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Interesting Facts and History about the Auto Transmission

Hydraulic Fluid Transmission Service

Your car won't go without a working transmission since it's in charge of the gears and connects the engine to the wheels. But there are some things you probably don't know about this integral part of your car. Check out these interesting historical facts about the auto transmission.


The Beginning

The automatic transmission as you know it today can first be traced back to the Sturtevant brothers in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1904. Their unit had 2 forward speeds that were engaged as the engine speed increased. The gearbox would shift back down as the vehicle slowed down. The invention still had a long way to go since it would commonly fail with no warning.


Model T

In 1908, Henry Ford carried out the next significant phase in developing the automatic transmission with his Model T. The Model T was affordable to the middle class and featured 2 speeds in addition to reverse. The driver controlled the transmission by using pedals. The driver still needed to know when to shift the gear, but it wasn't as demanding as the manual transmission.


Hydraulic Fluid Transmission

The start of the modern automatic transmission was invented by Canadian steam engineer Alfred Horner Munro in 1921, 13 years after Ford introduced the Model T. Munro obtained the patent from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States for his invention by 1927. However, since he was a steam engineer, his invention compressed air instead of hydraulic fluid. This made it lack the power to ever be applied commercially.


The first automatic transmission that used hydraulic fluid is generally thought to have been developed in 1932 by Brazilian engineers José Braz Araripe and Fernando Lehly Lemos. General Motors bought the prototype and plans and applied it to the 1940 Oldsmobile model, calling it a Hydra-Matic transmission. These transmissions were also applied to tanks built by GM for World War II and were further developed into the auto transmissions you know today.