DiscardedYKTTW Gear Shift Speed Surge YKTTW Discussion

Gear Shift Speed Surge
Changing gears in a vehicle makes it go even faster.
Needs Examples Motion To Discard Tropeworthy? Tropeworthy?
(permanent link) added: 2011-11-06 01:28:38 sponsor: Statalyzer edited by: Statzkeen (last reply: 2014-06-19 09:17:13)

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""The pod race in the film suffers from a common trope, in which characters needing to go somewhere really fast head off in their vehicle. At some point they realise they're not going to make it in time, so they open the throttle all the way and go even faster. The question of course being why weren't they going as fast as they possibly could already?"
Darths & Droids Episode 105, Burning Bridges

During a car chase or race, if a driver already at top speed needs to go even faster, that's not a problem — just shift gears, move the throttle level, and/or stomp on the gas, and the vehicle will suddenly surge forward with a new top speed. In any case, the crucial element here is that the vehicle should have already been going at max speed, yet for dramatic effect, they use some some of speed or rev control to go even faster at the crucial moment. If there is a reason they were still speeding up - they had previously slowed to go around a bend, hadn't been moving long enough to get up to speed yet, or were cruising with no need for hurry until hearing about an emergency - then it isn't this trope. If all indications were that they were already going the fastest they could have gone, then it is.

It doesn't matter what type of vehicle is involved; the mere act of changing gears is enough to make the car, motorboat, or hypergalactic spaceship suddenly hit Ludicrous Speeds. This frequently occurs when the driver is in a Cool Car, but can also happen for comedic value in a Rice Burner or The Alleged Car. A sudden change in the engine noise's volume or frequency - even a totally illogical one - usually accompanies the gear shift.

Of course, this doesn't work in Real Life; the transmission is not a magic lever that makes you drive faster. And a moment's thought will make it clear that a character who was already in a hurry should've been going as fast as they can before the gear change. In fiction, however, a Gear Shift Speed Surge is a convenient way to add drama to a race, or to Hand Wave the driver's sudden speed increase.

Subtrope of Overdrive. Also see Traveling at the Speed of Plot.


  • In an Indy Car themed commerical for Miller beer, we see Bobby Rahal doing some test laps. When he sees a hot chick in the stands, he changes gears, whereupon his car suddenly goes faster and turns into a rocket jet. Don't ask how that's supposed to sell beer.

Anime & Manga
  • Happens about once a minute in Speed Racer, complete with pointless stomping on the accelerator pedal.

  • Happens in The Phantom Menace during the podrace.
  • Happens multiple times in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. In this case, it is particularly absurd; NASCAR regulations do a great job of ensuring that all the cars perform exactly the same.
  • This is how the parking lot chase scene in the first Back to the Future ends.
    Marty: "Let's see if you bastards can do 90!"
  • Happens all the time in The Fast and the Furious movies.
  • Occurs in Wreck-It Ralph during the qualifying race for "Sugar Rush". Vanellope is racing up a spiral when three racers ahead of her start lighting bombs to blow up the track; she shifts gears and gets a speed boost that puts her just ahead of the explosions.
  • The Road Warrior: Max's V8-Interceptor has a turbocharger that makes it the fastest vehicle* on the road. However, it gulps too much fuel to use except in an emergency.
  • Mitchell uses this trope but falls prey to Special Effects Failure. During a car chase, Mitchell downshifts two or three times to gain more speed, but the shots of the car's interior make it clear he's driving an automatic transmission.
  • *In Shark Attack 3: Megalodon operators of boats attempting to speed up would have an almost guaranteed closeup of their hands shoving the throttle of the boat up into the maximum power position.
  • Multiple examples in The Terminator and Terminator 2 with Reese, the T-100, or the T-1000 flooring the accelerator pedal in a zoomed shot of their foot during pursuits.
  • Also several examples of hands engaging afterburners of fighter planes in both Top Gun and Iron Eagle.

Live-Action TV
  • Almost an every episode occurrence in The Dukes of Hazzard while either Bo or Luke is driving the General Lee; often leading to Slo-Mo Big Air.
  • The opening sequence of the TV series CHiPs had a useless example of this trope where it was necessary for the camera, which spends much of the opening showing Ponch and Jon riding side by side on the freeway, to suddenly zoom in on one of the cops gloved hands pulling the clutch in, immediately followed by a shot of a booted foot stepping on the gear shifter. It was already more than obvious the motorcycles were moving quickly and so didn't need the visual validation provided by the controls being messed with.

Role-Playing Games
  • Averted in Warhammer 40K: the Deff Skwadron comic shows that while ork fighters have clutches and gear changes, they never use them, relying only on the gas pedal.

Web Comics
  • Darths & Droids points out the use of this trope in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The webcomic explains it in their strip as the use of overdrive, but says that the film itself never offers this explanation.

Real Life
  • In Real Life, it's not upshifting that speeds you up, but downshifting; you accelerate faster at lower gears, at the cost of your mileage and top speed. This sort of downshift acceleration can happen often in auto races, and drivers that do it too frequently pay with an extra pit stop.
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