Since the dawn of the automobile, automakers have sought to make driving easier and more approachable. Oftentimes that has meant engineering ways around our beloved clutch pedal and gear lever. Early motorized vehicles were a jumble of confusing sliders, levers, buttons, and dials that would confuse any modern driver. The quest to simplify these controls took several twists and turns, achieving with varying degrees of success.
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I learned to drive in a Chrysler with Fluid Drive. The best thing about it was you didn't have to coordinate the throttle when starting from a stop; just pop the clutch and go.
Mention should also be made of Citroen's "Citromatic". Introduced on the DS (1955-1975), it was powered by the same pressurized oil system that ran the suspension, brakes and steering rack. Touching the shift lever mounted horizontally above the steering wheel would cause the clutch to disengage. The lever was then moved to the desired gear while hydraulics did the actual gear shifting, and when the lever was released, the clutch would re-engage once throttle was applied.
I just recently sold my '52 Chrysler Imperial "Newport" hardtop. As Chrysler's first fully automatic transmission ("PowerFlite") was still two model years away, it, of course, had the semi-automatic. By this point, "Fluid-Drive" had become "Torque-Drive" as the fluid coupling was replaced by a torque convertor. Torque multiplication, plus V-8 hemi power ("Chrysler FirePower") meant the big beast had some real get-up-and-go!
After posting about the 1968 Beetle and Karman Ghia, I noticed the sidebar article announcing the new Hyundai system, which works in a similar manner. The Hyundai will have an electrical sensor in the shifter which commands a hydraulic motor to engage a slave cylinder to apply the clutch through hydraulic pressure...a slight variation of the nothing new under the sun concept. And that Electric Hand from the Hudson is another...so interesting to see all these old ideas modified and repurposed over the years.