It’s a funny thing, the whole ‘death of the manual’ debate. While I doubt manuals will ever go away entirely (their simplicity and low-cost nature will always make them ideal for the cheaper end of the market), we can’t help but feel sad when a new fast car comes along that shirks the option of a stick-shifter entirely, or when the discontinuation of a particular model spells the end of all manual gearbox production for a brand.
This is despite the fact that most of the buyers of supercars and fast GTs simply don’t want a manual, and despite the fact that even we can admit that some cars just wouldn’t suit anything other than an auto. But we petrolheads are an odd bunch who love the purity of self-gear-selection, so stick with us as we go through some of the recent ‘last of the line’ manual supercars we’ve shed a tear or two over:
If you fancy rocking up to your local Ferrari dealer and buying a brand new Prancing Horse with a stick shifter, you won’t have much luck. Yep, there’s not a single manual gearbox in the entire current range. In fact, due to Maranello’s quest for ultimate performance - which makes faffing with a clutch and a gear knob seem a little redundant - we’ve all but stopped thinking about the concept of a manual Ferrari. It now seems positively alien.
But, the death of the Ferrari manual is actually a very recent thing, as evidenced by the F12berlinetta’s predecessor: the 599 GTB. Although almost all were sold with the company’s ‘F1’ sequential gearbox, a very small number were built with a manual transmission. How small a number? 30 in total, with 20 going to the United States, and the rest spread throughout Europe.
The few buyers that opted for a gated manual version of the 612bhp V12 599 ended up with an incredible investment: the one you see above was auctioned by RM Sotheby’s earlier this year for $682,000, over three times what it would have sold for had it just been a paddle shift example. And at the moment there’s the manual 599 that inspired this list going for just under $600,000, reportedly once owned by Nicholas Cage.
If you want the most recent manual mid-engined Ferrari, you have to go back to the F430, since the 458 and 488 are strictly DCT-only. A stick-shifting F430 isn’t quite as rare as a manual 599, though; around 90 per cent sold were of the paddleshift variety, meaning there are a fair few knocking around for those that like to row through gears themselves. It’s certainly much easier to find one than a manual California: apparently, only two of those were ever sold…
When they Cayman GT4 arrived with - incredibly - only a manual gearbox option, many expected the 991 GT3 RS to follow suit. But no. Instead of appeasing all those that had moaned about the boggo GT3 being available with a Doppelkupplungsgetriebe auto ‘box and nothing else, the hardcore RS was available with, well, just a Doppelkupplungsgetriebe.
It’s no surprise then, that values of the 4.0-litre versions of the old 997 RS - the last manual GT3 - are now nudging £300,000. But then again, the fact that it’s also the last 911 with hydraulic power steering and the last GT3 with a ‘Mezger’ engine doesn’t exactly help when it comes to keeping the price down to non-biblical levels.
It’s not all bad news for lovers of hot, manual 911s though, as the GT3 and GT3 RS is expected to have a new manual ‘brother’ in the form of the 911 R pretty soon.
If I could have any Lamborghini - save for the bonkers special editions - it’d probably have to be one of the later Murcielago LP640s. It has all the right Lambo ingredients: a lairy V12 engine, poster boy looks with just about the right amount of lunacy, scissor doors and - of course - a standard-fit six-speed gated manual gearbox. Sure, you could option a semi-auto E-Gear transmission, but wouldn’t you rather control those six ratios and the V12 violence piled through them?
The Murcielago’s discontinuation and replacement with an semi-auto-only car - the Aventador - was the first nail in the coffin for the manual bull. The second? That leads us neatly on to car number five…
Here we have it, the last Lamborghini available with a manual. The Huracan came along with its fancy dual clutch gearbox and conspicuous lack of manual (even if one was offered, the dual clutch option would have no doubt tempted most buyers away from the stick). However, if you’re fairly loaded and want to celebrate all things manual with a Gallardo, our suggestion would be to go for the rear-wheel drive LP550-2 in manual form for ultimate supercar purity.
This one’s cheating a little, since it’s not exactly the last in a long line of manual Audi supercars. Hell, it’s the first Audi supercar. But the Gallardo’s cousin is still worth including, such was the outcry when the the new version appeared with no other transmission option than the (admittedly rather good) seven-speed dual-clutch S Tronic gearbox.
But as with a lot of these cars, it’s not a case of the manufacturer feeling a little mean towards stick-shift enthusiasts. No, this auto-only decision was made simply because no one was buying the manual R8. Actually, at the launch of the new one, Audi told us that 99 per cent of all R8 orders in the last three years of the first-gen’s production run were for S Tronic cars.
What other ‘last of the line’ manual supercars can you think of?