From the Vaults: 1936 Chevy Transmission Video

by Paul Strauss

Automotive transmissions are one of the most complex bits of mechanical engineering we interface with on a daily basis. And while today’s transmissions are far more complicated than they once were, the core principals of adjusting gear ratios to adjust the force going to an axle are largely the same.

In this short film called “Spinning Levers” made by Chevrolet back in 1936, they walk us through the basic operating principles of a simple 3-speed manual transmission, and how the physics of leverage applied to spinning gears make it possible to amplify the power produced by an engine enough to drive a vehicle from a dead stop. You’ll also learn how synchromesh technology allows gears to shift smoothly and reliably.

If you’ve never understood how a transmission works, this is a really great primer, despite being nearly 80 years old.

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