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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

What you need to know about Ford's "automated manual" transmission

The enthusiast community has been decrying the death of the manual transmission for what feels like decades, and for good reason. The numbers of manuals offered in new cars has shrunk year after year to the point that by our best estimations, just 1 percent of new cars are sold with a three-pedal setup.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/what-you-need-to-know-about-fords-automated-manua...
146 REPLIES 146
hyperv6
Collector

Look if you are going to do a Manuel leave it traditional or just don’t do it.
hb
Intermediate Driver

I agree completely. I believe we went through the clutch with slushbox back in the late 40’s into the 50’s. There are three ways…..high tech full auto, dct or foot on pedal hand on shifter. Anything else is just clutter. Cheers…Hans
Bostwick9
Advanced Driver

Tell it. If the manual in the ION I tested had been as seamless to use as the one in my 95 SL1, I'd have a manual right now.
Used to be the manufacturers made their manuals so miserable to use that they sold more automatics at higher profit.
My folk's own 63 Dart 270 manual wagon was towed off because the shift linkage jammed.
Even the car rags of the period [pick one from the 50s on] pointed out the lack of refinement and ease of use with domestic manuals. And the absence of development in new manuals.
Especially after tasting foreign cars and the Corvair what was offered was deemed clumsy and antiquated.
77GL
Advanced Driver

So we go back to the days before synchronizers?
Worldrider
Intermediate Driver

Hey, if I can have my cake (heel-and-toe like a demigod through the canyons) and eat it too (let the computer handle stop and go traffic), I’ll take it!
ChrisKennedy
Pit Crew

Not sure I understand this, but it sounds much like the old Porsche and VW Sportamatic, which I think flopped.

beetle57
New Driver

Yep just without the vacuum operation off the intake. But I have to say it makes driving my 72 Super Beetle auto stick in NJ traffic a lot easier.
GS
New Driver

We had one of those too.  Back in the day.  Worked fine.

 

DMcC
Detailer

Agree, my '70 Bug with auto-stick (name?) worked fairly well but I had to blow debris out of the vac intake or whatever on the engine to maintain positive shifting. I looked into swapping in a conventional shift trans but found it would have meant replacing the entire pan. No, not for a driver saved from a junk yard for $300.
TJC
New Driver

Automatic Stickshift

or Semi-automatic 

TJC
New Driver

It can be converted without a pan swap. 

DougL
Advanced Driver

If you change your mind, the pans are the same. I am reasonably certain the auto stick pan also has the tube for the clutch cable. You would need a pedal assembly, clutch cable and manual transmission. You could still use the same shift lever, just tighten down the adjustment for the clutch switch, to eliminate free play. A pretty easy swap, if you want to do it.
Bunka
Detailer

I had the same thought and I'm not sure why Porsche and VW stopped producing them. I believe it was the early 1970s. I believe they used a microswitch on the shift rod to activate the clutch. I do remember that the public did not embrace the sportamatic. My thought at the time was "Why". What did this do to enhance the driving experience? I wasn't going to pay for something with doubtful value.
DougL
Advanced Driver

Performance was not as good as the 4 speed. Sluggish acceleration and higher revs on the highway, due to the torque converter.
bhart
Pit Crew

Way back when, my buddy drove his mother's VW Cab with the Auto Stick and his goal in life that summer was to squeal or even just chirp the rear tires. No matter what he tried it was not possible, even foot to the floor in neutral, holding the stick in first and releasing the knob like a hot potato, it wouldn't do it. Tough car though, it never gave mom any troubles in the following years.
Robin
Intermediate Driver

Believe Mercedes Benz also had a transmission variant similar, called the Hydrak.
From reading about the cars with this option, many were swapped out for the normal manual transmission.
Isaiah1000
Intermediate Driver

I had this on my 2002 BMW; it was called SMG. It was a manual transmission with a electro-hydraulically actuated clutch. I loved it, but others hated it. You had to turn the shift speed to the fastest setting, but then it was a blast in the curves with paddle shift and it auto blurbed the throttle on downshifts. But, like I said, it was widely blasted and most people said it was terrible. It was kinda lurchy around town, but I wasn't daily driving the car so I didn't care. I wonder if Ford could have more luck... but doubtful. I can't be the only one that thinks SMG as soon as they see this article.
danmoffett
New Driver

Mercedes did the same thing with the Smart, the SMT transmission.
Daddygo
New Driver

Doesn't sound any different than the Autostick in the Volkswagens and Porsches from the 1960's and 70's. Sensor switch in the gear selector engages the clutch using pneumatic pressure to actuate the clutch plate. It will be interesting if Ford does get a patent for an idea that is already been in use.
spark123
Advanced Driver

Didn't the VW autostick work on the same principle?
Tomcat59
Intermediate Driver

Looks a lot like the Volkswagen Auto Stick from the 70's. When you touch the shifter, the clutch disengages and allows the shift. Let go and it engages.

