Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fun on four wheels

I usually try to keep this blog strictly on the topic of motorcycles, but I caved in light of our recent acquisition:


About five years ago, I began commuting regularly in a 1991 Honda Accord DX from Oakton to Rosslyn, and it did in my left knee. It got pretty bad, and I went to a handful of doctors and underwent physical therapy. The result is a condition I can deal with, but that still doesn't gel with certain kinds of motion.

The experience left me in a bit of a bind. I'm an avid anti-fan of conventional automatic transmissions. My aversion to automatics is a mix of inherited values (Dad, you rule!) and personal preference. So during the peak of my injury, I researched many solutions to driving a manual transmission without a left leg. I even prototyped a vacuum-assisted, hand-operated clutch master cylinder on that 91 Accord. I came so close to engaging the clutch with the squeeze of a bicycle brake lever, but the throw of the Geo Metro brake booster I employed wasn't long enough...*sigh*


I spent a lot of time on that project, and when the the execution failed, I was regrettably out of steam. So I used the DC Metro and my Ninja 250 as often as possible for commuting in order to limit my use of a clutch pedal.

Back on topic - my research had uncovered more than just a Frankenstein of off-the-shelf parts. I had learned about Toyota's Sequential Manual Transmission (SMT) that was fitted to the MR2 Spyders. This transmission was exactly what I was looking for - a manual transmission with a clutch, but a clutch the driver didn't have to operate. Awesome! It was way out of my price range at the time - both because I was just out of college and because the cars were still more or less brand new.

So that should explain why we sought this mid-engine convertible as our next automobile. In some ways, traveling in the MR2 Spyder will be a lot like traveling on the bikes. There is no storage space, save for a little cavity behind each seat and the trunk rack we snagged from craigslist. We'll probably want to keep earplugs on hand for long highway trips (SureFire makes a great pair, believe it or not).

The bottom line is that I do consider the transmission a compromise, but an acceptable one. And now I don't feel so bad about living without an MG B!

No comments: