When Hydra-Matic was new


I believe that Oldsmobile first offered the Hydramatic as an option in 1940. The first Oldsmobile I saw with Hydramatic was a 1941 model. The Cadillac offered the Hydramatic before WW Ii. Hydramatic was an option beginning in 1948 on Pontiacs

. That year, 85% of the 8 cylinder Pontiacs sold were equipped with Hydramatic and 50% of the 6 cylinder Pontiacs were sold with Hydramatic.
GM sold the Hydramatic transmissions to other manufacturers. In mid 1949, the Lincoln could be purchased with the GM Hydramatic. The independent manufacturers, Nash, Hudson, and Kaiser/Frazer offered the Hydramatic as an option.
In my opinion, Chevrolet and Buick should have used the Hydramatic instead of the rather inefficient Powerglide and Dynaflow transmissions. The reason GM gave for not using the Hydramatic in the Chevrolet and Buick was that these models used the torque tube drive enclosed driveshaft, while the Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac used the open driveshafts. The reasoning was that the shifts could be felt more easily with the torque tube drive. However, I rode in a 1950 Nash and drove a 1956 Rambler equipped with Hydramatic. Both of these vehicles had torque tube drive and the shifts between gears didn’t feel any different than other cars with open driveshafts equipped with Hydramatic.


As an addendum, I want to point out that the Hydra-Matic transmission was integral part of the Oldsmobile Valiant model (Yes, GM used that name long before Chrysler did!), which was an Olds that was specially adapted for disabled veterans. In addition to the then-new automatic transmission, disabled veterans could order an Olds with 5 different variations on the controls, depending on the exact nature of their disability.



Thanks for that article. Must have missed it. I knew there was a reason I always liked olds. Interesting when we visited Hyde park, they
talked about how much fdr liked to drive, but only on the grounds. A local mechanic had outfitted his car for hand controls.

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Rolls Royce used the Hydramatic in their cars for years.

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The very obtrusive shifts of the original hydramatic would definitely have not been acceptable to Buick purchasers. They were spending a lot of money for a premium automobile that promised a very smooth unobtrusive ride. Chevy purchasers, ummmm- not so much.

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While the only GM car that I ever owned was a Chevy, I always liked Oldsmobiles more than any other GM make. Maybe it was the fact that Olds was usually the innovative member of the GM family, or maybe because I preferred the (usually) more restrained styling of Olds models, as compared to the other GM makes.

During the period when I worked for a limo service in order to supplement my paltry pay as an educator, my usual car was a 1983 Olds 98 Regency Brougham, and I really liked everything about that car… except for the upholstery fabric. It was really a pleasure to drive–unlike the Cadillac Fleetwood V-8-6-4 (nicknamed the V-8-6-4-2-zero) that I sometimes had to pilot.

@old_mopar_guy The most obtrusive shifts were in the 1940s and early 1950s Chrysler products with the “lift and clunk” transmissions called GyroMatic in the Dodge and TipToe shift in the DeSoto. There was a clutch pedal that was used to shift the transmission into neutral, reverse, low range or high range. In normal driving, one would put the transmission in high range. The car would start off in 3rd gear. At above 15 mph, the driver would release the accelerator and the transmission would shift into 4th gear which was direct.dtive. There was a fluid coupling between the engine and transmission. The clutch did not need to be depressed at a stop sign or.red light. The transmission would go back into 3rd gear. One would then accelerate to a speed above 15 mph and the transmission would shift to top.gear. Flooring the accelerator would shift the transmission back to 3rd gear. In low range, there were two speeds, 1st and 2nd. This range was used for extra power if one wanted faster acceleration from a dead stop
When I got my driver’s license back in 1957, my parents had a 1952 Dodge powered by a flathead 6 with the Gyromatic and a 1954 Buick with the V-8 engine and a manual, column shift, 3 speed transmission. The Buick would outperform the Dodge. However, on a date, I preferred the Dodge. There was nothing better than cruising along in that Dodge with my arm around Little Iodine nestled up.agsinst my shoulder on the bench seat with the A.M. radio tuned to.Randy’s Record Shop from Nashville, Tennessee and not be bothered with shifting gears.

@old_mopar_guy l was reminded of the Chevrolet Powerglide and Buick Dynaflo of the early 1950s that were shiftless and depended on the torque converter for torque multiplication when I drove a Nissan Sentra with its CVT to a convention 300 miles away.

I had a 1950 Chrysler with the lift and clunk. It was definitely not a smooth shift and part of the reason was that a switch grounded out the ignition points during the shift to kill the ignition because the transmission couldnt shift while torque was applied. It was truly a silly transmission. One reason it was used, instead of developing a “real” automatic, was that Chrysler’s CEO, K.T. Keller, liked a clutch pedal under his left foot.

The other reason was that their PowerFlite 2-speed automatic was still in the development stage, and they needed to have something beyond just a conventional stick shift in order to try to compete with GM.

Keller only reluctantly provided the Powerflite development money and was almost out of power by the time Torque flight development began. Powerflite was a great transmission. In Tom McCahill’s first test of it, he said it was “as smooth as a bucket of warm vaseline”.

Our neighbors crashed their new 59 Chevy and decided to fix it themselves so they bought a 47 or 48 desoto to use. I remember it had that clutch in it. Only rode in it a couple times so not sure how it worked except it could be in gear with the clutch out. I always thought it was like a cent clutch like used on our go carts. It was really a comfortable old car tough.

Most of my dating time though was with a floor shift, bucket seat, vw, so never had my shift lever moved. Even when I used our 61 merc, it never happened so maybe was doing something wrong. Of course a couple sues, Mary, carol, Libby, etc. but no iodine. Maybe that was the issue. Too old to remember now.

You’re not a fan of crushed velour, i take it?

In a Victorian-era House of Ill Repute, it probably looked very good.
In a 20th Century motor vehicle… not so much.

My favorite interior is the mid 70’s Cadillac Fleetwood Talisman, which has about an acre of crushed velour.

Tapping into the auto trans expertise here…

What was the 2-speed automatic in my 1965(?) Chevy II? How did it compare with other inexpensive automatics of that era? What others cars had it? When was it discontinued?

It was called Powerglide, and was considered an excellent transmission and is still used by many drag racers today. It was introduced in 1950 in a slightly different form, and was used all the way through 1965 when it was supplanted by the 3 speed turbo-hydramatic.


That’s why they make ice cream in many different flavors. To each, his own.

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I had the velour upholstery in my 81 olds diesel broham. When I sold it many moons later with 480,000 miles, the upholstery was like new. It was the most comfortable seats I’ve ever had. You could drive all day and never have to change positions.