Patents must have run out on that.

I'm a die hard manual transmission guy, but age and wear on my back have gotten me into a Porsche PDK. Not sure why I waited so long, it really is not a compromise. Faster shifts than I could ever do, faster acceleration, better fuel economy and ease of use in high traffic situations.

I'll keep the manual Boxster S for fun, but for long range road trips its the PDK.
Tom9716
Detailer

I used to drive a stick in my younger days, but after trying a Toyota MR2 Spyder with the SMT transmission in 2002 I was hooked. I now drive a Porsche Cayman with the PDK and would never go back. Around town I let the computer do the shifting, but on spirited Texas hill country drives I always use the paddles. The best of both worlds.
noah300g
Intermediate Driver

Far from the first. I had multiple Citroen DS-21's with 4 speed on the column shifters with no clutch pedal at all. Clutch new how to engage/disengage from when you used the shift lever. That was in the early 1970's. I'm sure there are a bunch more.
Tim
Technician

I thought about a system similar to this concept (but much different in execution) back when automatic manuals first hit the market, and wondered why no manufacturer made it. My vision was more about simply being able to disengage the automatic part of an automatic manual transmission. The early AMs were basically systems that actuated a clutch just as a human would. (Some people have even retrofitted AMs back to manual--see BMW.) So, my thought was what if there was a switch/button that allowed changing from automatic to manual mode? If the switch failed, the system could default to either mode and the car could still be driven. Enjoy the manual mode when it's fun, enjoy the automatic mode when it's tedious.
haroldlbrooks
New Driver

This appears to be almost identical to the autostick that VW had in 1968 including the clutch engage device on the shifter. I had one that was completely restored, including the autostick trans. It was terrible. It needed readjustment very often. Either have a manual transmission or not. I cannot believe that any auto maker would even consider this!
chrisawyer
Intermediate Driver

Now all I need is a rotary engine, and a sleek four-door sedan body with a low Cd. to have a modern NSU Ro80.
flowney
Intermediate Driver

Reminds me of my dad's '47 DeSoto with what they called "Fluid Drive." He could shift through the gears or just let up on the gas to shift to the next gear automatically.
More recently I read that drag racers are replacing torque converters with clutches in front of an auto trans that can shift better than a human.
Electric motors make this all unnecessary.
DrOverboost
Intermediate Driver

In my 1100 horsepower 1936 Ford pickup I use a manual valve body in the auto transmission and a spring-loaded electric solenoid on the shifter. I set my delay box to shift at 2.54 seconds. The torque converter allows the power to come on gradually so it doesn’t break loose the rear wheels on my 1-2 shift at 100 miles per hour. No wear on clutch plates. Just fluid dynamics at work. The converter also helps with the launch (0-60 in 1 second with 3/4 of a turn of wheel spin).
Tom9716
Detailer

I also used that approach with my 1971 Camaro SS, when I installed a manual shift valve body in the Turbo 350 automatic transmission. I also added a higher-stall torque converter which gave it better performance “off the line”. Bought that car new and am still enjoying it.
Huntz-Hall
Detailer

Yup Flowney my Dad had a '49 DeSoto with fluid drive. Maybe that's why he let me sit on his lap when I was 6 and let me drive! Great memory.
JoeP53
New Driver

I am retired from Eaton Corp. They have been making this type of transmission for heavy-duty trucks for years. Many drivers prefer this to the regular manual transmission. They have sold thousands and thousands of these transmissions.
38Chevy454
Intermediate Driver

Exactly, I don't see how this is any different and what is patent-able for it. Unless because it still has the shift lever and ability for foot controlled clutch. Big trucks started out with just using the clutch pedal for starting out from dead stop. Newer models don't even have the clutch pedal; just throttle and brake pedals. Truck computer controls everything now, just step on throttle and it engages to go. Either model used a keypad to just select R or D, and the computer controlled the shifting and downshifting. The transmission is still a conventional manual, and a dry clutch type setup. Just all controlled by the truck's computer rather than the driver. Without a conventional shifter sticking through the floorboard.
TG
Gearhead

As a former diesel mechanic, I was going to post something similar, but in my experience the concept in most cases is reversed. A manual transmission with a pneumatic controller handling the shifter and the driver managing a largely conventional clutch. I've been out of the game for a decade+ so things may have changed
OldFordMan
Advanced Driver

The real reason for this is in this sentence:
"An electronically actuated clutch would also mitigate the three-pedal learning challenge and the initial fear of damaging a clutch."
Those would-be wanna-be like us shifters only in disguise.
The parts and repair departments will have more to do.
Go 4 on the floor, even 5 and 6. 3 real pedals reigns!
joesailor
New Driver

