Ford Cruise-O-Matic and C-Series Automatic Transmissions (Part 3)

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We resume coverage of Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmissions today since Ford’s first mass-produced transmissions emerged in the 1950s. As consumers switch to automatic transmissions in the domestic two- and four-door irons, they also expect more powerful V8s and large chrome bumpers and spoilers. The Detroit automaker had to respond, and Ford responded with the second-generation Ford-O-Matic, FX and MX. Both transmissions are sold under the new Cruise-O-Matic name, while the new generation of two-speed cars becomes the Ford-O-Matic basement.

As we discussed in our last article, Ford came up with tricky keyboard controls in 1957 and 1958. The new quick feature means the Cruise-O-Matic is operated via a confusingly marked dash-mounted button on some Mercury vehicles.While keyboard control is limited to Mercury, worse Edsel kept a version of the same idea.

Ford decided in the early 1950s that it could overtake General Motors with a new brand of cars. The new brand will look different, have different features, and have a unique model lineup that will be its own and “independent” of the Ford-Lincoln-Mercury. The end result of these ideas is Edsel, which we’ll cover separately in Abandoned History.

The crazy-looking new Edsel car debuted for the 1958 model year and offered a variant of Mercury’s concept of keyboard control.This is the wave of the future and it is called remote key! While you might expect Ford to just port keyboard controls to the Edsels, that’s not the case.

Keypad controls are activated using simple mechanics and implemented on the dashboard of the Mercury vehicle. Teletouch is an electro-mechanical system added to the center of the Edsel steering wheel. So while both systems require the same action from the Cruise-O-Matic transmission, they operate very differently.

Teletouch is part of Edsel’s attempt to develop relevance. The new button system was billed as the future of the personal car, with the steering wheel becoming not only the driver’s focus, but the vehicle’s controls as well. The Teletouch buttons are placed in the middle of the steering wheel; in theory, this is advantageous since they are aimed at the driver. Plus, less of the dash is obscured when the clunky old gear selector is removed.

Unlike Keyboard Command’s confusing labels, Edsel Teletouch is simple: in the order P, R, N, D, L. Drive is further interpreted as “Dr” and Low is further interpreted as “Lo”. The button layout instantly turns into a festive and spooky decoration. mask To be worn by dealers (presumably) and given to interested customers.

Edsel promotes Teletouch in marketing and makes it the standard for high-end Corsair and Citation. The Edsel’s van, as well as the Pacer and Ranger, can still choose the dangerous and old standard speed class.

Teletouch ran into problems almost immediately. Owners and the media thought it would be distracting and counter to the natural movement they’re used to with a post shifter. Drivers are also used to honking their horn from the center of the steering wheel and, in an emergency, sometimes slamming the Teletouch with their hands or fists. These events rarely result in a different gear being selected, but sometimes damage the Teletouch button panel. As a driver’s triumph, the Teletouch pod is stationary, not turning with the steering wheel.

In addition to location and usability issues, the Teletouch’s mechanical execution also failed. The system requires a servo motor to translate the driver’s commands into the transmission. The engine sits between the Cruise-O-Matic bell and the exhaust, suspended above the road. In this hot, dirty, bare place, motors are accompanied by wires and relays.

Unsurprisingly, the location of the Teletouch electronics meant that the operation of the transmission proved unreliable. The fault lies with the servos and their associated components, as the fixed steering wheel buttons are themselves reliable. The buttons include a suppress switch to activate them, which works with fluid pressure so a different gear isn’t accidentally selected at high speeds. But it’s not foolproof: If neutral is pressed first, the hydraulic pressure is removed from the inhibit switch, and reverse or parking can then be selected. Such action can result in a damaged parking pawl, a large crash, or both.

Like Edsel himself, Teletouch didn’t last long in the world. It was only used in 1958 and was cut in 1959 as part of the Edsel collection. When the Teletouch was about to become the scourge of the Edsel, Russian automaker GAZ was developing an automatic transmission for its new car.

As we learned last time, Ford and GAZ had a formal relationship in their twenties and thirties. The first vehicles produced by GAZ were licensed Fords. After that, the company took Ford’s Model A into the truck direction and then expanded into its own line of cars. By the 1950s, the company had become Russia’s leading automaker, offering a line of off-road passenger cars, utility trucks and luxury vehicles to communists who didn’t believe in executive or luxury — until they did.

In the 1950s, part of Russian luxury meant automatic transmissions. GAZ attempted to add automatic transmissions to the new mid-size executive sedans GAZ-21 Volga (1956-1970) and GAZ-13 Chaika (1959-1981), the most luxurious cars the company had ever produced. Chaika (“seagull” in Russian) replaced the first luxury car GAZ built, the American-looking GAZ-12 ZIM.

GAZ did some research on the automatic transmissions offered by Western automakers and decided that the two-speed Ford-O-Matic and three-speed Cruise-O-Matic were the best. GAZ then started designing their own copy and adding Russian spice to the existing Detroit flavor.

GAZ replaced Ford transmissions with metric parts so they were easier to manage. Both versions of the automatic transmission feature a new parking brake design that works with a drum that sits between the bell housing and the driveshaft. The Ford’s parking brake caught the rear wheel. The GAS setting means no parking pawls are required and saves money.

For the smaller Volga, GAZ replaced the torque converter with an air-cooled version, which was then mated to a 2.5-liter inline-four that made 65 horsepower. The Volga uses a column shifter, which the driver puts in what H. Volga calls his three-speed Ford-O-Matic, though it only runs two gears in Drive, like the Ford-O-Current matic. The transmission was repurposed for Volga use.

The automatic Volga sold poorly and was discontinued within two years. The transmission was considered too difficult to maintain for the average driver, as few service stations had access to automatic transmissions and there was a general shortage of transmission fluid. Fewer than 800 were built, and the motivation to switch to a manual transmission is common.

The Cruise-O-Matic was the starting point for the luxury Chaika limousine, and since the car uses a 195-horsepower 5.5-liter V8 (GAZ design), it requires less tuning work than the Volga. The GAZ adopted a button-style dashboard similar to that used by Americans at the time, and Chaika even adopted an American style. The transmission operates similarly to the regular Cruise-O-Matic, but again tuned to suit the Chaika’s smooth cruising needs. With all the power and torque in mind, the GAZ goes into the transmission’s liquid cooling system.

Chaika is only for GAZ-Cruise-O-Matic and has never been made with a manual. There is no problem with the maintenance of the proletariat, because Chaika is only delivered to state officials and never sold to private individuals. Chaika existed in its 1950s form until 1981, with limited changes.

In the early ’60s, GAZ put both 5.5-liter and three-speed Ford replicas in the midsize Volga. Dubbed the GAZ-23, the modest sleeper sedan was delivered in limited quantities under the KGB’s ninth directive. 23 Primarily used as a rapid escort vehicle in personal security operations.

It’s unclear exactly how long GAZ Vehicles was motivated to rely on Cruise-O-Matic copycats, but it’s safe to say that, at least for part of the ’80s, even outside of Chaika. Next time we’ll go back to family matters and discuss the transition from Cruise-O-Matic to C.

[Images: Ford, GAZ, YouTube]

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