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The Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge-DeSoto Fluid Drive

Hy-Drive semi-automatic transmissionChrysler’s first fluid drive cars were introduced in 1939. They were equipped with a standard 3-speed manual transmission and clutch, but had a fluid coupling in place of the conventional flywheel. This set-up was available on all Chrysler models from 1940 through 1948, and on DeSoto and Dodge models from 1941 through 1946, at a slight extra cost. From 1947 through 1952, the fluid coupling/3-speed manual transmission combination was standard equipment on all Dodge models and optional on DeSotos. In 1953-54, Plymouth offered a variant called “HyDrive”, which is a 3-speed manual unit and clutch, with the fluid coupling updated to a modern torque converter (pictured above right).

These cars do not change gears “automatically,” but can be held stationary in any gear without disengaging the clutch. They can also be started in any gear without slipping the clutch, although 3rd gear starts are painfully slow. Fluid drive advantages are:

  1. The car can be driven by declutching and shifting in the normal fashion, starting in 1st, shifting to 2nd, and then to 3rd.
  2. Downshifts from 3rd to 2nd are greatly reduced.
  3. In stop-and-go traffic, the car may be left in 2nd gear with the driver starting and stopping merely by applying the foot brake and accelerator pedals, as is done in a car equipped with a modern automatic transmission.
  4. Acceleration from 5 MPH up in 3rd gear is entirely acceptable under most level-road conditions.
  5. Ascending moderately steep hills does not require downshifting.
  6. 1941 DeSoto with Fluid DriveUnder light loads and relatively flat road conditions, the car may be started from rest in 2nd gear with entirely satisfactory acceleration results and without putting any strain on driveline/clutch parts.
  7. Starting on hills is greatly facilitated. The car may be placed in 1st gear, the clutch engaged, and the car held motionless by application of the foot brake only. When it is time to start, the driver merely steps on the accelerator. There is no need to coordinate the clutch/brake/accelerator with the inevitable engine over-revving and clutch slipping that are the hallmark of manual-shift car hill starts.
  8. Wear on clutch parts is greatly reduced because there is no need to “slip” the clutch for smooth starts from rest.
  9. Fluid drive cars have a lower numerical rear axle ratio, thereby reducing constant speed engine RPMs.

There are also disadvantages:

  1. When starting from rest in 1st gear, “off the line” acceleration suffers because of the “slipping” action of the fluid coupling. This is largely overcome at the point where the car attains a speed of 10-15 MPH, however.
  2. Leaving the transmission in gear with the engine off does not lock the rear wheels. A fluid coupling car left in gear with the engine off will roll just as if it were left in neutral. Therefore, maintaining the emergency/parking brake is paramount, and care should be taken when parking the car when anything but absolutely level road conditions are encountered.

fluid drive

In 1941, Chrysler offered its “semi-automatic” transmission in combination with the fluid coupling, at considerable (for the time, anyway) extra cost, usually between $100-140 depending on the model on which it was installed. This semi-automatic transmission consists of the fluid coupling, a two-speed manual transmission with integral underdrive, and conventional clutch. The early models (M-4) operate on engine vacuum (“vacamatic”), while the later models (M-5 and M-6) operate on a combination of electric circuitry and hydraulics.

fluid driveThe shift lever is mounted on the steering column, and there is no “shift quadrant” indicating the “gear” the transmission is in, except in later models (1951-53 Chryslers, 1953-1954 DeSotos and Dodges). There are two forward “ranges,” low and high, as well as a reverse gear. The shift pattern is the standard “H” minus 1st gear, as per the illustration on the right from the 1946 Chrysler Owner’s Manual.