Not sure I see the difference between this and the Ferrari F1 or Aston Martin Sportshift which were single clutch automated manual gearboxes. They all seem to wear clutches faster than a human driver does.
Tom9716
Detailer

Not any more. Any clutch wear has long been eliminated.
toddh9
Pit Crew

Sounds like you’d still have to come out of boost to change gears. Just build a proper DSG, Ford.
topside
Instructor

Meh, more like lamest of both worlds.
If one can't master the art of shifting a manual, including smooth upshifts under power and rev-matched downshifts, that person may be an operator, but not a Driver.
The Art is in proficiency, not augmented efficiency. Not to mention complexity, reliability, and repairabilty...
Huntz-Hall
Detailer

I agree Topside.
Tom9716
Detailer

I disagree, Topside. I used to do all that, but moved on to dual clutch automated manuals a while ago. Never looked back.
erne75
Advanced Driver

Some people come out of the closet too and never look back...
Tomcat59
Intermediate Driver

I may have blurted such remarks in my younger days, however well into my 60's with enough wear and tear on some key structural parts,  I've warmed up to the PDK. 

 

In my day I could match revs, heel and toe, cut a great light at the drag strip and set competitive times on the track.   I still have manual transmission cars and always will.   But as mentioned, the PDK is just too good to ignore and allows me the opportunity to take long road trips in auto mode for the boring parts, and crack red line speed shifts for the fun parts.  And my back has no complaints.   

 

Aging has a funny way of refocusing things.   

Tim
Technician

And for some of us, it didn't even take aging. I'm impressed if any of these die-hard manual fans truly love rowing a manual in traffic. I never did enjoy that, so most daily drivers in my garage were automatics. If I could have a manual that could self-shift in traffic, that would be a win to me.
drhino
Technician

Kyle, you brought up the point I was itching to make— complexity. That is the way of the world at this point. It doesn’t matter if something works really well, slather some tech on it! Get the “gee wiz” factor. Then deal with the unintended consequences later, by adding more tech. As someone who has never bought myself a vehicle without a manual (even daily drivers); I am concerned that my streak may end due to unavailability. This electronic clutch would be better than a slush box, flappy paddles, or a CVT.
l8_apex
New Driver

As others have noted, this isn't the first automated manual. My 2016 ProMaster diesel was only offered with one transmission, a 6 speed automated manual. I've never looked at a schematic, so I don't know how Ford's patent differs. Ram did it to squeak out every last bit of mpg for their diesel offering. It's been fine but isn't good around the city as shifts are slow to occur.
AH3K
Intermediate Driver

I agree with Hyperv6 - plus... the SERIOUS ADVANTAGE of a manual cogbox is the LACK of electronic bits and pieces (MSTB = More S**t To Break). Besides... anybody remember the vacuum operated clutch on a VW bug? No... I think I'll use a phrase one of my old EE profs used to describe a gadget, fraught with problems... "It's an Ingenious solution to a non-existent problem!" [ BAN SENI-AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSIONS... THEY KILL PEOPLE ]
50s60s70s
Detailer

Un.. NO!
The reason I want a manual is to DELETE computer control, not include it.
When I own a vehicle for literally decades, the simpler the better with less systems dependant on unsupported software.
If you can't manage a clutch...learn.
My 2005 Dodge has 250k miles on the first generation Hemi I've replaced the clutch twice once was a mechanical failure in the clutch since the other was simply wear.
No thanks, I'll stick with do it yourself shifting.
OHCOddball
Advanced Driver

Nothing new here. More electronic crap to break. Automatics or their alternatives are great in congested areas where you are always shifting, but I prefer it simple.
55Customline
Intermediate Driver

This is very interesting, several years ago I had the opportunity to drive several Ford Focus' equipped w/ automatic transmissions. They all would lurch on occasion at low speeds when starting to accelerate. Eventually I was assigned a new 2016 Focus as my company car. Around the time the warranty was about to expire it started doing this bucking/lurching at times. This was a 6-speed auto w/ only two pedals. I called the service department of the local Ford dealer to ask if this was something I needed to get in before the warranty was expired or if it was a common problem they would fix if it got worse. I was told they would take care of it regardless of when I brought it in and they went on to explain what was causing this. This explanation included a description of a transmission described here. The bucking/lurching was caused by the computer not knowing what gear to select, this would happy when the driver hesitated before accelerating. They said a true auto would never get the kind of MPG a manual trans could get and this manual was electronically shifted by a computer. I was also told that driving it a little more aggressively would solve the problem and it did. I had been driving it for economy (not wanting to drive aggressively in a company car) which aggravated this situation.