Ford Cruise-O-Matic and Automatic Transmission C Family (Part I)

When I finished interviewing General Motors Turbo-Hydramatic A family of transmissions, I asked for a gearbox that you might want to see covered by the next abandoned history. Sharpened comments on different versions of the Ford, and automatic C families. I am fine! Today we’re back in the 50’s and learn about the origins of all C’s.It was a very 50’s sound Cruise-O-Matic, Built with pride in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Cruise-O-Matic was not designed in-house by Ford, but was the first automatic transmission to be widely used throughout the Ford-Lincoln-Mercury portfolio. Ford was far behind the game of fully automatic transmissions and realized that around 1948 they were lagging behind the competition. By that time, GM had been selling the 4-speed Hydra-Matic for eight model years. We’ll talk more about this soon.

Ford’s first idea was to buy an automatic from someone else. The gearbox decided by Ford was the DG, a brand new transmission designed by BorgWarner’s Detroit Gear Division. But there was a problem. The people of Dearborn did not (yet) have the right to use it because it was not designed for Ford.

Since the DG was designed for Studebaker, Ford approached the hat in his hand and asked if he could buy the right to build the DG. Studebaker had no problem selling his rights with Ford, but their board had provisions. Studebaker had a one-year exclusive right to use the DG in its car before Ford added the DG to its lineup. And the underfunded Studebaker was already behind the automatic game. DG isn’t ready for another two years – Studebakers model year 1950.

Feeling that Ford Automatic’s 1951.5 debut wouldn’t cut mustard, Ford decided to spend more money and get their own transmission design. They had already hired an engineer from BorgWarner and a man named Harold Youngren, Vice President of Engineering. Youngren made a brief recommendation: Ford should go buy the automatic he worked for until he left his former employer.

It was a coincidence that the automatic under development at BorgWarner was not a request of any particular car manufacturer. In particular, it was developed by BorgWarner’s Warner Gear Division, not the Detroit Gear Division. Ford approached BorgWarner and soon signed an automatic contract. The agreement said Borg would make half of Ford’s automatics, and the other half could be produced in-house or by other suppliers at Ford.

Ford didn’t want to get the transmission work done more than necessary, so he immediately put the plan for a new transmission plant into action. When completed, Ford had a new 629,000-square-foot Fairfax transmission plant in the village of Cincinnati, Fairfax, Ohio.

When launched in 1951, the transmission was branded as Ford-O-Matic. In Mercury vehicles it became Merc-O-Matic and in Lincoln it was called Turbo-Drive. It’s worth mentioning that Lincoln used GM Hydra-Matic (gasp!) In the early 50’s. Turbo drives weren’t suitable for Lincoln use until 1955, perhaps after some time to prove themselves reliable. Ford’s Automatic was renamed Cruise-O-Matic in 1958. This is a well-known name.

The newly created Ford Automatic had two advantages over the previous automatics that the company used here and there. The BorgWarner design integrated a torque converter and a planetary gearset. In other words, the gear shift occurred without interrupting the torque. Keep in mind that automatic transmissions weren’t common until the 1950s. good..

The BorgWarner Box has also implemented the latest PRNDL shift pattern in place of Ford’s previous PNDLR. The old pattern caused an excessive shift shock when changing gears. PRNDL has also removed the low gear range between drive and reverse, facilitating actions such as parking stuck vehicles and rocking back and forth.

The original design of the transmission was technically 3rd, but when it was put into D, it started in 2nd and shifted to 3rd. First gear was only used when the car was L (low). In situations where the driver removes the gas from the line, the gearbox shifts from second to first on the drive, then back to second, and shifts third when the car speeds up.

Having had to experience a transmission licensing issue under development at BorgWarner, Ford couldn’t save more time than originally planned to adopt Studebaker’s DG BorgWarner unit. The Ford-O-Matic was ready for the 1951 model. This gave Ford an advantage of about six months over the automatic purchase of Studebaker and the subsequent suspension of use.

But Ford got the last laugh! Studebaker got a happy use for just a few years from DG Automatic. Automakers have been struggling for years, and the money problem wasn’t helped as cars became more popular because DG was so expensive to make. Ford-O-Matic, which is functionally and dimensionally similar, was much more economical.

By the mid-1950s, Studebaker had fallen into a transmission jam. They approached Ford with the same demands that Ford had in 1948: let your autos be licensed for use with Studebakers. Ford agreed, and Studebaker soon started using the Ford-O-Matic in their cars. They named it Flight-O-Matic.

Ford-O-Matic remained in its original guise for the first few years before Ford began updating to meet the demand for more modern passenger cars. It continued to be produced until 1965, at which point Fairfax Transmission had already passed half its life as a transmission plant. Your author lives about 15 minutes from the site and we’re talking about abandoned history, so let’s learn a little more about what happened when a large power transmission plant suddenly shut down.

As a small suburb within Hamilton County, the Fairfax Transmission was the region’s leading employer from its inception to its closure in 1950. Fairfax manufactured transmissions for Ford’s large rear-wheel drive vehicles, such as the Ford-O-Matic and its successors. However, downsizing in the late 1970s eliminated the need for plant capacity and shut it down completely in 1979.

After the closure, Ford remained in an abandoned location on 4000 Red Bank Road until it was sold to a distribution company in January 1987. The company planned to convert at least part of the site into warehouse space. Not surprisingly, the vast grounds were no longer maintained, and the 35-acre plot fell into great devastation fairly quickly.

Prior to Ford’s sale of the property, the chemicals, heavy metals and asbestos of the time as plants were neither contained nor removed and were ignored by the purchaser in 1987. Slowly, everything from the factory leaked to the ground. The factory occupies 7% of the land area of ​​the village and has become a dangerous, obtrusive and economical hole for decades.

Environmental damage and site collapse continued until the 2000s. The situation at the site deteriorated and it was taken over as a project of the Cincinnati Port Authority. Government agencies received the property after enacting a covenant not to sue the site owner for various aspects of the environment and general negligence. The owner handed over the certificate without money and instead was never sued by the city.

The Port Authority acquired ownership in 2006 and began a $ 60 million multipurpose redevelopment. All 629,000 square feet of an abandoned factory were destroyed. This meant recycling 1.5 million tonnes of steel and 120,000 tonnes of concrete and digging up tens of thousands of tonnes of contaminated soil. Redevelopment was completed in 2009 and the site now houses Wal-Mart, Wendy’s, Bob Smerrell Tires and other companies and offices. The land has been damaged to the point where it cannot be used for housing, and the groundwater beneath it is off limits.

The influence of Cruise-O-Matic’s abandoned history will be felt in Cincinnati for a long time. Next time, we’ll cover the happier story of new transmission technologies.

[Images: Ford, Cincinnati Port Authority]

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Ford Cruise-O-Matic and Automatic Transmission C Family (Part I)

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