A Trip Through Time: The History of Manual Transmission

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There’s something emboldening in the feeling of shifting the gears as you accelerate down the road in full control of the RPMs. Whether you drive for optimal fuel efficiency, maximum acceleration, or anything in-between, a stick shift gives you maximum control of the transfer of power from the engine to the wheels.

Here’s how it works. Depending on the gear you’re in, there’s a different degree of torque being applied to the wheels relative to speed. Whether done manually or automatically, shifting the gears ultimately changes the amount of turning force being applied.

Where It All Started

Although the modern driver in America tends to lean toward automatic transmission, drivers at the turn of the 20th century didn’t have a choice as all transmissions were manual. It all started in 1894 when the very first concept of the modern manual transmission emerged in the form of a three-speed model introduced by French innovators Emile Levassor and Louis-Rene Panhard.

It usually doesn’t take long for other entrepreneurial minds to recognize a lucrative concept, and, by 1898, auto manufacturer Louis Renault improved upon the original design by switching out the drive shaft for a chain and adding a differential axle for overall smoother transmission of power.

Decades of Innovation: Key Events

The Renault modification served consumers well for three decades before further modifications were made. From there, exciting new features were introduced every ten years for the next three decades as follows:

  • 1928- Synchronized manual transmission introduced by Cadillac to reduce grinding and provide smoother shifting.
  • 1938- General Motors introduces the clutchless Hydra-Matic
  • 1948- Fully-automatic Buick Dynaflow transmission is introduced.

Modern Manual Transmission Market

Fast-forward to present day, approximately 40% of the cars produced worldwide feature manual transmission with Europe and Asia dominating the market and approximately 80% of car sales being manual transmission vehicles. Although not popular in the United States, areas known for harsh winters typically experience higher sales where manual transmission is more useful.

With the emergence of electric cars along with an increasing preference for automatic transmission, industry experts speculate the eventual fading away of the manual transmission. Only time will tell. If you’re in need of service or repair of your manual transmission, call the experts at Action Transmission for competitive quote today.

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