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Ford "X" Transmission
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Also called



Production 1958-1981
Body and chassis
Class 3-speed automatic transmission
Related C-4/C-5
Successor AOD

Ford-O-Matic was the first automatic transmission widely used by Ford Motor Company.[1] It was designed by Borg Warner Corporation and introduced in 1951 model year cars. The three-speed Ford-O-Matic evolved into the "MX" and "FX" or Cruise-O-Matic transmissions in 1958 and the FMX[2] in 1968. This line continued in production until 1980, when the AOD was introduced. Like Ford, variations of this same Borg Warner design were used by other automobile manufacturers as well, such as AMC, International Harvester, Studebaker, Volvo and Jaguar, each of them having the necessary unique adaptations required for the individual applications.


In 1948, Ford realized it was late in introducing a fully automatic transmission to its automobile lineup. Ford Engineering Vice President Harold Youngren, recently hired away from Borg-Warner, recommended that Ford license and build a transmission using a design he was working on at his previous employer. Ford and Borg-Warner signed a contract in 1948 which entered B-W into a supply agreement wherein they would build half of Ford's transmissions for five years, with the other half either being built by Ford or by a different supplier. Because of this agreement, Ford licensed the design themselves and broke ground immediately on an assembly plant to build the remaining transmissions. The new plant, called Fairfax Transmission Plant, was dedicated in 1950. The original Ford-O-Matic accomplished two things that Ford's two previous automatic transmissions failed to do. Through the use of an integrated torque converter and planetary gearset, Ford's automatic shifted smooth without an interruption in torque from the engine. The other was the shifting pattern, revised from PNDLR to PRNDL, which served to reduce "shift shock" when changing gears and reduce "torque shock" when trying to rock a stuck car back and forth. The original Ford-O-Matic, while capable of three forward speeds, started out in second and shifted to third, with first only being used when selecting L on the gear shift column. The Ford-O-Matic was manufactured from 1951 until it was replaced by the C4 in 1964.[1]


In the mid-1950s, cars began to grow in size, and in response to heavier vehicles, more powerful engines were being developed. The original Ford-O-Matic was used as a template when developing the next automatic transmissions for Ford; in fact, many of the gear sets are interchangeable. The new transmissions arrived for model year 1958 which coincided with the release of Ford's new FE and MEL engines. Although marketed as Cruise-O-Matic, the new transmissions were known internally as the MX (larger) and the FX (smaller). They were a three-speed design using a Ravigneaux planetary gearset like the original, but moved the pump from the rear to the front of the transmission, while also using a different valve body so the transmission would start in first gear as opposed to second. The MX was built in the Livonia Transmission Plant in Livonia, Michigan and was placed behind the more powerful engines in Mercury, Lincoln, and select Ford models. The smaller FX was built alongside the Ford-O-Matic at the Fairfax Transmission Plant and was put in midrange Ford and Mercury models. Because the original Ford-O-Matic started in second rather than first, it was marketed as a two-speed after the new three-speed transmissions were introduced. Production continued until it was replaced by the C4 in 1964 and application was for smaller Ford and Mercury vehicles....

Fordomatic two-speed[edit]

The Fordomatic two-speed transmission was introduced in 1959. A simplified version of the Cruise-O-Matic, it combined a torque connector and a compound planetary gear set. A front unit (multiple-disc) clutch provided high gear, a front band on the clutch drum provided low gear, and a band on the rear unit internal gear drum provided reverse. This transmission was offered on Ford, Fairlane, Mercury, Edsel, Falcon, Comet and Meteor cars with differences in the torque converter, valve bodies and clutch plates to accommodate differing engine torques.


Ravigneaux planet carrier from a Ford FMX, with a dinner fork to show scale

In 1966, Ford introduced the C6 automatic, which left them with three heavy-duty automatic transmissions and crowded conditions at Livonia Transmission plant. Ford decided to combine the best attributes of the MX and FX transmissions and ended up with an improved version of the "X" called FMX. This transmission used the stronger MX-type rotating parts in the smaller FX style case. This cut down on both weight and the number of transmission components Ford needed to make. This transmission was manufactured at the Fairfax Transmission Plant, freeing up capacity at Livonia for the new C6. The FMX was manufactured from 1968 to 1979, when the Fairfax Transmission plant was closed.

Although the FMX was phased out in the United States in 1979 in favor of Ford's then-revolutionary Automatic OverDrive (AOD) transmission, the FMX was sold for another two years for use in V8 Ford Falcons built in Australia. The FMX ceased production when Ford Australia phased out the V8 engine.

Gear ratios[edit]

  • First: 2.40:1
  • Second: 1.47:1
  • Third: 1.00:1
  • Reverse: 2.00:1


In 1962, Ford began working on a new type of automatic transmission to emphasize fuel economy and driveability. The new transmission was built around the Ravigneaux planetary of the "X" transmissions. Where many transmissions had a fourth gear added as an afterthought, Ford's new transmission was designed with a fourth gear already integrated into the gearset. Because it was based on the X transmissions, its gear ratios from 1-3 were the same, with the fourth being .67:1. The transmission featured a split-torque application for third gear, as well as a lockup in the torque converter. The project was shelved with a design that initially lacked a dampener in the torque converter, but after the project was revisited, a dampener ultimately made its way into the final design before Job 1.[clarification needed] The XT-LOD was initially abandoned in 1966, but revisited in 1974 as a result of rising gas prices. The transmission was introduced when Ford downsized its full size line for 1979. Initially called XT-LOD (Extension Lock-Up Overdrive), its name was changed when revisited in 1974 to FIOD (Ford Integrated Overdrive) and then to its final name in 1979, the Ford AOD transmission.[3]

