Sometimes doing things the traditional way gets boring, we get it. But auto manufacturers truly went the extra mile when they decided how to design the gearboxes of certain models. A gearbox, also called a transmission, is the system which connects a vehicle’s engine to its wheels, transferring the power of the engine to the wheels of the car. An automatic gearbox will switch gears as the vehicle moves, while a manual transmission requires the driver to change the gears using a clutch pedal and a gear shifter. First patented by Canadian inventor Alfred Horner Munro and then further developed by American inventor Oscar H. Banker in 1932, the traditional, metal-encased gearbox has gotten some upgrades since its invention.
Here we’ll explore some of the wildest gearbox configurations, some housing automatic transmissions and some meant for a manual vehicle.
Those in Auto Careers Will Find That These Automatic Gearboxes Make Driving a Little More… Exciting
Traditionally, it’s standard for an automatic gearbox to have a shift lever with options P, R, N, D, and L, typically configured in a straight line. However, those in automotive school will be interested to see that these three vehicles go above and beyond this standard with innovative designs.
Mazda MX-5 Miata Manual Imitator
This Mazda’s automatic shift lever is exciting because it mimics the appearance of a manual. For drivers who want to look cool, but might be put off by the act of manually shifting gears, this vehicle is for them, since its shifter looks just like a manual’s, with leather stitches and everything.
The Nissan Leaf has a pretty strange shift lever. It’s shaped like a circle, and drivers move a little knob in a series of strange directions to arrive at the appropriate setting. While it might be innovative, the Leaf’s gearbox comes off as more confusing than praise-worthy. But hey, it still does the job once you learn the ropes.
The GMC Terrain is an example of a current trend where the shift lever is controlled via levers and buttons, which are located below the climate controls. For “Drive” and “Reverse” the driver must pull levers, but the “Park” and “Neutral” settings are activated with a button. This is a current trend that may be here to stay when it comes to automatic vehicles.
These Unique Manual Gearboxes Are Definitely Intriguing
Those in auto careers won’t be surprised to know that manual vehicles can’t get too crazy with their gearbox, since drivers have to actively use the shifter to control the vehicle while they drive. However, this hasn’t stopped some manufacturers from getting as wild as possible.
VW began producing the Autostick in 1968, and it lasted for eight years in production. The Autostick was a three-speed system, in which a driver had to press a button on top of the gear knob when shifting in order to activate a 12-volt solenoid. This solenoid controls a vacuum clutch, and the clutch reengages once the button is no longer being pressed.
iMT stands for ‘intelligent Manual Transmission,’ and the most recent update to this version from Hyundai is nothing short of smart. This gearbox doesn’t rely on a clutch pedal at all. Instead, when a driver shifts, the ‘Intension Sensor’ is activated. This sets off the hydraulic actuator, which increases hydraulic pressure to activate the slave cylinder, which guides the clutch and pressure plate. These actions and reactions allow for the clutch to engage and disengage without the driver needing to physically take the clutch out at just the right moment.
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