What Was the Final US-Market Car to Get a 3-Speed Automatic Transmission?

Now that we’re up to ten forward speeds in ordinary street automatic transmissions, the idea of a three-speed automatic seems amusingly antiquated. The good old three-speed slushbox was a mainstay of the transmission world for many decades, however (the photo above shows me about to load a three-speed, junkyard-harvested GM Turbo-Hydramatic 350 into my Honda CRX, circa 1998), and it remained an option for car shoppers here until our current century.



a man sitting in a car posing for the camera: In the thick of a gear-count arms race, it's hard to imagine a mere three forward speeds.


© Murilee Martin
In the thick of a gear-count arms race, it’s hard to imagine a mere three forward speeds.



a graffiti covered wall: Junkyard transmission photographed with vintage film camera


© Murilee Martin
Junkyard transmission photographed with vintage film camera

The very first truly successful automatic car transmission actually had four forward speeds, becoming available starting with the 1940 Oldsmobile. The original Hydramatic proved very reliable, and still shines on a road-racing course today. GM also scored a smash hit with the two-speed Powerglide automatic during the 1950s

Read More

Read More