- Helping you drive happy

Handbrake heartache

A further disconnect from the cars we drive By ,

The boys from Top Gear UK are officially back, and four episodes into their 19th season they touched on a great subject during one of their news segments: the handbrake.

Here’s the issue: The era of the cable handbrake is quickly coming to an end. The e-brake is taking over and it pains me to see it happen. No more gripable handbrake you can yank up with a satisfying “click-click-click-crank;” no more double-handed release (in my case, after the brake has been deployed by someone stronger than I), no more handbrake J-turns (as taught on Canada’s Worst Driver).

Just a button to click.

How horribly boring. How horribly controlled. How horribly unattractive.

And that’s what the three gents from TG UK were on about: The handbrake can be a bit of an aphrodisiac when it comes to impressing women in a vehicle. I can attest to that fact: My husband showed his skills with a handbrake on multiple occasions; which can be used to regain control of steering in a slide and overcome ABS when needed. The ring on my finger tells the rest.

It’s kind of like watching the guitarist from a band play you a solo riff; or having an artist paint your portrait. You feel like you’re getting a private show of his talents; that he’s showing you a side of himself he doesn’t show often (ha ha). And it’s not quite the same if that guitarist is playing you a riff on Rock Band or the artist is swiping your photo on an iPad.

Sometimes technology is not the answer.

There are those who might refer to the use of a cable handbrake for driving as hooliganism. However, it can be good fun (and safe) under the right circumstances, and is actually a good skill to have which is why it’s taught in performance driving schools and winter driving courses. I’m always disappointed when I come into a car that features a button marked “P” and no handbrake lever in sight -- especially in the winter.

And then it gets me thinking about all the other electronic gadgets and nannies that exist in today’s vehicles and it makes me sad all over again.

On the rare occasion I get to drive my personal vehicle, a ’04 Subaru WRX, I’m reminded of what it was like to drive a car before the technological era took over -- and my car isn’t even that old. Yet, blissfully, I have a hydraulic clutch (none of this electronic BS) and a proper handbrake. I even have a tape player (useless, but still!). No Bluetooth. No navigation. No distractions. Just me, the gears, the turbo, and my full-time AWD base. No fancy hi-tech stuff happening in the background that I can’t control.

So, this loss of a real handbrake really makes me a bit depressed. We are removing ourselves from what makes driving cars so much fun: that connection. And makes me sad for all those up-and-coming teenage boys who’ll want to impress their dates with their handbrake skills, and instead will have to resort to showing off how quickly they can connect their iPhones to their Bluetooth systems.

It’s just not as impressive. Trust me; I’m a girl, I know.

Photo: Sébastien D'Amour