Collector Car Values: Manual Vs. Automatic Transmission

Manual Transmission

One of the great things about online auction websites like Bring-A-Trailer is that anyone can place a comment on the listing. Many times, the comments are just as interesting as the cars being auctioned off. Everyone has an opinion (especially when it comes to the manual transmission) and they aren’t bashful about sharing them with everyone.

Opinions

Without getting into the details, I was looking at a fairly rare tuner car that was well presented. It left the factory with a 6-speed manual transmission but was converted to a 4-speed automatic along with a ton of other modifications. One auction follower commented about the transmission saying, “I was foaming at the mouth until I saw the word automatic.” He continued by providing lots anecdotal evidence about why manuals are in decline and this car should bring good money even with the automatic.

Points

He started with “the three finest sports car manufacturers in the world,” listing Ferrari, Chevrolet (Corvette) and Honda (Acura NSX) as examples, stating that they are producing 85%-100% of these vehicles as automatics now. Okay, this appears true. The next point is that major truck manufacturers like Peterbuilt, Volvo, etc are using Allison automatic transmissions almost exclusively. I have no reason to doubt this. The final point he made is that only 2% of cars for the US market in 2019 came with manual transmission. Again, this may very well be true, though I didn’t fact-check any of these claims.

Then Vs. Now

I can’t say that I overly disagree with any of those statements today, but would they still be considered true 25-35 years ago? Were the automatic offers as stout as their manual counterparts of the day? Since we are talking about collector cars, we need to consider the collectors that will be purchasing this type of car. My best guess is that many are now at least in their 40’s and grew up driving sports cars that almost always came from the factory with a manual transmission. Would these buyers be put off by an automatic? I believe its quite possible.

Future Markets

As you can see, I firmly believe that the values of many collector cars are hurt by the lack of a true manual transmission. This becomes especially true in pre-2000 vehicles where automatics weren’t nearly as strong, reliable or quick at shifting. This many change in the future as fewer vehicles leave the factory with a manual transmission and younger collectors enter the market, many of which many never have seen a clutch before.

What is your opinion of collector values and how they are impacted by the car’s transmission? Leave a comment below.


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