The Evolution of the Auto Transmission

May 3, 2018 Published by

The transmission connects the gear box, which moves your wheels, to the motor of your car. This essential piece of equipment is, unfortunately, the Achilles heel of many vehicles and their owners. Thankfully, transmissions have advanced substantially since their initial inception, and are becoming more and more reliable with each iteration. In fact, with proper maintenance and care, even older model transmissions can last for decades. Working with an auto shop specializing in transmission repair in Minneapolis, MN is a great way to make the most of your transmission’s lifespan.

Many cars, particularly older cars, rely on manually manipulated transmission today. Manual transmissions rely on a clutch and a hand-held gear shifter to disengage the engine from the gear box and change the gears the engine interacts with. The first iteration of the “automatic” transmission, however, was invented in 1921 by a Canadian railway engineer.

Since then, automatic transmissions, which require no intervention on behalf of the driver, have become increasingly ubiquitous. Today, most commercially sold vehicles rely on an automatic transmission system.

Here’s a brief history of the automatic transmission as we know it:

  • First commercial transmission: In 1937, General Motors (GM) introduced the first commercially available semi-automatic transmission, the Automatic Safety Transmission. This allowed GM to maintain a stronger share of the automobile industry, because it made driving substantially easier.
  • Hydra-Matic: In the 1940s, GM capitalized on the success of the Automatic Safety Transmission by introducing the Hydra-Matic, the world’s first commercially available fully automatic transmission system. This system grew in popularity until the arrival of World War II led to a change in driving habits.
  • Three-speed competition: Following the close of World War II, the American economy entered into an unprecedented boom. This led to a surge in demand for cars with automatic transmissions, despite their high cost. Studebaker and Ford pursued development of their own two- and three-speed transmissions, and Chrysler and other automakers purchased Hydra-Matics from GM.
  • Torque converters and further changes: In the 1960s, Ford and other companies began to develop torque converters, which are still commonly used in automobiles today. With this advance in technology, automatic transmissions became increasingly ubiquitous across the consumer auto market. This change, coupled with four- and five-speed automatic technology, led to today’s market prevalence.
  • Today’s advances: As electric motors become increasingly common, our relationship to transmissions is changing. Electric motors often operate at torque, meaning that there isn’t a transmission in the traditional sense within many modern cars. Gas vehicles are now coming with fuel-efficient automatic transmissions pre-installed.

For more than four decades, Quality Coaches, Inc. has been a trusted provider of transmission repair in Minneapolis, MN. We take a tremendous amount of pride in our ability to provide each and every one of our clients with sensible repair options that help them make the most of their vehicles. We specialize in caring for vintage vehicles and race cars. Regardless of the type of vehicle you drive and the status of its transmission, you can rely on us to provide you with workable transmission repair solutions.

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This post was written by Sharon Morgan

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