basic manual transmission driving skills for those who have a licence, plus courses for the complete beginner.

I chose the course entitled From Automatic To Stick-Shift which gave me five in-car sessions of 1½ hours each . . . .

Carlos says the most common fault of drivers is (lack of) communication. He stresses keeping a safe distance from other vehicles and being aware of what’s going on around you at all times.

“Don’t be afraid to over-communicate,” he says. “The less confusing you are to other drivers; the less other drivers confuse you.

There are obvious benefits to driving a vehicle with a standard transmission. First, the purchase price is usually about $ 1,000 cheaper. But most important, they are more fuel efficient and therefore, easier on the environment.

Do men and women differ in their ability to learn stick-shift, I asked.

“No, not at all. Both show about the same ability with training,” Carlos feels.

I know I still need practice. Now if I can just get my next-door neighbor to let me take a spin in his red vintage Ferrari . .