There are four forward gear ratios:

  1. Underdrive Low: 3.57 to 1.00
  2. Low: 2.14 to 1.00
  3. Underdrive High: 1.75 to 1.00
  4. High (Direct Drive) 1.00 to 1.00

To start the car under normal conditions (relatively flat road, light load), the driver depresses the clutch pedal and shifts into High range. At this point, the transmission is in “Underdrive High” which means that the transmission is in Direct Drive with the underdrive gearing engaged. When a speed of approximately 14 MPH is attained, the driver lifts his foot completely off the accelerator pedal, the underdrive gearing disengages, and the car is now in Direct Drive. If extra pulling power or acceleration is desired from a dead stop or the car is starting from rest on a steep hill, the driver shifts into Low range where the transmission is in Underdrive Low with the underdrive gearing engaged. When the car reaches approximately 6 MPH, the driver lifts his foot off the accelerator, the underdrive disengages, and the car is in Low. At this point a manual shift from Low range to High range (driver steps on clutch pedal and moves shift lever from the “low” to “high” position) brings the car into Direct Drive.

The advantages of this transmission vs. a conventional manual or fully automatic “clutchless” transmission are:

  1. There is a clutch pedal, affording a driver greater control over the power flow from the engine to the drive wheels.
  2. The car is normally started in Underdrive High, an advantage in reduced traction situations.
  3. Manipulation of the clutch pedal and gearshift lever is completely eliminated in normal forward driving once the car has been started from an “engine off” state. Acceleration from rest in Underdrive High is entirely satisfactory under most light-load, level road conditions.
  4. The driver can directly control the timing of automatic upshifts by use of the accelerator pedal.
  5. Greatly simplified, rugged construction requiring very little maintenance vs. a 1950Õs fully automatic transmission.

Disadvantages:

  1. Driver must depress clutch pedal every time the shift lever is moved.
  2. Changes between “low” and “high” range are completely manual requiring manipulation of the shift lever and clutch pedal.
  3. Acceleration from Underdrive High and automatic shift into Direct Drive is slower than with a fully automatic transmission.
  4. As one 1950s car reviewer said, “It has all the disadvantages of a manual shift and automatic car combined.”

Chrysler indiscriminately referred to both the standard and semi-automatic fluid-coupling transmissions as “Fluid Drive” in its promotional and technical literature. This contributed greatly to the confusion between the two types, and many Chrysler Corp. car owners of that time did not understand the difference. Many who had the fluid drive/3-speed manual configuration were not aware of any difference between that and the conventional flywheel set-up.

The fluid drive and semi-automatic transmissions prove the old Chrysler Corporation’s engineering superiority that incorporated the principle of applying the simplest, most durable and cost-effective solution to resolve a problem (in this case, manual shifting). In an era when people were tired of standard shifts, they flocked to GM’s hydramatic cars, only to find that they needed complete and very expensive tear-down and rebuilds after as little as 20,000 miles. The Chrysler Fluid Drive/3 speed needed no maintenance over and above that required for a standard car, and the semi-automatic Fluid Drives needed very little maintenance compared to the early hydramatics. Many semi-automatic Chrysler Corp. cars are still on the road today and have never had a transmission rebuild, proving the old Chrysler Corp.’s commitment to engineering and design simplicity.

Text of a 1941 Dodge Fluid-Drive brochure

Fifteen operations are necessary to start a car and get into high gear in the usual way. Compare this exhausting routine to the simple operations with Fluid Drive in the new 1941 Dodge Luxury Liner. With Dodge Fluid Drive, you can start in high, STOP in high and start again in high ... without shifting gears! You can drive for hours at varying speeds from as slowly as a mile an hour to your car's top speed­all in high gear! Here's the comparison:

THE OLD WAY OF DRIVING
Step on starter
Depress clutch pedal
Shift to first
Release clutch pedal
Step on accelerator
Release accelerator
Depress clutch pedal
Shift to second
Release clutch pedal
Step on accelerator
Release accelerator
Depress clutch pedal
Shift to high
Release clutch pedal
Step on accelerator

  THE NEW 1941 DODGE FLUID-DRIVE WAY
Step on starter
Depress clutch pedal
Shift into high
Release clutch pedal
Step on accelerator
... AND AWAY YOU GO!

