When Hydra-Matic was new

I’m pretty sure my ‘66 Olds Vista Cruiser had the 2sp automatic. But maybe that was just a left over.

That was the super-turbine 300, simply a 2 speed version of the super-turbine 400 AKA Turbo-hydramatic. Olds called it Jetaway.


I’m pretty sure that all the GM makes went to the turbo 300, 350 and 400 in 1964. The Turbo 300 was a 2 speed used in lower models, the 3 speed 350 was used in almost everything and the 3 speed 400 was used in large luxury models.

I’m also pretty sure the Jetaway was pre-'64. When I was a kid I used to spend a lot of time looking at exploded diagrams of all the automatic transmissions of the day. My dad was a Buick transmission specialist, so I knew every part of the Dynaflow by sight when I was 8 years old. The same manual had the Roto-Matic, Hydra-matic, Jetaway, Rambler’s e-stick, Dynaflow, Torquflite, Flightpitch, and many others I can’t remember anymore.

Good list of GM automatics:
List of GM transmissions - Wikipedia

I think they called my 59 Pontiac a hydra matic. Pretty sure it was three speed. My 74 olds was a 350. No idea what my 67 Buick vista cruiser type was.

You’re close. The name “Jetaway” was first used by Olds in 1956 to refer to the “dual coupling hydra-matic” used from 1956- 1960. Pontiac called it Stratoflight, Cadillac called it “controlled coupling” and chevy and buick never used it. It was a 4 speed unit, with two fluid couplings. Olds replaced it with the smaller, lighter, and crappier “roto-hydramatic” in 1961. This was a 3 speed unit that is considered by many the “worst automatic transmission ever built”.

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As I recall, Pontiac and Oldsmobile both used the same transmissions in those days. Lower models used a Roto-matic, and I think the upper series used something called a Roto-Hydramatic. Never saw either one, I might be wrong about what the upper series was called. I remember they were completely different animals from the typical automatic transmissions, used drive torus and a driven torus (not sure if that’s spelled right). Way different from everything else.
Buick Electra used a turbo 400, some of the middle series may have had it as an option.
Big station wagons would probably have had a 400. I took a 400 out of a big wagon and put it into a 67 Lemans. had to shorten the driveshaft and change the shifter, but it was a great swap.

I remember my dad not being much impressed with roto hydramatic. I also remember looking at those exploded diagrams and thinking it was really a weird machine. Don’t remember the Stratoflight, but that was more than 50 years ago.
Buick used only the Dynaflow in those days. No shifting whatever. Ever. Unless you manually put it into “Low” then manually shifted to “Drive”. Infinitely variable torque converter handled the speed change. Maybe a good idea, but it was horribly inefficient, and city driving got the torque converter so hot the blades inside the converter would warp. The torque converter was easily disassembled and repaired, but it would just overheat again with more city driving. They really needed a much bigger transmission cooler.

Pretty sure the ‘59 Pontiac had a 4 speed hydramatic.
On the shift selector, L was low, then drive modes you could select either setting, one setting locked out the fourth gear.
Downside of the hydramatic, the 1-2 ratios were close, then a jump to 3rd, 3-4 ratios were close.
Mine was the lowly Catalina, 2 door hardtop, only options, hydramatic and power steering, but fondest memories of my high school years in the 60s.

As far as worst transmissions, seems Chevy’s Turboglide would be included.

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Mine was a four door Catalina but that gear shift arrangement does not look familiar. Very possible but I just don’t remember. I remember adjusting the shifting rods though for smoother shifting.

Another reason you may have always liked Oldsmobiles is they were the ones that introduced the overhead valve V8, in 1949. Chevrolet waited until 1955, with the 265, which began the venerable line of Chevy small block V8s.

Studebaker introduced their OHV V8 in ‘51 very similar to the Olds/Caddy design. Increase to 289 CI in ‘57, because of the 289 CI many people believe it is a small block Ford! The SBF went into production ten years after the Studebaker V8.

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