Some General Motors "firsts"

We have received an interesting booklet compiled in 1961 with the assistance of the Engineering Staff of General Motors of Detroit which deals with pioneering in the factories of this great American automotive empire.

This book describes how in 1910 the S.A.E. reduced the different types of lock-washers from 800 to 16, and 1,600 sizes of steel tubing to 17, in 13 different gauges. Alloy steel variants shrank from 230 to about 50. In 1910 Cadillac introduced Kettering’s improved battery ignition system and this was followed by electric self-starting on the Cadillac, which gained them the R.A.C. Dewar Trophy for the second time.

In 1920 the General Motors’ Research Corporation was formed and in 1924 the 1,125-acre Milford proving ground was opened, 42 miles north-west of Detroit. By 1933 G.M. were offering the first “knee action” i.f.s., Cadillac had introduced the synchromesh gearbox in 1928, and Oldsmobile hydraulic control of planetary gears, but retaining the normal clutch, in 1937. The Hydra-Matic fully automatic transmission followed, on the Oldsmobile, in 1939, and was adopted by Cadillac in 1940.

The Dynaflow torque converter transmission, developed during the war for the Buick-built M-18 Hell Cat tank destroyers, was used for the 1948 Buicks, a twin-turbine version being adopted by Buick in 1953, and the variable-pitch dynafiow in 1955. Cheveolet took on Powerglide transmission in 1950 and the triple-turbine Turboglide in 1956.

Buick in 1912 developed a hot-spot for the carburetter, Cadillac the thermostatic control of air to the intake in 1922, and Oldsmobile adopted the first Delco-Remy automatic choke in 1931. In 1928, this book reminds us, A.C. Spark Plugs perfected the mechanical fuel pump.

Credit is given to Cadillac for introducing, in 1914, the first high-speed quantity-produced V8, its vibration from unbalanced forces being eliminated by the counterbalanced Cadillac crankshaft of 1923. Buick installed a dynamic crankshaft balancing machine in 1926 and the Oakland was fitted with a harmonic balancer in 1926. Rubber engine mountings appeared for the Oakland’s rear engine mountings and all the Buick’s engine mountings in 1926, followed on the Pontiac in 1928.

It is claimed that Cadillac pioneered controlled crankcase ventilation in 1925, and we are reminded that hydraulic tappets were used for the V16 Cadillac in 1930.

Fisher, which became a G.M. division in 1926, had introduced a lacquer coachwork finish for Oakland in 1923, and plate safety glass for Cadillac in 1928, which was standardised for these and La Salle cars by 1929. The Fisher all-steel body with one-piece turret top arrived in 1934. Buick introduced a convertible body in 1949, eliminating side pillars.

On the subject of brakes the booklet refers to Buick’s adoption of four-wheel-braking in 1924, their air-cooled finned alloy drums of 1958 and the Chevrolet Corvette’s optional fade-free sintered-iron brake linings of 1961. There is the E-Z-Eye heat absorbing glass used by Buick for screen and windows in 1950 and Cadillac’s lubrication-free chassis of 1960.

What answer has Britain and Europe to this interesting publication from the Public Relations Staff of General Motors?