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Deciding between a paddle shift and stick shift transmission

26th May 2022 Print

Years ago, manual transmissions were the only choice for performance sports cars, including F1. But in the 1980s, F1 cars began to change to paddle shifters, with Ferrari being the technology leader at the time. 

While paddle shifters are more common in sports cars these days, stick-shift transmissions have their supporters, too. 

If you’re considering a sports car purchase, you may want more information about paddle shifters vs stick-shift transmissions to decide which is right for you. 

Why Did Ferrari Develop The Paddle Shift Transmission? 

Paddle shifters were first developed for racing applications only, but Ferrari also put a paddle shift in the first road car – the Ferrari 355

During a race, the driver benefits from a paddle shifter because it cuts the time between shifts. It also allows the racer to focus entirely on the road/track and never take a hand off the wheel. When you’re hitting 150 or 200 MPH, keeping both hands focused on the steering is vital.

However, many regular drivers and some sports car fans also like a paddle-shift transmission for street driving. 

But the first generation of transmissions tended to be problematic, and that has had a massive impact on the resale value of Ferraris and Lamborghinis with the early paddle shift transmissions. A Ferrari 360 with a paddle shifter, for instance, generally sells for HALF of what a manual transmission 360 does.

As Ferrari/Lamborghini specialist Garrick Matlock from Elite Motorcars in Bend notes, "early F1/Egear boxes need the Point Of Initial Slip (PIS) set with annual service to be sure one is getting the most out of the clutch. The newer systems will adapt over time. It’s important that an Italian car workshop has an accurate way to read clutch data.  Reverse uphill should be avoided at all cost in Egear/F1. 

Due to the tall gear used for reverse, the system slips the clutch to compensate for such a tall gear, leading to immediate excessive clutch wear.  A worn clutch causes heat buildup. The heat transfers into expensive components such as the Egear/F1 throw out bearing, shift valves and hydraulic pump, leading to expensive repairs. It’s better to replace the clutch earlier than later due to this often overlooked fact."

The paddle-shift tranny allows the driver some of the fun and control of a manual but without the clutch pedal. 

Sports car enthusiasts also like that shifters are positioned right by the steering wheel. This means easy, quick up and downshifts. 

Advantages of Paddle Shifting

There are sports car lovers who swear by paddle shifters. And there are many excellent reasons for their enthusiasm. 

As noted above, being able to keep one’s hands on the wheel either on the road or in a race is a big deal. 

A paddle-shift transmission in modern cars also features a computer that watches how the driver does their work. It can learn to anticipate when you want to upshift or downshift. 

Advantages of The Manual Transmission 

Paddle shifters in sports cars are growing in popularity, but there are many enthusiasts and gearheads who prefer the tried and true. In fact, there are still advantages to operating the clutch with your foot. 

For instance, an old-fashioned clutch is helpful for slipping the clutch when you need more traction on gravel or dirt roads. This also provides you with a more refined sense of control over the vehicle, which many auto enthusiasts prefer. 

When the driver wants to drift, a manual transmission is helpful to execute what they call a ‘clutch kick.’ 

This is where the driver pushes down the clutch pedal with their left while the right foot hits the gas. Then, the driver drops the clutch. This delivers a lot of power to the drivetrain and spins the tires. 

Next, the manual tranny lets you skip gears, which is incredibly useful in some situations, especially in racing. If there is damage to the gearbox, it’s possible to skip that gear and continue racing. 

And of course, shifting the old manual way allows the driver a better sense of control. 


In the sports car world, there are paddle shift and stick shift fans. Which is right for you? There is no hard and faster answer to the question. Sometimes the best way is to take the car for a spin and see how you like both. Sports cars from different eras have vastly different transmissions, and going for a test drive is often the only way to decide. 

That said, there are new and used sports cars with stellar manual and paddle shift gearboxes. So, sometimes it can be challenging to pick!