- Jay Traugot
THESE WERE THE FINAL ITALIAN SUPERCARS WITH A PROPER MANUAL GEARBOX
They were the last of the modern era Italian-built mainstream supercars that offered a manual transmission. When we say 'mainstream' we mean not a boutique brand like Pagani. But they’re gone now. Discontinued. Their respective successors all come equipped with automatic or dual-clutch transmissions and two pedals. Heel-and-toe style shifting is now a thing of the past, at least when it comes to Italian supercars. On the one hand, Ferrari and Lamborghini were the super pioneers. Heck, the world’s first declared supercar was the Lamborghini Miura. But why doesn’t either brand still do manuals?
Because the very nature of supercars is to not only push performance boundaries but technical ones as well. If there’s a new and better piece of technology available, why not use it? That’s precisely what these companies have done, and they’re not alone. Sure, you can get a Porsche 911 GT3 with a manual today, but it doesn’t carry the same level of exotic splendor as a Ferrari and Lamborghini. So here they are, the final four, listed in no particular order.
Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
Launched in 2007 and retired in 2012, the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano came powered by a naturally aspirated 6.0-liter V12 with 612 hp and 448 lb-ft of torque, all of which was directed to the rear wheels through Ferrari’s F1 sequential gearbox. Or, alternatively, one could opt for a traditional six-speed manual. Well, they could at least try to. Ferrari was anxious to put the manual behind it for good in favor of its fast-shifting F1 gearbox, so it decided to build gated manual-equipped 599s in very low numbers. How low? Try just 30 examples, of which 20 were sent to the US. The remaining 10 stayed in Europe.
So, are there deals to be found here? Are you kidding!? Again because this is a Ferrari we’re talking about here, and a very rare one at that, a surviving manual 599 is anything but cheap. For example, back in 2014 a manual 599 sold at auction for over three times the price a more common paddle shift example would’ve cost. Welcome to the world of Ferrari.
This Raging Bull launched in 2001 and was the first Lamborghini built under Volkswagen’s ownership of the brand. Initially it came powered by a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V12 with 572 hp and 479 lb-ft, but was later enlarged to a 6.5-liter V12 with 641 hp and 490 lb-ft. The Super Veloce has 661 hp and 490 lb-ft. Best of all, every variation of the Murcielago could be had with either a six-speed manual or the six-speed semi-automatic E-Gear automatic. The six-speed died upon the Aventador’s arrival. But imagine having up to 661 hp that required a manual to direct it to all four wheels. That’s something you won’t find in a new supercar anymore, at least from a mainstream supercar brand.
Next up is the Ferrari F430, the predecessor to the 458 Italia. It succeeded the somewhat lackluster 360 Modena and was a far better supercar in every way. Powered by a mid-engined 4.3-liter V8 with 483 hp and 343 lb-ft of torque, it was mated to that now highly sought after six-speed. Like with the 599 GTO, the F1 gearbox was optional. However, it’s not like Ferrari made a ton of manual-equipped F430s, though not nearly at the miniscule output of manual 599s. About 90 percent of F430s came with the paddle shift gearbox. A total of about 3,327 F430 coupes and 4,094 F430 Spiders were built, so do the math. There’s a decent number still out there, but you’ll have to pay a premium compared to the paddle shift-equipped F430s, which start off at around $100,000.
Last but not least is the Lamborghini Gallardo, the most successful Lamborghini to date sales wise, though its Huracan successor will soon overtake it. But unlike the Huracan, you could get the Gallardo with a six-speed manual. The other gearbox option was the six-speed semi-automatic, aka the E-Gear, which was also offered in the Murcielago. To Lamborghini’s full credit, the Gallardo could be had with a manual up until the end of its life, in 2013. Even the hardcore Superleggera could be had with a manual as a no cost option.
But perhaps the best Gallardo was not the most powerful one, but rather the purest. We’re talking about the Balboni Edition, named for Lamborghini’s famous and now retired test driver Valentino Balboni. The Gallardo Balboni was rear-wheel, as opposed to the typical all-wheel drive, with power being sent to the rear through a six-speed manual. Sound tempting? It is, but be prepared to cough up a hefty premium over most other Gallardos.
Since the day of manuals things havnt been that bad. Sure you cant get a Lamborghini or Ferrari with a 6-speed option, but if you want a manual there are still pleanty of options still out there like the Dodge Viper, Porsche Cayman GT4, Aston Martin V12 Vantage S, Corvette Z06, and others! The truth is, the F1-style gearbox is the way of the future for performance reasons and so we will see a lot more duel-clutch options in the future. But dont worry, for the stick driving purists out there, there will almost always be options out there for shifting into gear the old fashion way.