THE MAGIC OF FLUID-DRIVE (BY MAJOR EDWARD BOWES)

1941 dodgeIn my opinion, it has been years since the automobile industry has produced an operating improvement as revolutionary as the Fluid Drive, now offered for the first time in the low-priced field on the 1941 Dodge.

My long association with and my keen, natural interest in this field of transportation makes me seek an apt comparison which the average person who is not an engineer will understand.

I believe the majority of car owners are parents. At least, they have reached their majority in years. As parents, they appreciate that children seem to grow in jumps. Children go along for months without any apparent change, and then-all of a sudden-the older folks realize that Johnny is fast outgrowing his clothes; and that Mary, who only yesterday was screaming in her crib, is still screaming-but this time for an evening dress.

It seems to me that automobiles have "grown" in much the same way-by a succession of giant strides in the form of basic developments, each one of which has added tremendously to the ease, the comfort, the economy, the safety of driving a car.

I am particularly happy to say a word here about Dodge Fluid Drive, because the engineers of Dodge enjoy a reputation as pioneers in a number of those advancements which have helped make the automobile what it is today. For example, with the great emphasis that they have always placed on the preciousness of human life, the engineers of Dodge gave the world such fundamental improvements as All Steel Bodies and Hydraulic Brakes-both magnificent contributions to your safety in driving.

Now they bring a great new advancement to the low price field! Only this time, their contribution emphasizes greater ease and pleasure in driving-a "consummation devoutly to be wished."

This brochure brings you news of achievement as significant to me as these others of which I have spoken. For it deals with the NEW and BETTER WAY to run an automobile­by Fluid Driving.

From the questions so frequently asked of me, I judge that there is widespread curiosity as to how Dodge Fluid Drive differs from other methods of power transmission. The fundamental change is an elimination of the fixed mechanical connections between the engine and the driveshaft. In place of this, a new and far more flexible medium is used-namely, a BODY OF OIL.

Picture yourself at the wheel of a Dodge equipped with Fluid Drive. You step on the starter and, the minute she "purrs," shift right into high gear. Soon as you're ready to move, release your clutch and step on the accelerator. Immediately, as if soaring away on an invisible cloud, the car sweeps smoothly forward. Not a jolt or a jar -no "bucking" such as would happen with conventional cars if you attempted to start in high. It's the smoothest, cleanest, most noiseless getaway imaginable!

How about stopping? That's even simpler. You merely apply your brake gently as usual but don't touch your clutch or gear lever. Don't bother to shift at all. Stay right in high gear, even when coming to a complete stop. With Dodge Fluid Drive, your brake keeps the car from moving, even though it is in gear. And despite this, the engine will not stall.

All this means that you can start in high, stop in high, and start right out again in high-without ever shifting gears unless you want to. It means that you can drive all day under ordinary conditions without touching your gearshift or your clutch pedal. In densest traffic where you may often have to throttle down to a speed of a mile an hour-where you are constantly compelled to pause and shift with a conventional transmission -Dodge Fluid Drive permits you to stop and go at will merely by braking or accelerating as the case may be.

Another tremendous advantage comes when your Dodge runs into soft sand or mud holes or deep snow heaps. No doubt you've had the discouraging experience of seeing your wheels spin around aimlessly without your car budging an inch. Perhaps you've had to call for a tow car to free you from this awkward situation.

With Dodge Fluid Drive, remember, there's a cushion of oil to absorb the sudden surge of engine power which is the cause of wheelspin without gaining traction. Now, the power is applied so smoothly and evenly that you can creep right out of these "tight" places without difficulty. By the same token, on icy roads or streets Dodge Fluid Drive will save you this same annoyance; and the cushioned power goes far to eliminate the frequent cause of skidding.

And what a pleasure when driving on hills! The car can slow down to a mile an hour in high gear with no danger of stalling the motor. Think of the feeling of security that gives you! Then, coming down hill Fluid Drive is an automatic speed check with the engine acting as a brake, the same as with other methods of transmission.

Understand-despite these many advantages, there is nothing new to learn about Fluid Driving with Dodge. Simply far less work at the wheel. And far smoother performance. The clutch pedal is there as always. The gearshift lever, too-right on the steering post. The big difference is that under ordinary driving conditions you don't have to use them unless you want to.

