Last post on Sep 09, 2001 at 5:57 PM
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#71 of 80 4 speed to 3 speed Hydramatic enabled more room
Aug 22, 2001 (11:12 am)
in the passenger compartment as the rear oil pump was eliminated. With the 4 Speed, the car was able to start under compression, but not with the 3 speed. Rather than using "P" the driver of the 4 speed put the directional lever in "R" and it stayed there. IMO the Hydramatic was the best. Powerglide behind the 235 'Blue Flame 6' engine was full of hope and using 1st was necessary. Olds used to be considered the 'experimental' car and was the first with the Hydramatic. Others included Hudson, Kaiser, Nash, and Lincoln as mentioned earlier. Packard's Ultramatic was an excellent tranny in its day also.
Aug 22, 2001 (11:50 am)
that would seem to make sense, as cars got lower and lower over the years that a bulky transmission would intrude more and more into the passenger cabin. I used to read through old issues of Consumer Reports in the library at college, and remember that, depending on the GM car you bought, sometimes the transmission hump and driveshaft tunnel would be shaped differently, I guess to accommodate whatever transmission was under there. I had a '69 Bonneville and currently have a '67 Catalina, and the transmission humps in both cars are pretty small.
#73 of 80 early 4 speed autos
Aug 22, 2001 (11:54 am)
I recall an article in C&D or R&T about a test drive of a late 40s mopar with a semi auto. It was more like a 2 speed auto bolted up to a 2 speed manual. You started in low range engaged using the clutch, as you accelerated there was a lag then a clunk when it went into second, after winding out second you depress the clutch and shift to high range, another lag as the auto section clunked into low (3rd) then the automatic upshift to 4th.
Aug 22, 2001 (12:02 pm)
That sounds about right. When I was a kid, my grandfather had a '53 DeSoto Firedome with a semi-automatic. I don't ever remember actually seeing the thing move, but it would end up in various parts of the yard from time to time, so I'm presuming it moved under its own power. But that's about how my grandfather described driving the thing. Around the time I turned 16, I had my eye on it, and of course he picked that time to sell it! I remember reading an old Consumer Reports road test of a '52 (I think) Firedome 'vert, and it was good for 0-60 in about 17 seconds. I remember them saying that the Hemi V-8 shaved about 4 seconds off the acceleration time of the old inline 6. I know it sounds pathetic today, but I guess for a 2-ton car with 160 hp (gross), that's not bad!
Aug 22, 2001 (2:00 pm)
Yes, that sounds like Fluid Drive...you had a column shift, with first gear selected by pushing the lever into what normally is the 2nd gear position on a 3 on the Tree setup. After revving that high perfomrance flathead to about 10 mph, you let off the gas, a solenoid clicked in, and viola! 2nd gear appeared without having to touch the lever. For third, you pulled the lever down, but you had to press down on the clutch pedal. (It had a clutch pedal just like a normal three speed car).
You could bring the car to a stop without removing it from gear, but you had to depress the clutch to go from reverse to first or from third to first, and to shift from one/two to three.
By this time, late 40s, early 50s, GM was just starting to come out with modern cars, and by 1955-56, GM had just about walked away from all its competitors--and continued to leave them in the dust for most of the early to mid 60s...until Mustang and the Mopar muscle cars came along.
#76 of 80 I always wondered...
Aug 22, 2001 (3:58 pm)
why they stopped using the Hydro and went to the early 3-speed Hydra-Matic (aka Roto-Hydramatic or "slim jim"). If I remember correctly (and I probably don't) the 4-speed Hydro had a low first gear because it didn't have a torque converter multiplying torque to get the car of the line.
The early Hydro really banged off those shifts but the '56-up Hydro was smoother. I had a '61 Bonneville with one and the two-three shift was really the only noticeable shift.
GMC light trucks also used the Hydro, at least through the '50s, and their optional V8 was the Pontiac.
