Without so much as a PRNDL

You know about the PRNDL, of course:

That de-roundeled Bimmer probably doesn’t have a true PRNDL, but I never actually saw one until the middle 1970s, since we had owned only manual-transmission cars until I reached my teen years, and the first automatic I ever saw was this weird American Motors gadget:

Gear selection in 1962 Rambler

What we had was a 1962 Rambler, and this was the shift mechanism, such as it was, for the three-speed automatic. At the time, I somehow failed to comprehend that “D1” was the normal driving mode, and that “D2” started you off in second. The Park function, apparently an afterthought, was controlled by a lever down below, east of the emergency-brake release.

After an indifferent experience with AMC, the family switched to Volkswagen Type 2s — Microbuses — with about twice the interior space and maybe one-quarter the horsepower. (It was in the second of those VeeDubs, a ’69 T2a, that I got my first chance behind the wheel. It was, of course, a four-speed manual, and in the absence of a tach, I learned how to maximize power from the little boxer four: shift when you’re afraid not to.)

My first actual PRNDL, then, was in the ’66 Chevrolet, acquired in 1975. A two-speed, yet.


  1. Roger Green »

    5 July 2015 · 5:33 am

    I HATE most of those Disbney show The daughter watches, and this clip is as a good a reason why as any.

  2. McGehee »

    5 July 2015 · 7:22 am

    I think that show stole it from Eva Gabor on “Green Acres,” where Lisa Douglas had as much trouble driving a slushbox as most people do with a stick.

  3. fillyjonk »

    5 July 2015 · 8:19 am

    There was also a Laverne and Shirley learning-to-drive bit where canned food subbed for the pedals (they were in their apartment, sitting on the couch). All I remember of it was the comment, “But shouldn’t the beans be the ‘gas’ pedal?” which was the height of low comedy when I was a kid. (Now, such a thing wouldn’t even be blinked at.)

    The show being set in the 50s, I am pretty sure it was a manual she was learning to drive….

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