This short film, titled Vacuum Control, explains in detail how Chevrolet’s then-new column shifted manual transmission works. It was produced and released in 1938 to accompany the new technology.
For many drivers during the early days of the automobile, the manual transmission and its clutch pedal were the biggest hurdles. The need to use both in synchronization whilst also steering, braking, and navigating traffic has proven challenging to generations of drivers.
Much work has gone into simplifying the operation of the transmission, when the automobile was first created many transmissions were operated with floor-based levers.
The next step in the evolutionary process after this was the column shifter that was easier to use and also cleared the space on the floor where the traditional manual shift lever would have been.
After column shifted manual transmissions came the rise of the pre-selector and finally the automatic transmission, which simplified gearbox operations even further. The first mass-produced automatic transmission was the General Motors Hydra-Matic, which was released in 1939 – just a year after this film was released.
Column shifted manual transmissions are no longer in mass-production for automobile use, but they were a fascinating step in the evolution of the transmission and the complex mechanism they required to transmit movement from the column-mounted lever to the transmission is a feat of engineering in itself.
If you’d like to read more about automobile transmission types you can click here to read the article by the Universal Technical Institute. It breaks down the major transmission types and explains how they work.
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.