Believe it or not, GM’s extinct Oldsmobile division used to have a reputation for technological innovation. As shown, the brand was one of the first on the market with a powerful, overhead valve V8 engine as seen in the Rocket 88. It was also the first to deliver a commercially viable automatic transmission.
Automotive enthusiasts may loathe so-called “slushboxes,” which have basically taken over the market in North America, but everyday drivers have completely embraced them. More than 90 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. are equipped with automatic transmissions.
Oldsmobile sought to make driving easier 70 years ago when it introduced its Hydra-Matic gearbox. The clutchless, self-shifting transmission was a $57 option on any of its 1940 models. It featured a fluid-filled torque converter and four forward speeds, a mid-century technological tour de force.
Interestingly, Hydra-Matic is a name GM still uses today.