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Author Topic: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions  (Read 716 times)

arcticfox2005

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The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« on: October 14, 2020, 01:03:18 PM »
The 2020 Toyota Rav4 that we just bought is the LE model which is the most basic of apparently 10 different trim levels.

However, the electronics installed are in overabundance and as I mentioned in an earlier post, the Owners Manual is 736 pages long and a full inch thick.

Now go back to 1964. My first wife and I had just bought a new Ford Falcon and it had a 2-speed automatic transmission. Our honeymoon trip was to Colorado and I can vividly recall the experience of going over some of the mountain passes. Back then, eighteen wheelers did not have the turbocharged monster engines they have today and they were SLOW going up those grades.
However, they were consistently passing me. Think of it - when you are climbing a 10% grade and you only have two gears, that means you are in 1st.
To give the Falcon credit though, it did eventually top out.

Now, the contrast with today. Our Rav4, the most basic model, has a transmission that is a true work of art - so smooth that shifts are almost undetectable. And, it is an 8-speed.

So look at the evolution - we have gone from a optional 2-speed to a standard equipment 8-speed. Pretty impressive.

Is there anyone else out there that was dumb enough to buy a new car with a 2-speed auto? Did you also have a bicycle on your rear bumper waiting for an opportunity to pass?

Bill

wackymac

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2020, 04:09:23 PM »
I had a "used car" with a 3 speed automatic.  Nobody passed me going up the hills. (see avatar)
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John From Detroit

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2020, 04:46:26 PM »
Have driiven 3,4 and 5 speed auto's never a two. Have driven 3,4,5,10 and 15 speed sticks
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Isaac-1

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2020, 05:21:47 PM »
Wackymac, back in the 1980's there was a guy that lived near here whose family had a lot of money who owned one of the fastest cars in the area, it was a Volkswagen Beetle, with an engine out of Porsche race car, I think a 1973 RSR 
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Larry N.

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2020, 05:32:30 PM »
The old Chevy Powerglide transmission (1959-60 vintage) was a two speed, and with the 283ci V-8 it did fairly decent, though most cars of that era also needed a timing adjustment (at least) to run more smoothly and with a bit better power when in the high country. If you lived in the high conutry, you probably rejetted your carb (or the dealer did).

The Buick Dynaflow of that era, though no powerhouse, was about as smooth as they come.
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2020, 11:33:52 AM »
My first car, a '48 Dodge club coupe, was actually a one-speed automatic.  It had a typical 3-speed manual tranny with clutch, coupled to a "Fluid Drive" torque converter so you didn't have to push the clutch in at rest  if you wanted.   It could literally start from a standing stop in 3rd gear and it (eventually) achieved street or highway speed. Being a young fellow I typically used the manual shifter, but the Fluid Drive was handy on a date.  ;)   Or on really slippery roads - it  couldn't spin the wheels hard enough to lose traction.

I swapped the Dodge a couple years later for a '56 Olds with a 4-speed "Hydramatic" - what an incredible difference!
« Last Edit: October 15, 2020, 11:37:38 AM by Gary RV_Wizard »
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Arch Hoagland

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2020, 11:41:07 AM »
My first car, a '48 Dodge club coupe, was actually a one-speed automatic.  It had a typical 3-speed manual tranny with clutch, coupled to a "Fluid Drive" torque converter so you didn't have to push the clutch in at rest  if you wanted.   It could literally start from a standing stop in 3rd gear and it (eventually) achieved street or highway speed. Being a young fellow I typically used the manual shifter, but the Fluid Drive was handy on a date.  ;)   Or on really slippery roads - it  couldn't spin the wheels hard enough to lose traction.

I swapped the Dodge a couple years later for a '56 Olds with a 4-speed "Hydramatic" - what an incredible difference!


Took my first drivers test in a 1952 Dodge with that transmission.
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Larry N.

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2020, 12:20:22 PM »
Quote
My first car, a '48 Dodge club coupe, was actually a one-speed automatic.  It had a typical 3-speed manual tranny with clutch, coupled to a "Fluid Drive" torque converter so you didn't have to push the clutch in at rest  if you wanted.

I had one of those briefly -- it was a very interesting setup and, as you say, handy at times, but I wasn't fond of the car overall.