When Dodge Fluid Drive was first demonstrated to me, I was thrilled. But more than this, I was consumed with curiosity. I couldn't rest until I saw what made it work. And I believe many of you will react the same way.

It is really very simple. In fact, that very virtue is its strongest recommendation. For there is practically nothing to get out of order or require adjustment or replacement throughout the life of the car.

Fluid Drive, in a word, takes the place of the conventional flywheel in power transmission. There are but two moving parts and even these two never touch-never are subjected to the wear that cannot be avoided where parts are moving and creating friction.

What Fluid Drive Looks Like and How It Works

These moving parts are merely two bowl-shaped shells of steel almost identical in appearance, into which a series of evenly spaced blades or fins are welded. Imagine an orange cut into halves and you have the picture, except that the "halves" of Dodge Fluid Drive measure about thirteen inches in diameter. One 'of these halves is mounted at the end of the engine crankshaft, its open end facing toward the rear. This is called the driver or impeller. The second half, or runner, is mounted on the propeller shaft, its open end facing the impeller-almost, but not quite, touching it. A tightly sealed, close-fitting steel housing surrounds these two Fluid Drive parts. The interior is filled with two gallons of a special grade of oil with very low viscosity, so that the impeller and runner are completely submerged.

fluid drive illustrated

I have stated that a small gap exists between these two parts. Now picture what happens when the engine is running. The impeller naturally turns because it is fixed on the crankshaft. This rotating action throws the oil by centrifugal force against the fins of the runner, causing them to rotate in the same direction. It is exactly like one electric fan forcing a current of air against another idle fan and setting the latter in motion-just as a breeze turns a windmill. Only the medium of motion is oil in this case-NOT AIR.

After the engine has picked up speed, the car moves much as it would if this "fluid coupling" were mechanical. One important and very noticeable difference is that you experience no jarring or jerking. Not only in starting, but in driving and stopping, the motion is emphatically smoother.

Perhaps the most astonishing difference in Fluid Driving with Dodge is the marked increase in flexibility and control. This is due to the fact that impeller and runner may now travel at different speeds. This Dodge with Fluid Drive may be started, driven for hours, stopped repeatedly in traffic, and started over and over again always remaining in high gear. It is like having a car of literally limitless speeds in this one gear.

The experience of thousands of motorists, once they try Dodge Fluid Driving, is that ninety per cent of the work is eliminated. The whole operation becomes simpler, safer, more pleasurable and relaxing in the 1941 Dodge with Fluid Drive than was ever before possible in a low-priced car.

Before you buy your new car, let me urge you to go for a ride with Dodge Fluid Drive. I promise you it will be an altogether thrilling experience.

Here's what Dodge had to say about their “all fluid drive” in a different brochure:

Dodge All-Fluid Drive provides the entirely fluid transfer of engine power to the drive line of your car. It thus affords a life preserving cushion for all vital mechanical parts of engine and power line, protecting them from shock and strain. For the driver, All-Fluid Drive continues to mean new extremes of comfort, safety, and control. Clutching and shifting have been greatly reduced and, when shifting is required, for special occasions, it is done silently with the move of a finger.

More details

S. Berliner III wrote:

The fluid drive unit was a self-contained coupling that bolted to the flywheel inside an extended bell housing, with the output shaft on the rear rotor.

The stator was part of the flywheel side and the rotor was almost identical but facing the other way (forward); fluid was pulled around by the stator and pulled the rotor with it. It was a 1:1 coupling (no torque multiplier).

As you note, it could be ordered with both standard 3-speed manual or M4 vacuum-operated or M6 hydraulic semi-automatic trannies.

If you mean the wording on the trunk light cluster and some bumpers, yes, it was always two separate words. As I just wrote, "bracketing the back-up light" on my '49, with FLUID on the left side and DRIVE on the right (naturally).

