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Ford transmissions: Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmissions..

July 4th, 2009

The original Ford transmissions dubbed “Cruise-O-Matic” use a torque converter and planetary gear system, providing three forward speeds plus reverse. In some applications, Ford offered a dual-range option allowing the driver to start in either first gear or second gear. For all practical purposes, the early ’60s were the first Cruiseomatic transmissions.

Dual range simply means that on the shift indicator lever, located on the column or floor, has a dual or two ranges of designation on it. Some of you old timers may remember that. It caused much confusion as to what gear or ‘dot’ to put the shift lever in. For example, on a common floor shifter: The shift lever is in P for Park when the car is off. This is usually the top or first range/designation on the shift lever. Then we have R for reverse, N for neutral, 3 or D for Drive, 2 for Second gear and 1 (or L for low) for First gear.

One the dual range units, the designations were: P, R, N, a Big Dot, instead of D for Drive, a Small Green Dot for the 2nd range and 1 or L (low) for first gear. The kicker is that the middle, small green dot was for drive, meaning it would start in first and shift normally through out the gear ranges. The confusing part (unless you read the owners manual) was that the first Dot or the bigger dot, which is what we are used to as the ‘Drive’ position actually would allow the car to only take off in second gear.

Ford did this for a couple of legitimate reasons. When one is driving on a slippery surface such as snow or mud, starting off in second gear, or a higher range, makes it easier to get traction from the drive wheels to the ground. This was a cool and effective feature, which was exclusive to the early C-4 Cruiseomatic only, but was dropped by 1966 for obvious reasons, as I said, people were often confused on how to properly drive the car.

Ford dropped the “Cruise-O-Matic” tradename during the 1970s; in the 1950s and early 1960s promoting the automatic transmission as a feature was a standard practice among automakers as they were relatively new. By the late 1970s most cars had automatics as standard equipment and there was no reason to especially call attention to them. The transmissions were marketed as the Merc-O-Matic when installed in Mercury vehicles, and Mile-O-Matic in Edsel vehicles.

Realistically speaking, amongst certain hot rod groups, using the phrase broadly, the C-4 is still popular. Due to the age of this unit, with the last C-4 transmissions giving away to the C-5 (which was a C-4 with a lock up torque converter) in the early 80s, the only was to purchase a transmission would be as a rebuilt transmission.

The good part about a rebuilt transmission is that you can have it taylored to you specifications. Ranging from a stock factory remanufactured unit to a full on dragster transmission. The options never end. If you are in the market for a rebuilt ford transmission, make sure you have the knowledge in hand to get the exact unit you need from a reputable supplier.

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