When I was a kid, one of my friends' dad had a 1937 Cord. That had a very interesting arrangement. The gear selection lever (see picture linked) was moved to the next gear you want, then operate the clutch:
https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.classiccarstodayonline.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2013%2F05%2F1938-Cord-transmission-lever.jpg&f=1&nofb=1
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Isaac-1

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2020, 01:21:05 PM »
It is amazing how much cars have changed, while I am younger than many here, I did once own a 1956 Chevy pickup truck, with 235 inline 6 cylinder engine and a 3 speed manual transmission. It included such wonderful features as vacuum powered windshield wipers, which had the amazing feature of coming to a stop if one tried to accelerate while going uphill or if one were to try to pass another vehicle.    It also had the floor mounted foot starter button.
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Molaker

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2020, 01:49:57 PM »
We had a '48 Chrysler then a '53 Desoto and both had a 2-speed semi-automatic transmission. It had a clutch which was really only used for going into reverse and back to Drive. In Drive, you would take off in low gear and when you reached the appropriate speed of about 25-30 mph unless you were a teenage kid. Then you would let off the accelerator and wait for the "clunk" as it shifted into high. If you stabbed it, it would downshift into low for passing. I had the Desoto (Fire Dome V8) up to 90 mph once in 1st gear. And, if you used the clutch, you could burn out...a little.
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Roy M

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2020, 09:35:39 PM »
Drad racers actually liked the 2 speed Powerglide for it's low first gear but many of the early slush pumps left a lot to be desired. My dads 55 Dodge with the Powerflite was one of them.


TheBar

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2020, 09:41:54 AM »
We had a VW, a Honda, and a Chevy with 2 speed automatic transmissions. All of them took forever to gain speed or go uphill. The Chevy Powerglide is still a favorite with drag racers because they are almost indestructible.
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2020, 09:42:24 AM »
As I recall, the '55 Chrysler Corp cars had a vertical shift lever on the dash.   Then in '56 they went to the pushbutton shifter.
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Molaker

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2020, 10:07:32 AM »
As I recall, the '55 Chrysler Corp cars had a vertical shift lever on the dash.   Then in '56 they went to the pushbutton shifter.
One of my embarrassing moments in life...Dad bought a '58 Plymouth Savoy that had the push button transmission shifter on the dash to the left of the steering column. I was 16 or 17 and was taking a cousin and my younger brother for a ride. Chrysler had been advertising their new transmission by showing a highway patrol demonstrating how they could turn around more quickly on a narrow road by punching it into reverse while they were still traveling forward and it would not go into reverse until they were nearly stopped as they made their turn. It would shift into reverse then while they were wrestling the steering wheel and they could punch it to back up and then quickly go into drive to go forward and catch the speeder. I was bragging to my cousin about this feature and to show it off, I punched it into reverse at about 30 mph. Wham! Bark, bark bark! It went into reverse immediately with the rear wheel jumping up and down as the springs wrapped then sprung back, with the tires barking rubber as they jumped up and down. Whew! Nothing broke. But, my cousin laughed, laughed at me.
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Roy M

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2020, 10:41:54 AM »
 ;D LMAO! Occasionally I see J hooks on the road where junior pinned mom's car in reverse then slammed it into drive. Gary is correct, the 55 had a lever sticking out of the dash. The later Chryslers had the infamous typewriter shifter.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2020, 10:45:44 AM by Roy M »

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #16 on: October 16, 2020, 10:46:43 AM »
The Chrysler Poweflite auto tranny was not very sophisticated in those days, literally decades behind GM's automatics (even the lowly Chevy Powerglide was superior) and short of the Fordomatic too, but the darn thing was super-robust and could handle that sort of abuse.
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Arch Hoagland

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2020, 11:34:38 AM »
One of my embarrassing moments in life...Dad bought a '58 Plymouth Savoy that had the push button transmission shifter on the dash to the left of the steering column. I was 16 or 17 and was taking a cousin and my younger brother for a ride. Chrysler had been advertising their new transmission by showing a highway patrol demonstrating how they could turn around more quickly on a narrow road by punching it into reverse while they were still traveling forward and it would not go into reverse until they were nearly stopped as they made their turn. It would shift into reverse then while they were wrestling the steering wheel and they could punch it to back up and then quickly go into drive to go forward and catch the speeder. I was bragging to my cousin about this feature and to show it off, I punched it into reverse at about 30 mph. Wham! Bark, bark bark! It went into reverse immediately with the rear wheel jumping up and down as the springs wrapped then sprung back, with the tires barking rubber as they jumped up and down. Whew! Nothing broke. But, my cousin laughed, laughed at me.

I had a 1963 Dodge Polara with the pushbutton transmission and did the same thing, pushed the reverse button while going forward at about 10 mph.

I was really surprised when it went into reverse!! 

Must have been a pretty strong transmission to be able to do that.
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TheBar

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2020, 06:38:48 PM »
Even Ford had push button transmissions starting with the 1957 Merc-o-Matic and Edsel in 1958.
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Roy M

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2020, 09:56:51 PM »
My buddy has a 58 Edsel with the push buttons in the center of the steering wheel. He had some fun finding a replacement shift motor. The typewriter automatics generally worked until the cable jacket frayed/deteriorated and moisture got in.

Larry N.

