Hooniverse Asks: What Size Car Do You Think is Too Big to be a Stick?

See that BMW up there? That’s an E38 740i that I featured on NPOCP over on Jalopnik a week ago. It’s one of the biggest cars that BMW has ever made and it has been converted to a stick shift. That got me thinking, as many things are wont to do, that maybe there’s a practical size limit to cars that should carry a stick.
Now, BMW did sell the E38 in a number of markets with a stick, a fact that made the conversion of this Canadian sedan reasonably easy. Still, if I’m cruising in a car of this size, I don’t know that I want to be doing all that work. I’d rather ben enjoying myself with one hand at six o’clock on the wheel and the other lazing out the open driver’s door window.
That’s just how I roll, and in cases like this your mileage may vary. In fact, just how big do you think is too big for a car with a stick?
Image: Craigslist

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34 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What Size Car Do You Think is Too Big to be a Stick?”

  1. P161911 Avatar

    I drove an extended cab long bed 1988 Ford F-150 with the 4.9L I-6 and a 5-speed with a shifter the size of a softball bat sticking out of the floor. It was better than an automatic. I found out after I got this truck that this was actually the second vehicle I had owned with the same 5-speed transmission, the other was my 1992 T-Bird S/C, with a more normal sized shifter.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Agreed, I’ve driven an ’06 Silverado (long bed, regular cab) with the stick, and it was fine.
      I’m not sure there’s any size of passenger car or truck that’s “too big,” although at a certain point, they generally start having enough power that the automatic is less of a hindrance.

      1. Hillman_Hunter Avatar

        As a lot jockey in the 90s, my two faves were a Dodge Van shorty with a 318 and a 4-speed, and a manual Cummins turbodiesel dually. Also got to drive a diesel Mercedes S-class with a manual transmission, which was amusing to shift quickly like a racer while the scenery barely moved past.

        1. Maymar Avatar

          Ooh, that’s another good one – when I worked the auto show circuit, we had a loaded Ram 2500 with the Cummins and stick. Too big for small parking garages without a spotter, but not too big for the stick.

  2. 0A5599 Avatar

    Manual transmissions keep driving interesting.
    The bigger the vehicle, the more interesting the driver involvement.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Someone has been stalking Miss Pacman?

    2. salguod Avatar

      That 4-5 shift is brutal. 😀

      1. dr zero Avatar
        dr zero

        It looks like 8-9 might even be worse!

      2. Fresh-Outta-Nissans Avatar

        What’s going on with twelve?

    1. Batshitbox Avatar

      Right? When is an ice cream sundae too big for a cherry? When is an M. Night Shyamalan movie too long for a surprise ending? When is a mountain range too big to be snow-capped?
      Of all the things a car can be too big for! Sheesh! 4-cylinder engines, urban parking spots, reasonable cruising range, 14 inch rims…

  3. crank_case Avatar

    Less about size and more about character. Big cars tend to be luxurious, where cars that are aimed at carving up canyons tend to be smaller so they’re lighter and easier to place on the road.
    I’m sure driving something big with a manual can be an interesting one-off experience, but in terms of how it’s used day to day, it’s not hard to see why some cars are all automatics. It’s kind of fun to hoon a big old barge but it often comes from the incongruity of the vehicle to how it’s being driven. The thing a torque converter has going for it is smoothness, it’s easy to drive one smoothly all the time in traffic than a manual, it fits the character of a luxury car, even if Jeeves is driving.
    I’d generally want something like a Jag XJ to be an auto, though I’ve seen a few manual conversions where some other mods have been done and they’re pretty awesome.

  4. Alff Avatar

    I’m going to guess none. The largest manual sedans I’ve had were an Acura Legend and Audi 5000. Those weren’t too big. Grandad’s 3/4 Ton Camper special wasn’t too big. The F600 stakebed I ran deliveries in as a teen wasn’t too big.

  5. P161911 Avatar

    BMW did sell E32 735i sedans in the US with a 5-speed. Not many, but at least a few. 750iL was automatic only.

    1. JayP Avatar

      I think Audi USA brought over 500 V8s with 5 speeds.
      But that chassis was the same as the 100/200.
      Not that remarkable but makes you wonder why they bothered.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        I think current emissions certification requirements have quashed many low volume automatics. The cost of certification isn’t worth the extra 0.05% sales increase.

  6. JayP Avatar

    Watch White Lightning and Gator… all those full-sized sedans with 4 speeds.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      “Keep it between the ditches!”
      “I’m only afraid of two things.”
      – “What’s that?”
      “Women and the po-lice.”
      – “Huh. Women and the po-lice.”

      1. edward hudy Avatar
        edward hudy

        they used two cars one with automatic and one with 4 speed .mostly used with Auto on the column

  7. mdharrell Avatar

    That’s easy. Any car big enough for a three-across (or larger) front bench seat should have a manual column shift instead of a stick on the floor. That’s just common courtesy.
    Cars with external gear levers or dash-mounted levers are exempt, of course.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Or shifters mounted beside the door, with the little cut-out in the corner of the seat, as per 1930s Bentley and 1950s Riley.
      Although I do have a 3-across seat with a manual floor shift. It’s not a bench, though, more an occasional or beats-walking seat

  8. cronn Avatar

    My opinion is probably fairly unpopular among gearheads. If it sits on rubber wheels, it better damn well be able to shift its gears by itself. After all, the motorcar was invented to serve humans and not the other way around.
    I guess it goes without saying that I’m not a MX-5 sort of person either. 🙂

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I will say that your assertion concerning the relative status of motorcars and humans is in conflict with my personal experience.

  9. elbee_chambers Avatar

    admittedly i’ve mostly driven small cars but i’m way too used to driving a manual to really like anything with an automatic. I find my hand wandering towards the shifter without really thinking about it all the time in an automatic. I can MAYBE see myself driving a pre-downsizing land yacht from the USA or a really big Mercedes or squishy french luxury car with a slushbox but even then I find a certain satisfaction in making a really smooth change on a manual box that never really gets old.

  10. David Peterson Avatar
    David Peterson

    I had a 1966 Bonneville that we installed a 421 and an M22. Ergo – no such car. I believe the Bonney was 20 feet and some inches with a wheelbase of 122(?). It was a handful to drive, especially as the first version had no power steering due to clearance issues with the headers.

  11. outback_ute Avatar

    None, for a 1990s automatic! Although the BMW 5 speed was getting better.

  12. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    Who said there is a relationship between car size and my desire to choose ratios myself? There is no relationship whatsoever.

  13. Borkwagen Avatar

    I can confirm that a 90s Jaguar XJR is not too big for a stick. Also, even at two tons curb weight, it’s not too heavy for it either.

  14. Sjalabais Avatar

    Still, if I’m cruising in a car of this size, I don’t know that I want to be doing all that work
    If I had said that sentence to my mother, I’d justifiably earned myself a lecture about what “work” was.

  15. salguod Avatar

    I just realized that this is $8K Canadian, which is $6K US. That’s a heck of a lot of car for $6K. How hard is it to bring a car in from Canada?

  16. Zentropy Avatar

    No car is too big. I love shifting regardless of the vehicle size.

  17. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    What a stupid question. Eighteen-wheelers have about that many gears. Mostly I wish I had more gears to choose from.

  18. pursang Avatar

    Saab 9-5 Aero stick owner here, two of them. Love them.

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