We resume our Ford Cruise-O-Matic transmission coverage today, as the original two- and three-speed automatics of the Fifties transition into the new C family. C transmissions were designed to be lighter (aluminum) and more efficient than their cast iron predecessors. The wonder of alloys!
In our last entry, we covered the first two C transmissions, the C4 (1964-1981) and C6 (1966-1996). Since we’re proceeding chronologically, we step back to Cruise-O-Matic for a moment, and a mix-and-match transmission: FMX.
Last time on our Abandoned History coverage of Ford’s historical Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission, we spent some time in Russia. Communist automaker GAZ liked Ford’s automatic and decided to lightly rework it into their “own” transmission rather than pay Ford to build it under license. The GAZ two- and three-speed automatics remained in use in the company’s passenger cars well into the Eighties, which was a very long time for a late Fifties transmission to live.
Shortly after GAZ made its copies, the real versions of the FX/MX Cruise-O-Matic and Ford-O-Matic were nearing the end of their respective service lives. The two-speed was naturally the first to go.
We pick up our Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission coverage again today, as Ford’s first mass-produced gearbox found its stride in the Fifties. As consumers turned toward automatic transmissions in their two- and four-door domestic iron, they also turned toward more powerful V8 engines and big chrome bumpers and tail fins. Detroit’s manufacturers had to respond, and Ford’s answer was a second-generation Ford-O-Matic, the FX and MX. Both transmissions were marketed under the new Cruise-O-Matic moniker, while a new generation two-speed auto became the bargain basement Ford-O-Matic.
As we discussed in our last entry, in 1957 and 1958 Ford offered fiddly Keyboard Control. The whiz-bang new feature meant the Cruise-O-Matic was operated by confusingly marked dash-mounted buttons on select Mercury vehicles. And while Keyboard Control was limited to Mercury, an even worse version of the same idea was reserved for Edsel.
We continue our Abandoned History coverage of the Ford Cruise-O-Matic transmission today, shortly after the three-speed automatic established itself as a reliable motivation source for Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury products. Developed by the Warner Gear division of Borg-Warner, the new automatic caught Ford up to the competition as far as an automatic offering was concerned. Efficient and economical to build, Studebaker got in on the Cruise-O-Matic action for their cars too.
After the box proved itself on Ford and Mercury cars, it spread to the luxurious ’55 Lincoln lineup where it replaced the four-speed GM Hydra-Matic. We pick up there, as efforts got underway to improve upon the original Borg-Warner design and add whiz-bang features. This entry doesn’t end up where you’d expect.
As we finished up our coverage of General Motors’ Turbo-Hydramatic family of transmissions, I asked which gearbox you might like to see covered next by Abandoned History. The comments honed in on Ford, and the various versions of the C family of automatics. Fine by me! Today we head back to the Fifties to learn about the genesis of all the Cs. It was the extremely Fifties-sounding Cruise-O-Matic, built with pride in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The manual transmission isn’t dead. But it appears to be dying. Now Munich is making sure everybody knows BMW has a hand in the demise of the third pedal.
At the traditional core of BMW’s U.S. lineup, the manual transmission 7 Series disappeared three decades ago. So foreign is a manual shifter to buyers in the full-size luxury limo category, this seems entirely natural.
M models aside, the U.S. market lost BMW 5 Series manual transmission availability after the 2014 model year.
“Across the world, virtually all of our 3 Series models and above already have automatic transmissions,” BMW sales boss Ian Robertson tells Car And Driver.
“We will certainly see fewer and fewer manual transmissions being offered,” says Robertson.
Ultimate Driving Machine?
Newly published emissions certification documents on the California Air Resources Board website now confirm the existence of the Buick Regal TourX wagon — and much, much more.
The CARB documents show GM’s 250+ horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder powering both front- and all-wheel-drive Regal hatchbacks, plus the anticipated all-wheel-drive-only TourX wagon.
But how AWD Regals get their power to the wheels diverges from the script.
Oddball gearboxes have been around forever. Cord’s 810 had a Wilson preselector back in the 1930s, Chrysler had the the mid-century pushbutton PowerFlite, and Oldsmobile was throwing Hurst Lighting Rods into its H/O cars in the 1980s. However, the overwhelming majority of automatic and manual transmissions have come with a strikingly familiar column or floor-mounted shifter. More recently, automakers have become a little more experimental.
Modern electronics allowed for an influx of paddle shifters, followed by an array of gear selectors that seem to serve aesthetics more than basic function. Knobs, buttons and joysticks are replacing traditional designs, occasionally at the expense of consumer safety.
(Update: Specifications for the 2.5-liter engine have been added.)
Dynamic Force. It sounds like the name of a military offensive from the early 2000s, but it’s also the name of Toyota’s next-generation gasoline powerplants.
The automaker has revealed the first of a slew of new engines that should power 60 percent of its vehicles within five years. Oh, and there’s new transmissions and hybrid components to go with them.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ferrari has officially added its name to the list of automakers that will no longer offer a manual transmission.
The company’s chief technology officer, Michael Hugo Leiters, explained the decision at the Paris Auto Show last week, citing performance and technology as the motivating factors.
With the 2025 industry-wide fuel economy target of 54.5 mpg a decade away, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne believes “the house will make it” as far as all under the Chrysler Group umbrella are concerned, with a little help from hybridization of a number of models.
For five decades, the powerplant of choice for Truck Mountain has been the venerable V8. With powerful V6 engines from Ford, General Motors and Ram being favored for more and more consumers of full-size pickups, however, the V8 could soon find itself occupying a smaller niche along the mountain.
In the United States, most vehicles leaving the showroom today come with some form of shifting that involves very little, if any, input from the driver, from the dual-clutch driven Porsche 918 Spyder, to the CVT-powered Nissan Versa Sedan.
In the United Kingdom, however, the manual is still king.
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