The early 3-speed that replaced the 4-speed in most applications was nothing like the later Turbo-Hydramatic. It was kind of a cross between the Hydro and Turbo with a low 2.98:1 first gear and a small torque converter. Second was a normal ratio, about 1.5:1 so the gap between first and second was as wide as the Grand Canyon.
Bonnevilles and Star Chiefs were the last GM cars to use the four-speed Hydro, through '64. Olds and the junior Pontiacs used the slim jim from '61-64.
I don't know of any Ford four-speed ATs at least for cars.
#77 of 80 Mopar automatics
Aug 22, 2001 (9:33 pm)
I recall a female neighbor having a 1939 Chrysler Royal Opera coupe with sidemount spare tires and "Fluid Drive" script on the trunklid. As Mr Shiftright correctly states the shifting technique in his post. They were quite common in 1940 and 1941 Chrysler, DeSoto and Dodge cars. Plymouth remained a standard shift throughout the 40's and well into the 50's. I believe the '53 Plymouth was the first automatic of that make. Those fluid drive transmissions were extremely dependable and required very little maintenance. There were a number of attempts at clutchless/automatic transmissions over the years. One make, the "Premier" had a push button selector on the steering column in 1918. One pushed the buttons in the order desired and an electromagnetic transmission shifted gears. Reo used a magnetic clutch system in the Flying Cloud cars up until 1937 when they ceased production of passenger cars. There were many variations of all types where one could shift without using the clutch. Also remembered was a magazine ad for the 1937 Oldsmobile with the Hyrdamatic selector mounted on the right hand side of the steering column with a very stubby lever to change positions. Oldsmobile tended to be an experimental car on which new ideas were tested and some of those were moved to the other GM lines. In 1951 Chevrolet installed Powerglide in their cars, although it is believed to have been installed in the late 1950's models as well. The 1937 and 1938 Hudsons & Terraplanes had the 'Electric Hand' shifter on the the steering column. The small box in the pattern of an 'H' allowed the driver to shift through the gears without using the clutch. When the lever was moved through the pattern, a solenoid disengaged the clutch. This was apparently not too successful as it only appeared for two years. Hudson's confidence was reinforced as they provided a shift lever, which snapped into the floor mounted transmission with a ball and socket arrangement in the event that the 'Electric Hand' should fail. Ah progress.
Aug 23, 2001 (7:05 am)
Definately came with Powerglide as an option. They beat Ford to the punch by a year since Fordomatics didn't show until '51.
The Fluid Drives were pretty tough UNLESS a 16year old decided to see how fast he could get one to change gears! A VERY nice De Soto fell victim to a buddy of mine...too bad.
#79 of 80 I have a friend who used to own a '50 DeSoto
Aug 23, 2001 (7:20 am)
it had a flat-6, a 236, I believe. I think it put out about 112 hp (gross), and he had the Fluid Drive. I don't know how much that car would've weighed...3800 lb, maybe? I was suprised at how well the thing kept up with highway traffic though! It wouldn't set any 0-60 speed records, but it wouldn't hold up traffic either. We caravanned to a couple of car shows, and his '50 had no trouble keeping up with my '57, which has a 341 Hemi w/ 270 hp (gross). I'm guessing the '50 must've been geared just right, and, even though it didn't have much hp, still had enough torque.
#80 of 80 Model A Fords
Sep 09, 2001 (5:57 pm)
In the 1950's, Gen. Chuck Yeager drove a Model A Ford as his favorite car. He was a Colonel back then, and when he was sent to Germany he had it shipped over to drive while there. It was in mint condition.
If you don't recall who Yeager is, he was the AF test pilot who broke the speed of sound.
The suspension on Model A's was similar to the Model T because most roads had not been paved and they had to take potholes that a modern SUV driver would consider rough country. You might call the Model T and Model A the first SUV's.
I recall my dad telling me about having to change tires three or four times on a 45 mile trip which took most of a day. But it was so much better than driving a horse-drawn buggy and having to stop for the night,then continue on the next morning. Yes, that's how long it took to go 45 miles in the old days.
That's why pictures of really old cars show some with several tires strapped on the back.