Bill Watson wrote:

Fluid Drive referred to the fluid coupling between the engine and the clutch, and had nothing to do with the transmission. Depending on year, Chrysler offered the Royal, Windsor and DeSoto DeLuxe with Fluid Drive and the normal 3-speed manual. This was also the only way Fluid Drive was offered by Dodge prior to 1949. Fluid Drive first appeared on the 1939 Chrysler Custom Imperial, and spread to the rest of the Chrysler line in 1940, and then the DeSoto and Dodge in 1941.

The Fluid-Torque Drive (torque converter) arrived for the 1951 model year and was an option. This combination got a shift quadrant, but as it was coupled to the M-6, it still had a clutch.

"68RT" write:

The fluid drive used a standard clutch and a separate fluid coupling [similar to a modern automatic transmission torque converter, where the engine drove one set of vanes - a propellor like arrangement - and the transmission received power through another set of vanes. The motion of the thick transmission fluid drove the transmission]. That allowed the clutch to remain engaged while stopped and eliminated the posibility of killing the engine at engagement.

There were two styles of transmissions available. One was just a standard manual transmission and I only saw a few of them. The most common was the hydraulic shift manual transmission that worked as follows:

  • LOW Range was in the normal 2nd speed posistion of the "H" pattern and had two speeds available.
  • HIGH Range was in the 3rd speed position and it had two speeds available.
  • REVERSE was in the normal back and up of the "H" pattern. The transmission had a hydraulic pump and a mechanical governor along with a related switch built in the carburetor.

The clutch was used to select one of the three options you wanted. It was acceptable to start out in HIGH range and never use the clutch until you needed to back up. There was no safety and you could start it in gear if you desired.

When you reached the acceptable range that was programmed into the governor, the transmission would shift to the higher range as soon as the throttle was released and gave its signature "CLUNK" when completed. The oil from the pump would shift the gears for you in lieu of a mechanical shift.

If you had not exceeded the maximum shift speed and needed to downshift again, you stepped on the gas to the floorboard and the ignition would be turned off (releasing pressure on the gears) and a spring returned you to the lower ratio. When it completed the downshift the ignition came back on.

The actual gears available were four different ratios. As a teenager, the shift went like this: LOW gear-lowrange TO LOW gear-highrange TO HIGH gear-lowrange TO HIGH gear-highrange. This gave you four actual gears (2nd and third were very close ratio). I spent many hours behind the wheel of a 1950 Chrysler Windsor 6 with that setup. It was great on hills and almost impossible to break the tranny.

Mike Sealey clarified:

"Fluid Drive" was always written as two well-defined words (not "FluiDrive"). Chrysler was very proud of this feature in the 1940s... the words "Fluid Drive" appeared on the diecast housing surrounding the 1946 through the first series 1949 Chrysler center-mounted brakelight, under the "DeSoto" script on the front of DeSotos of the same era, and in red script stamped into the rear bumper on fullsize Dodges of this era. Fluid Drive references also appeared on the dashboards of these and other Chrysler cars... but never Plymouths, which did not get their own semiautomatic until the 1953 HyDrive.

The M-6 semiautomatic transmission was marketed under the name "Prestomatic" at Chrysler, "Tip-Toe Shift" at DeSoto, and "Gyro-Matic" at Dodge. Dodge was the only division to put the fancy name on its cars... check out the model name badge on 2nd series 1949 through 1952 Dodge Meadowbrooks and Coronets; if it says "Fluid Drive" below the model name, that originally meant the standard transmission with the fluid flywheel action, while if it says "Gyro-Matic", that emblem belongs on a car with the M-6. The M-6 transmissions often confuse modern drivers who believe them to be 3-speed sticks that refuse to go into first.

In later years, this transmission was modified to shift quadrant-style like a modern automatic, although it still had the clutch pedal for use when changing ranges. Some of these quadrants are marked "Fluid-Matic Drive". Besides the clutch pedal, these can be told apart from the later PowerFlite by their strange "D-N-R-L" range of gears - the position of reverse making a strong argument for keeping the clutch pedal!

