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buying What Was the Last 3-On-the-Floor Manual Car Americans Could Buy?

19:11  03 december  2020
19:11  03 december  2020 Source:   autoweek.com

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You could buy three - on - the - floor manual transmissions in Detroit cars after 1979, but that's a tale we'll tell a bit later. However, anyone willing to buy the Pontiac- or Olds-badged Nova probably felt able to spring for the automatic or at least the three- or four-speed floor-shifted manual transmission

You could buy three - on - the - floor manual transmissions in Detroit cars after 1979, but that's a tale we'll tell a bit later. However, anyone willing to buy the Pontiac- or Olds-badged Nova probably felt able to spring for the automatic or at least the three- or four-speed floor-shifted manual transmission

We've seen, in recent weeks, that tried-and-true transmission types take quite a while to disappear from new vehicles, even long after their supposed obsolescence. Americans could buy new cars with three-speed automatics until 2002 and with four-on-the-floor manuals until 1996. The three-speed column-shift manual transmission survived here through 1987 in new trucks and 1979 in new cars, but what about the floor-shifted three-speed manual? After much digging through reference books, factory brochures, EPA documents, et freakin' cetera, I have found the answer to that question.

a close up of a light bulb: What was the final model year for North American-market new cars with three-speed manual transmissions? © Murilee Martin What was the final model year for North American-market new cars with three-speed manual transmissions? a car parked in front of a mountain: 1981 Chevrolet Malibu brochure © Chevrolet Division, General Motors 1981 Chevrolet Malibu brochure

Since General Motors was the last holdout to sell new US-market cars with three-on-the-tree manual transmissions, it comes as no surprise that GM also sold the last three-on-the-floor cars here (we're talking about cars, not trucks, remember; GM, Ford and Chrysler each sold trucks so equipped deeper into the 1980s). Those cars were built on the A (then in the process of being renamed the G) and F platforms for the 1981 model year, the best-known of which were the Chevrolet Malibu and Chevrolet Camaro.

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I can see the second hand market for older vehicles being very buoyant before that date, and the lack of new car sales will force the Government to re-think its strategy. What is the most efficient way to drive uphill with an automatic transmission car equipped with a manual mode, let it downshift on it's

This determined the shape of the American car where the idea of a compact and even a subcompact was all but absent. For the upmarket brands, there was the external overdrive unit, which acted as an automatic transmission in the way that it would incorporate a planetary gearset, manually engage

a close up of a car: Ford Ranchero floor shifter © Murilee Martin Ford Ranchero floor shifter

As automatics became cheaper during the 1960s and 1970s, an ever-larger proportion of American drivers ditched the three-pedal setup; those who preferred to work the gears themselves tended to be willing to pay a bit extra for four or five forward speeds by the dawn of the 1980s. The three-on-the-floor was an anachronism that remained available just for serious penny-pinchers, the gimlet-eyed ones who would skip the radio, floor mats, passenger-side mirror, and every other possible feature that might add a few bucks to the out-the-door price.

a screenshot of a cell phone screen with text: 1981 Chevrolet Malibu Powertrain Specifications © Chevrolet Division, General Motors 1981 Chevrolet Malibu Powertrain Specifications

For the Malibu and Camaro plus their Buick/Oldsmobile/Pontiac siblings, you had to buy the basest of base-model cars to get the three-speed manual. In the case of the Malibu and Camaro, that meant the Chevrolet 3.8-liter aka 229-cubic-inch V6 (not to be confused with the 3.8-liter Buick V6 of the same era), rated at 110 horsepower for 1981. Essentially three-quarters of the 5.0-liter/305ci small-block Chevy V8, this engine got more displacement for 1985, becoming the better-known 4.3 V6.

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Have you seen the notice on the notice board / on the door? You'll find details of TV programmes on page seven (of the newspaper). There were a lot of people in the shop. It was very crowded. Go along this road, then turn left at Where is the car waiting? _.

We used the Mini all the time. Last month we came back to England to visit our families and of course, we came in the Mini. We drove via Kuala Lumpur Ответьте на вопросы: Can you drive? Do you like driving? What is your favourite car ? Согласитесь или не согласитесь. 1 John Pollard bought a VW.

a car parked in front of a lake: 1981 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta brochure © Chevrolet Division, General Motors 1981 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta brochure

Buyers who were willing to pay more to get away from a three-on-the-floor manual also tended to purchase other upgrades as well. Getting the Berlinetta package on your '81 Camaro, for example, or the Yellow Bird Esprit Appearance Package on your Firebird, made it likely that you'd opt for the four-speed manual or an automatic. You couldn't get a four-on-the-floor manual in the 1981 A-Bodies, so the automatic was your only escape hatch from three-on-the-floor commuting in those cars.

a car parked in a parking lot: 1981 Pontiac LeMans catalog © Pontiac Division, General Motors 1981 Pontiac LeMans catalog

Many will already know the '81 Malibu was among the last of the three-on-the-floor cars because of the famous Iraqi Taxis aka "Iraqabus" of 1981, all of which were equipped with that very cheap transmission. Less well-known is the fact that American new-car shoppers in 1981 could also get the three-on-the-floor in the absolute cheapest Pontiac LeMans, Oldsmobile Cutlass and Buick Century models. These cars were mechanically nearly identical to their Malibu brethren, of course.

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1. What was the reaction of the people after the invention of the steam engine? In Washington the story is told of a director of the Patent Office who in the early thirties of the last century suggested that the Office be closed because “everything that could possibly be invented had been invented”.

a car parked in a parking lot: 1981 Olds Cutlass brochure © Oldsmobile Division, General Motors 1981 Olds Cutlass brochure

The main difference between the three-on-the-floor '81 Malibu and the three-on-the-floor Century, Cutlass and LeMans appeared in the engine compartments of those cars. The bargain-basement engine in the Buick, Olds and Pontiac versions of the Malibu was the Buick 3.8-liter V6 (which had 231 cubes of displacement versus the Chevy 3.8's 229). Both "3.8" engines made 110 horses, but the Buick generated 190 lb-feet of torque versus the Chevy's 170. The Skinflint Edition Firebird also got the Buick 3.8 that year.

a car parked in a parking lot: 1981 Pontiac LeMans catalog © Pontiac Division, General Motors 1981 Pontiac LeMans catalog

We must assume that anybody willing to pay more for Buick, Oldsmobile or Pontiac badges on a Malibu would also be willing to open up the wallet for a more modern transmission, so three-on-the-floor '81 Cutlasses and LeManses must be rare if not nonexistent. As for the '81 Buick Century, sightings of three-on-the-floor manual transmissions in these cars should be categorized along with those of the Loch Ness Monster (the Regal was slushbox-only that year). Please let us know if you've spotted one of these cars.

table: 1981 Chevrolet Camaro brochure © Chevrolet Division, General Motors 1981 Chevrolet Camaro brochure

What's next in the Final Year of That Transmission series? Two-speed automatics, of course, and that one will come with a theologically hair-splitting debate about whether the early Accord's Hondamatic counts as a true automatic, or even as a two-speed. Prepare your arguments!

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