GAZ copy[edit]

The Soviet manufacturer GAZ from 1958 until 1996 manufactured its copy of the Cruise-o-matic transmission. Initially the plant purchased a 1954 Ford Mainline, to study and reverse-engineer the unit. Whilst very closely resembling in most details, including external appearance, the Soviet version had numerous features that distinguished it from the Fordomatic original. Mainly - the adoption to metric units, and gear ratios, suited to the 4-cylinder 65 hp engine of the GAZ-21 Volga car. The gearbox did not have a parking pin, but instead a large brake drum, that coupled the transmission and the drive shaft (in fact this was also the car's handbrake, as there were no cords to the rear brake shoes). The transmission was controlled by a steering column mounted selector with four regimes: Зх-Н-Д-П (Zkh-N-D-P i.e. R-N-D-L). In Drive the car would start in second and automatically upshift to third, and then either downshift or kick-down to second. First gear could only be engaged manually (though it would downshift automatically if the car were in motion) and was used for engine braking. Gear ratios were: 2.4 - 1.0 for torque converter, 2.84 for first gear, 1.68 for second, third was direct and reverse was 1.72.

Although the car with its automatic transmission made a successful debut, upon reaching production in 1958 most of the cars with the automatic transmission were shipped to distant regions of the country, where adequate service, access to spare parts and, most of all, automatic transmission fluid was absent. Thus, after an initial hiatus, production was quickly put on hold, and though officially the model was retired in 1964, most of the cars were produced in 1958 and total to roughly 700 units. Only six such cars are known to survive today.

Simultaneously GAZ was preparing production for its 7 seater limousine, the GAZ-13 Chaika. Here, the Cruise-O-Matic became the basis, and the gearbox more closely resembled its North American counterpart as it was mated to a 195 hp V8 engine. Like the Volga it too had a central transmission brake. The transmission was controlled by a dial-button selector with four regimes: Зх, Н, Д, Т ie. Reverse, Neutral, Drive and "Braking". In normal drive operation the car would start in first gear and sequentially upshift to third, and downshift or kick down, depending on driving. In "braking", third gear would be locked out, and first gear would be engaged by the rear band as opposed to one-way clutch in normal drive, thus preventing free-wheeling (Volga had no one-way clutch, as 1st gear would only be manually engaged for engine-braking). Unlike the Volga, the more massive torque required for a water-cooled system. Gear ratios were identical to GAZ-21, except for the torque converter, which had a maximum multiplication of 2.5.

Production began in 1959 and both the car and transmission earned a very good reputation. Although the GAZ-13 was not available to the general public and manufactured in small numbers, production would cease only in 1981. In 1963 a hybrid of Volga and Chaika appeared - the GAZ-23, which had the limousine's powertrain fit inside the smaller sedan. The transmission was adapted to the steering column shifter and more compact conditions of the Volga.

In 1970 GAZ-21 Volga was replaced by GAZ-24 and soon the V8 adoption appeared, dubbed GAZ-24-24. As the sedan's standard gearbox was now a four on the floor manual, the selector lever was adapted accordingly. As the cars, unofficially nicknamed "chasers", were used as motorcade escorts by KGB's ninth directive (responsible for personal security), required professional drivers, the factory did not even bother creating a special selector, and externally it resembled a manual transmission gearshift lever. Also removed was the central transmission brake, as the car now had conventional cord-actuated parking brakes, which was replaced by an extension housing to fit the shorter driveshaft of the GAZ-24. GAZ-24-24 would be produced alongside standard GAZ-24 until 1985. That year the car got a major facelift and internal modernisation with engine and chassis elements from the GAZ-3102 Volga, resulting in the GAZ-24-10 model. The Chaser became GAZ-24-34 and was produced until 1993.

In 1977 GAZ launched its successor to the GAZ-13 (although it would be retired in 1981), the GAZ-14 Chaika. The new limousine had a more powerful engine, 220 hp, and its transmission was revised. Like for the GAZ-24, the central transmission brake was removed, but unlike the sedan, it now had a parking pin. The floor mounted selector got an international P-R-N-D-2-1 lettering. Regime "1" now operated first gear only, via the rear band, whilst regime "2" locked out the first gear (like on the original GAZ-21 Volga). Gear ratios were now 2.35 - 1.0 for torque coverter, 2.64 for first gear, 1.55 for second, third remained direct, and reverse became 2.0 The car was produced from 1977 until 1989.

In 1981 GAZ launched what was to be a successor to the GAZ-24, but separated into a separate model and built alongside the -24, the GAZ-3102 Volga. It too gained a "chaser" modification - GAZ-31013 with the 220 hp engine from the GAZ-14, and its transmission, adopted to Volga's body. This model was built until 1996.

As only partial statistics have been published, it is difficult to count the total amount of transmissions built (including replacements). What is known that 3189 GAZ-13 Chaikas, 1120 GAZ-14 Chaikas, 608 GAZ-23 Chasers were built, in addition to the ~700 original GAZ-21 Volgas. Anywhere between 2 and 2.5 thousand GAZ-24-24, 24-34 and 31013 Chasers can be added. Thus approximately 8000 vehicles were manufactured by the plant from 1958 to 1996.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Flory, Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5. 
  2. ^ "A Brief History of Ford Automatic Transmissions". Baumann Engineering. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  3. ^ "Ford Automatic Transmissions: An Anecdotal History" (PDF). ATEO Communicators. Retrieved 2012-01-02.