The Plymouth Hy-Drive functioned somewhat similarly, but was a much different transmission. It's never been successfully explained to me why Chrysler spent what had to be enormous sums not only reinventing the wheel with this new transmission, but making HyDrive-specific engine blocks and floors as well (yes, the HyDrive does share oil with the engine; nobody's been able to explain the alleged advantages of that to my satisfaction either). These expenses took place just as Chrysler was being pushed out of its #2 position by Ford, at a time when Plymouth found itself vulnerable to sales challenges from Buick and Oldsmobile as well. It is not hard to conclude that this money could have been better spent elsewhere, perhaps on accelerating the PowerFlite program to come out a year earlier.

If this wasn't confusing enough, this whole situation repeated itself in Canada, where all 6-cylinder Chrysler vehicles used the longer Windsor/DeSoto block, Plymouths and Dodges getting a smaller displacement version (228 cubic inches, or about 3.8 litres). HyDrive was offered on Canadian Plymouths and Plymouth-based Dodges as well, which had to retool a HyDrive-specific version of the 228 block in relatively small numbers.

Bill Watson wrote:

Mike Sealey is correct about the Hy-Drive offered by Plymouth (and its Dodge and DeSoto versions) in 1953 and 1954. The engine, torque converter and transmission all shared the same oil. The transmission was a normal 3-speed manual with no automatic or semi-automartic shifting. To change from one gear to another you used the clutch. You could start the car, put the transmission in 3rd gear, and drive with accelerator and brake all day, never needing the clutch unless shifting to reverse, neutral or 1st or 2nd.

Acceleration was not neck-snapping, but it was comparable to Buick's Dynaflow and the first version of Chevrolet's Powerglide. Both those GM transmissions used the torque converter to help increase power to the rear wheels from a dead start without using gears. (You can tell a shiftless Powerglide by the whine, something lost on the shifting 2-speed version.)

Ron Riopelle:

Mike Sealey stated that "In later years, this transmission was modified to shift quadrant-style like a modern automatic." On 1951-1953 Chryslers only (not DeSoto or Dodge), it was merely the addition of a quadrant-style gear indicator on the steering column. It was labeled "Fluid-Matic Drive" (or "Fluid-Torque Drive" if equipped with a torque converter), and the gear positions were "RLo Nu Dr."

Charlie Pfefferkorn: "In the early 1960s, my 1953 Firedome needed a little extra help. By placing a switch in line with the kick down circuit, I was able to use all four speeds. After the pause shift from low-low to low-high, I would then throw the switch as the shift lever passed neutral. The Desoto was then in hi-low with the next shift the normal pause shift into hi-hi. The switch had to be turned off any time before the last shift or it would just free wheel after letting off the gas peddle. The best acceleration was achieved by short shifting lo-lo to lo-hi. The split shift was the quickest. Then wait forever for hi-hi. I drove it like that for a long time with no trans trouble."

S. Berliner III noted that Fluid Drive was trade-named Gyról Fluid Drive, a meaningless Frenchified word.

Fluid drives on trucks

Paul Sahler wrote: "I believe it was offered as an option in 1948-52 1/2 ton pickups I have seen and driven both the 3 speed on the column and a 4 speed on the floor. They used standard truck transmissions with longer input shafts and the bell housing is a longer cast piece. 

"You can push start a Fluid Drive vehicle using 2nd gear in the three and four speeds and 2nd gear low range in the wait and clunk, starting with the clutch depressed at about 15 mph ease the clutch out. If you start with the clutch out you need to reach 20-25 mph before the oil in the fluid drive has enough oomph to spin the engine.

"As far as pulling power in the pickups, not a problem, we regularly pulled 4-41/2 tons of hay with a four speed 1/2 ton. Dad and I also used to put a yard of gravel on this same truck. I have wondered how a fluid drive would do in a military style Power Wagon. The action of the Fluid Drive seems like it would work real well in low speed rock and hill applications. The other nice thing is I don't ever remember replacing a clutch in any of our Fluid Drive Mopars."