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #20 on: October 17, 2020, 07:58:25 AM »
As I recall, the '55 Chrysler Corp cars had a vertical shift lever on the dash.   Then in '56 they went to the pushbutton shifter.
Searching the web I see many references that say what you say, but my maternal granddad had what I'm sure was a '55 with the push buttons. My grandmother drove it until the late '80s when she quit driving (she died at 102). Still, it's possible that I was mis-informed for all those years, and it's definite that it wasn't the lever on the dash.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2020, 08:12:21 AM by Larry N. »
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56safari

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #21 on: October 17, 2020, 09:38:23 AM »
One version of the Chrysler fluid drive was actually a four speed.  My parents 1949 Desoto had it.  With the shifter in what on a three speed is second, you had first and second .  With the shifter in the third gear position you had third and fourth.  Could start in either from a dead stop without the clutch thanks to the fluid coupling, but needed to use the clutch pedal to go from the low range (shifter up) to high Range (shifter down).  They are commonly known as "Clunk - a - matics" because the shift that occurred when you let off the gas to go from first to second or third to fourth were both slow and noisy!

Larry, don't feel too bad about missing the year on the Dodge.  Grandparents had a 1955 with the shifter on the dash and my folks had a 1956 with the pushbutton.  The only difference between the two was the trim on the side and the "fins" on the back fenders.  Interiors were identical except for the shifters.
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56safari

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #22 on: October 17, 2020, 09:41:30 AM »
1956 Dodge
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Chet18013

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #23 on: October 17, 2020, 10:30:23 AM »
I had a 1942 O)Oldsmobile that had a 3 speed hydramatic transmission. The  transmission was great, but the engine kept on blowing head gaskets. I would put in a new head gasket every 3-4 weeks.

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docj

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #24 on: October 17, 2020, 10:39:42 AM »
Have driiven 3,4 and 5 speed auto's never a two. Have driven 3,4,5,10 and 15 speed sticks

The 1954 Ford that I drove during high school had a 2-speed "Ford-a-matic" transmission.  The 3-speed Cruise-a-matic wasn't yet available.

FWIW our 2020 Subaru Outback has a CVT that "emulates" an 8-speed transmission.  It actually has paddle shifters that let you shift through the 8-gears!
« Last Edit: October 17, 2020, 10:41:25 AM by docj »
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8Muddypaws

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #25 on: October 17, 2020, 09:20:55 PM »
One of our 'surf buggies' in Newport Beach was an old DeSoto with a safety clutch.  As I remember the transmission went out a couple of times.  Fun car though.  Back in those days a short board was 8'6" and we could get 4 of them in the trunk and back seat and still have room in the back for a passenger.  It was a big car.
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PopPop51

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #26 on: October 18, 2020, 04:40:03 AM »
The first car we bought after we got married was a 1977 Honda Civic that had a 2-speed semi-automatic. It had a torque converter so it had no clutch, but you had to shift it manually. Had a manual choke, too.
It was tiny and slow, but a hoot to drive around town. It only weighed about 1700 pounds, so the 60 horsepower CVCC engine could get it moving pretty quickly, at least up to about 30 mph.
I even autocrossed and gymkhana'd it in street trim. With the stock 2-ply bias/belted tires it understeered like a bear though. But after I put a pair of much gripper Continental radials on the front the front gripped so much better than the back I could pivot it around the cones at will, especially with a quick grab on the hand brake.
It eventually succumbed to the needs of a growing family, giving way to a 1984 Dodge minivan (another great vehicle) but we miss it to this day.
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Ex-Calif

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #27 on: October 18, 2020, 04:57:58 AM »
I put the 400 CID w/ "Powerslide" from an Impala in a 76 Datsun Pick up. Does that count?

I think the 8 speed transmissions are great for the urban suv crowd. For my "working" vehicles (trucks and 4wd) and sports cars I still prefer a manual gearbox and a clutch.
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8Muddypaws

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #28 on: October 18, 2020, 09:08:11 AM »
I put the 400 CID w/ "Powerslide" from an Impala in a 76 Datsun Pick up. Does that count?

I think the 8 speed transmissions are great for the urban suv crowd. For my "working" vehicles (trucks and 4wd) and sports cars I still prefer a manual gearbox and a clutch.

Did you live in the San Jose area?  I think I saw your truck a few times.
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TheBar

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Re: The Evolution of Automatic Transmissions
« Reply #29 on: October 18, 2020, 09:57:42 AM »
I put the 400 CID w/ "Powerslide" from an Impala in a 76 Datsun Pick up. Does that count?

I think the 8 speed transmissions are great for the urban suv crowd. For my "working" vehicles (trucks and 4wd) and sports cars I still prefer a manual gearbox and a clutch.
How did the pick up conversion work out? I bought a 73 Triumph Spitfire that had a 3.8 Buick V6 with a 5 speed conversion. It under-steered like crazy but was loads of fun going straight. I've owned many English sports cars but this one was the best daily driver. Mainly because whoever did the conversion installed the A/C off the donor car. It got over 45 mpg on the highway. Lest I forget it also got rid of the #@&% Lucas electronics.
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