From Beginning to Now: The Evolution of The Automatic Transmission

Posted by on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

An automatic transmission is an integral part of your car. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Learn about the amazing evolution of automatic transmissions.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Even those individuals who are very experienced with repairing and replacing transmissions don’t know very much about their history. It’s one of the few areas where history doesn’t seem to be required, but the more you know, the better a mechanic you can be. With that being said, let’s talk about the evolution of the automatic transmission as a whole and how it has changed since the 1930s.


In 1937, GM (General Motors) originally introduced the world’s first “semi” automatic transmission. It was called the Automatic Safety Transmission, and remained quite popular until about 1939.


During the earlier part of the 1940s, GM created a slightly refined version of their original semi-automatic transmission. It was called the “Hydra-Matic”. Little did everyone know at the time it would completely revolutionize the way the driving industry operated. It became mass-produced and available commercially as a fully automatic transmission within a few years after its conception. The 4L65E GM 4-Speed Automatic Transmission offers seamless shifting that should help run your vehicle run more efficiently!

War Time

Automobile manufacturing planets were building more and more tanks and fewer and fewer cars. As a result, they weren’t any “new” upgrades made in the automatic transmission industry. However, the Hydra-Matic did get improved quite a bit during this time. Post war era: there is a huge demand for vehicles that offer fully automatic transmissions (despite their expensive cost).


The first three-speed automatic transmission was produced during the earlier part of the 1950s. Several different automakers, including Studebaker and Ford, were amongst the primary producers. Chrysler introduced their own two-speed torque converter in 1953. During this time, major vehicle manufacturers like Lincoln, Bentley, and Rolls Royce began to purchase Hydra-Matic transmissions from GM in order to fill customer needs.


Three-speed transmissions, all of which used torque converters, had completely taken over the automatic transmission industry. Torque converters are still used today, making their birth very important within the automobile industry.

1970s and 1980s

During the later part of the 1970s, a replacement of three-speed automatic transmissions began to occur. They began to be replaced with models that contained overdrive, as well as more forward gears. By the earlier part of the 1980s, almost every single automobile manufacturer began producing their vehicles with the latter. Transmissions that offered overdrive were simply more efficient and provided a greater degree of fuel efficiency compared to their three-speed counterparts.

Automatic Transmissions Today

One of the more advanced innovations that took place in regards to automatic transmissions was the creation of the electronically controlled automatic transmission. These models are incredibly versatile for the simple reason that they are able to process massive amounts of information in relatively short periods of time. Overall, this helps drivers save money on fuel economy as well as allows them to shift much more efficiently.

If you’re looking for a quality remanufactured transmission, then you won’t do better than ETE REMAN. That’s why we offer a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty on all our products. Browse our online catalog and contact us today.

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