Tips, Tricks & Trends

The Hydramatic Transmission is the Coolest Thing Since Sliced Bread

Whether or not you have heard the words “hydramatic transmission” before or not there, chances are you know what it is. The hydramatic transmission is one of the most important technological advances in modern automotive history. In fact, this special piece of machinery changed cars forever, and you probably have some version of it in your car today. Without realizing it, this innovation might actually be incredibly important to you.

The first automatic transmission

The hydramatic transmission was the first completely automatic transmission to be produced for consumer cars. Manual-transmission enthusiasts and purists might blame the automatic transmission for the death of the manual transmission. Regardless of personal opinion, the automatic transmission changed the automotive world forever, and it started with GM’s hydramatic transmission technology.

General Motors Powertrain Ypsilanti Transmission Operations | Bill Pugliano

Ditching the clutch pedal

Thanks to the Cadillac and Oldsmobile sectors of the GM corporation, the first fully-automatic transmission that went into mass production was designed. The hydramatic transmission was introduced for the first time with the Oldsmobile lineup as a test subject. The Oldsmobile cars at the time were a more popular platform and provided a larger audience for the experimental technology.

The GM brand also wasn’t very confident in the hydramatic transmission. They decided that they were more willing to sacrifice the Oldsmobile name in case the concept wasn’t well received. That makes Oldsmobile the first car brand that had a mass-produced, fully-automatic transmission.

The Button Up section of the General Motors Powertrain by Bill Pugliano

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It was well-received, obviously

People loved the convenience of the hydramatic transmission, and the rest was pretty much history. Automatic transmissions became all the rage, and more and more manufacturers stepped on to make their own. Since then, manual transmissions have become less and less common, but there are still plenty of new sports cars that you can buy with a stick shift.

It quickly spread from Oldsmobile to Cadillac, and then to Pontiac. Soon after companies like Buick and Chevrolet began developing and testing their own versions of automatic transmissions. In the early 1950s, even Rolls Royce was buying the rights to use the hydramatic transmission.

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GM’s gamble to mass-produce cars with the hydramatic transmission truly paid off. It wasn’t only a success for Oldsmobile, but also GM as a whole, and it changed the automotive world forever. Since the introduction of the hydramatic transmission, we’ve come to see many variations of an automatic transmission.

In fact, there are so many variations of the automatic transmission that are produced by so many companies that they are more common than not. The technology used for automatic transmissions have made shifting faster, maintenance easier, and driving just a little less stressful.