For decades, we've pretty much taken the way most cars are shifted for granted. The manuals get that extra legged H-pattern, and autos have more or less stuck to the PRNDL formula. But in the early days of motoring, not all shifters were created equal.
The 1936 Cord 810 is undoubtedly one of the most unusual cars of its era, and also one of the most elegant. Along with an engine-turned dash, popup headlights, and superhero car styling came another lesser known feature: pre-selector shifting.
Watch this video to see how the 810's semi-automatic transmission works. There's a little finger shifter next to the steering wheel where the driver preselects the gear from a mini H-pattern. But the car doesn't shift until the clutch is depressed, which is also how the car is started when it's in neutral.
The front wheel drive Cord transmission was weird, plagued with bugs and it never caught on, but was revolutionary nonetheless. Cord didn't make it out of the '30s intact, but its vacuum servo-operated semi-automatic 4-speed transmission made a brief reappearance in the Tucker Torpedo ten years after Cord's demise. Unfortunately, Tucker was also short-lived. Proof positive that beigekrieg began long before Volkswagen AG and Toyota began their most recent assault.
(Hat tip to vwlarry!)