People need to remember that before the mid-1950s Fluid Drives were not transmissions, they were couplings between the engine and clutch, the shared oil ones were an attempt to build torque by using pressurized oil. The only basic difference in the pre-1950s transmissions, between the fluid drives and non fluid drives, is the length of the input shaft, fluid drives shafts are longer to reach the pilot shaft bushing. The bell housing is also longer to accept the thicker fluid drive unit.

I remember getting four shifts in a 1948 New Yorker straight 8, however Dad had mentioned something about it not being quite right, to correct the problem he wired some switches and the car could be driven both ways. By using the correct switch and revving the motor at the same time, you could downshift to low range and use engine-braking to help you to stop. Helpful in a 2 ton car.

I do agree that the shared-oil fluid drives were in more than the Plymouths. When Dad would come across those years cars, that was one of the things he would look for. He did not want a car that the oil is shared, to easy for things to go wrong in his opinion.

What makes them different to most people is the ability to be in gear with your foot on the brake not the clutch. Although difficult you could stall the motor by dumping the clutch and if you tried real hard you could spin the tires. And if you want to really have fun with someone who has never seen one, with the motor running, making sure they notice, put the car in gear, with your foot on the brake, ease the clutch out, then ask them what's wrong. One person was so convinced the clutch was slipping he walked home just so he would make it.

Dave Stragand of forwardlook.net supplied the following notes from current owners:

from Terry and Andree Hoeman: The original intention was to only put it into high range and use the two speed feature in it. Low range was only for high load usage and towing type stuff. We are used to quick acceleration now and feel we must use the low range first. I bet it doesn't add much to speed up the start up when you throw in the slow shift time from low to high range.

from Tom Stroup: We have a 1948 DeSoto and you have described (shifting) it perfectly. Put stick in second gear position, start out, lift foot on accelerator, hear the clunk, go some more, shift into third gear position.

from Semodave: Technique to get all 4 speeds was start in 1st, rev to 25mph; clutch and quickly jerk shifter to just touch "high" then back to 2nd--no clunk here. As more speed was gained, clutch quickly to "high" kicking down in the process, then 4th would come in when you let up on gas--usually around 70! Always used 4 speeds in all races I was in; and usually won--that 120 mph speedo wasn't just for show.

from S. Keller: I had/drove many Fluid Drives, like this: push in clutch, put in Hi, let out clutch and drive all day. Never used Lo except to squeal the tires to show off in my 1953 Dodge 6 cylinder. Even back then in 1966 my friends couldn't get it, so they had to drive Fords and Chevys.

Stories

George Shahovskoy wrote:

I graduated from high school in 1954. One of the fellows in my class had a lovely 1948 New Yorker Highlander coupe and he drove it most conservatively. I sensed that he wished he could do a little bit of showing off, so one lunch hour, I got into John's Chrysler and drove it around the block - or two or three - to get the feel of it. It wasn't long before I realized that the Chrysler's straight eight had more than most people suspected and the fluid drive, if properly "tweaked," might just surprise quite a few people in a stop light grand prix. A day or so later, I finally had my chance!

The broad avenue of 38th Street in Indianapolis was a perfect venue to let that Chrysler strut her stuff and I found an unsuspecting victim in the form of a Packard at the very next traffic light. Edging forward enough to let the Packard's driver know I was "interested," we both took off with the pedal to the metal when the light turned green.

I had the Chrysler's shift lever UP or in the normal "second" position and let that straight 8 wind up until it sounded about right then STABBED THE CLUTCH VERY QUICKLY. The solenoids did their thing INSTANTLY and grabbed the next gear so that Chrysler never missed a beat as we leaped ahead of that Packard.

Again the motor wound up and once more I stabbed the clutch but this time slammed the shift lever down to "high" and let the clutch out soon leaving the Packard in the dust. By then we were well beyond legal speed limits as I again was ready to do the stabbing between the two gears in high range. But I didn't have to since the Packard had long since cried "Uncle" and John had a grin from ear to ear.

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