If someone were to ask you how any of these worked, the simplest response would be just tell them magic. They work with magic.
What do you do when you have a 50cc race bike with a tiny power band? Exploit using more gears; 14 to be exact.
That's what Suzuki did with their championship winning RK67 from 1967, which squeezed 17.5 HP with a 17,300 RPM redline from just a 50cc water cooled twin.
Easily one of the most badass looking transmissions ever made. I'll let Raphael Orlove explain how it works:
"It's a bunch of planetary gear sets mounted together and operated manually, using a different gearlever for each gear set. As far as shifting up through the gears on a drag strip and handling massive power, there's little better."
This popular racing gearbox has just two gears: first gets you moving, and second is direct drive. Why direct drive? It reduces weight and rotating mass, making your race car faster. The whole thing only weighs 50 pounds dry.
Suggested By: OTE_TheMissle, Photo Credit: Brinn
The Prius gets derided for enthusiasts, but you can't argue that there isn't some brilliant engineering in it, like the gearbox.
It's called a CVT, but it really isn't. I'll let Boxer_4 explain:
"Unlike a typical CVT which uses cones and a belt or chain to vary the ratio, the eCVT has a planetary gear set with only one ratio.
The engine torque is split via the ring gear and the sun gear (center gear). The car is driven using the ring gear, while the sun gear is connected to an electric motor. A computer control system adjusts the electrical load drawn from the motor to either speed up or slow down the engine until the desired speed is reached."
Check out this site for an even more in depth explanation.
Chains! Just like in your bike, except in a car! In a chain driven Frazer Nash, you shift like you would a normal gearbox and the cars were actually rather fast.
The system, although unconventional, was brilliant because the gearbox was extremely light, didn't sap power, and could be easily modified for whatever type of racing you wanted.
These gearboxes were somewhat common in the 1930s and could be seen on everything from luxurious Cords to small Gogomobils to Auto Union race cars. To change gears, you preselected the gear you wanted on the shifter then you put the clutch in and the gear would change.
Confused? Just watch this video that shows you how to drive a 1936 Cord 810. It's amazing.
The origin of the Honda ten speed is that Honda customers couldn't agree on a bike with shorter gearing for more torque, or tall gearing for crusing, so Honda gave them both.
You could select a low range ratio of 5.26:1 in 5th, or a high range ratio of 4.50:1 in 5th. So it's like a huge truck, except on a motorcycle.
Suggested By: SantaRita, Photo Credit: Honda
In 1968, Volkswagen released one of the most interesting manual/automatic hybrids ever made, the Autostick. It had an vacuum controlled clutch that would disengage automatically whenever you touched the gearstick. The clutch controlled a 3 speed auto with an additional low range to get you moving, and a torque converter which would allow you to crawl with the car in gear.
Porsche also had the Autostick in their 911 and called it the Sportomatic. As cool as it is, it's not quite so weird as its predecessor.
Suggested By: Captain Pedantic, AWAY!, Photo Credit: Porsche
The Saxomat was very similar to the Autostick, except it used a centrifugal clutch for most of your driving and a diaphragm clutch to change gears. Like the autostick, the diaphragm clutch was disengaged whenever you put your hand on the gearstick.
It was developed after WWII to allow wounded veterans to drive a car without a clutch pedal and saw useage in a number of cars from Volskwagen, Fiat, Lancia, and others.
Do you hate CVTs? Blame the DAF Variomatic, which was the first mainstream(ish) CVT, amazingly launched in the late 1950s. It used belts to keep engines in the optimal power band, and it's design influenced the gearboxes in scooters and the infamous Williams FW15C.
Even if you hate modern CVTs, you can't hate the pioneering, strange brilliance of the original Variomatic.
Suggested By: Stig-a-saw-us-wrecks, Photo Credit: DAF
Welcome back to Answers of the Day - our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!
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