History of Gearless Transmission Co. and Its Remarkable Transmission Technology
Much like modern automotive trend on shifting
from with manual transmissions to more confortable automatics, in the first
decade of the last century there was a demand for a semi-automatic transmission
that operated without the driver involvement. And automotive engineers of that
time had some interesting engineering solutions to offer.
Henry Ford made a fortune on this by developing his version of the planetary transmission for his legendary Model “T”. The Gearless Transmission Co. approached the semi-automatic transmission concept from a different angle and came up with its own designs that found application of several vehicles produced by the company.
This company is known for its Gearless
Automobile equipped with the same-named transmission unit. The transmission did
not use a flywheel or clutch. Instead the gearless transmission used friction
wheels for forward and reverse.
The Gearless was manufactured from 1907 to 1909.
In 1907 Gearless automobiles were produced as a Model-50, Model-60 and a
Model-75. In 1908 a Gearless produced a 60 horsepower touring car and Greyhound
roadster. In addition, a Great Six 75 horsepower touring car and Greyhound
Roadster. In 1909, the company produced 12 different vehicles. For its cars the
company patented transmission designs.
The gearless transmission gave two speeds
without the use of any gears, the high-speed being direct, in which the
change-speed elements revolved together as a unit, with no internal friction
nor rolling contact. The entire change-speed unit revolved together as a
flywheel. It consisted of six large special fiber rolls of conical shape
revolving on and in an exterior and interior cone. These two cones co-acted
with a sliding, double-faced, solid jaw clutch, which was moved to the extreme
forward position to give the low speed and to the extreme rearward position to
give the reverse. The internal cone was constantly pressed toward the external
cone by means of a spring, so as to always insure “bite” enough to make the six
cone rollers revolve without slipping in the low speed and reverse drives.
Patent drawings of the
The Gealess transmission had the advantage of no change-gear friction on the high speed, or direct drive, rolling friction engagement, and rolling friction engagement in low speed and reverse. The coned rollers were held laterally in a cage of large diameter and press against a gray iron cone made fast to the extension of the motor shaft. On their opposite faces they pressed against an internally faced cone, also of gray iron, and which was concentric with the propeller shaft of the car. The cone, roller and cup angles were such that the 3 elements rolled together without any sliding, and hence without sliding friction. To avoid the slipping of the rollers on the cone or in the cup, a heavy spring pressure was applied to the cone cup to force it towards the driving cone, this pressure was sufficient to make it possible for the motor to slide the roller surfaces on the cone or in the cup. Built in two sizes for light and heavy cars, this transmission can be used with either shaft or chain drive. This unique design put less strain on the running gear of a car than many other gear shifting solutions of that time.
Despite the high-quality design and a wide
popularity of the Gearless vehicles, with time the company faced significant
financial difficulties. After a restructuring in 1908, and the addition of a
less expensive four-cylinder car equipped with a standard transmission, the
company managed to make it to 1909. However, all measures made to help save the
company later turned out to be in vain, and it went out of business that fall.