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Recommended Reading — Changing Gears: The Development of the Automotive Transmission

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Changing Gears: The Development of the Automotive Transmission by Philip G. Gott

The automatic transmission is the most complex automobile component ever created. Although I understand the foundation of its design, I never fully understood exactly how the many multi-faceted elements that make up an automatic transmission really function, so I bought this book to learn more.

As you would expect of such technical information, it’s not the most entertaining car book you’ll ever read, but the author’s prose is more enjoyable than you would expect, aside from being so informative. Within the 438 digest-size pages of this hardcover tome, there are numerous illustrations to help you visualize what the author is referring to.

The author’s Preface is an interesting one. It reads: “Every car has a transmission. It is the collection of gears and clutches and/or other devices that connect the engine with the final drive. Above all other vehicle systems, the transmission tames the spinning fury of the engine, born of internal fire, and allows it to be harnessed by the most novice, frail or delicate of drivers. The modern automatic transmission is so transparent that the driver needs to pay little attention to this very complex piece of machinery. Today, most transmissions will survive for the life of the vehicle without maintenance or trouble, and they are taken entirely for granted.”

Among it’s nine, in-depth chapters there are numerous sub-chapters. The names of those sub-chapters reveal just what you can expect to learn: Early developments; Sliding gears; Planetary gears; The Pre-selector; Free-Wheeling; Hydraulic Couplings; The First Hydra-Matic; General Motors: Torque Converters and the Dynaflow; Packard’s Ultramatic; Studebaker Automatic; Chevrolet’s Powerglide; Fordomatic; Chrysler PowerFlite; Dual Path Turbine Drive; Buick Super Turbine 300; Lock-up Torque Converters, and many other innovations and details. All the Big Three transmissions are covered as are those from Borg-Warner and the Independents. Basically, whatever you want to know about automatic transmissions you will find in this one book.

I found my copy on Amazon; used copies start at $5.75 with new editions starting at $26.36.