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A Buick Transmission Marketing Question


J3Studio
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In 1964, big Buicks moved from the Turbine Drive (Dynaflow) transmission to the Super Turbine 400 transmission, which other General Motors divisions designated the Turbo Hydra-Matic. By 1969, Buick had generally moved to using the Turbo Hydra-Matic designation.

 

I have some suspicions, but does anyone know why Buick used the Super Turbine 400 name first and why they switched to the corporate name in around 1969? The Buick: A Complete History mentions the two transmission name changes, but doesn't hint that the Super Turbine 400 and Turbo Hydra-Matic are closely related.

Edited by J3Studio (see edit history)
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Buick had used "Twin Turbine" and "Triple Turbine" as  trademark names for earlier Dynaflow incarnations.  I'm guessing that they used "Super Turbine" as a name that would sound familiar to repeat Buick customers.

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I would guess because the move to having one division - Hydra-matic in charge of all transmission development.  Prior to that time each division had their own (as an example) 350 transmission.  Similar, but not exactly the same.  They each might have had as an example different thrust bearings, etc.  Data wise, they also had different repair rates as shown by warranty expenses.   It was the first step in commonizing parts that the customer would never sees for cost savings.

 

I could tell you stories about the Buick transmission upgrade meeting.  Interesting discussion topic, but not on this format.

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)
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It may have been because the Buicks had a switch pitch  feature (in the torque converter I believe) starting in 64.  I know by 69 they did not offer that feature any longer.  That switch pitch did make for livelier performance.  Dad's 65  Electra was markedly different when the original trans was replaced with an off the shelf unit that did not have the switch pitch converter. 

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The 64 ST400 "Turbo hydramatic" was a one year transmission.  It DID NOT have a switch pitch torque converter.  The switch pitch converter was a 1965 - 1967 design.  Your dad's 65 Electra either had a 64 transmission installed or the trans shop did not connect all of the wiring correctly.  Only the 64 non switch pitch ST400 and the 65-66 ST400 would have bolted up to the nailheads bellhousing.  In '67, Buick went to the corporate BOP bellhousing, Chevrolet had it's own which would still bolt up to its earlier small blocks.  Even though it called BOP (Buick Oldsmobile Pontiac) I think that Cadillac used the same TH400.

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Buick and Chevrolet were the only two GM divisions to have their own, "in-house" automatic transmissions.  HydraMatic Division supplied automatic transmissions to the rest of the GM divisions.  Each with their own versions and types.

 

Chevrolet desired to keep producing their PowerGlide as it was well-proven, as it was becoming antiquated by the massive shift to three-speed automatic transmissions by others in the industry.  The advantage of the PowerGlide was that it consumed only about 20 horsepower to operate it.  Which is one reason the drag racers liked it so much . . . more power to the ground by their really powerful engines.

 

As mentioned, the "turbine" name had been part of Buick automatic transmission for many years, with the various DynaFlow variations.  Especially the Triple-Turbine DynaFlow in 1958.  The 1964 Super Turbine 400 was a one-year item, due to the continuation of the DynaFlow shift quadrant on the ST400.  1965 brought the switch-pitch THM400 and the government-required standardized shift quadrant (PRND21, for 3-speed automatics).

 

The switch-pitch torque converter was a performance upgrade, on Buicks and Oldsmobiles in '65.  More "throw-back" to the variable-pitch DynaFlow torque converters.  The Super Turbine 300 was the 2-speed automatic with a switch-pitch torque converter.  For 1968, Switch-Pitch was deleted to allegedly result in cooler trans fluid temperatures, for longer transmission life.

 

Getting all of the GM divisions to use either the Turbo-Hydramatic 350, the THM400 very possible decreased GM's production costs of these transmissions.  Just needed to have the bellhousing bolt pattern match the engine the transmission would be bolted to.  EACH had their own option code, too,  As did the later light-duty THM375 (version of THM400) and the THM250 for 6-cyl engines (usually inline 6s).

 

Enjoy!

NTX5467

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33 minutes ago, NTX5467 said:

The 1964 Super Turbine 400 was a one-year item, due to the continuation of the DynaFlow shift quadrant on the ST400.  1965 brought the switch-pitch THM400 and the government-required standardized shift quadrant (PRND21, for 3-speed automatics)

 

Enjoy!

NTX5467

Aw, but the 64's ST400 shift quadrant was not the same as the Dynaflow's.  The Dynaflow was RNDLR; the 64 ST400 quadrant was RRNDL (even though it had three forward speeds.)  The Dynaflow shared the shift pattern with the early Chevy Powerglide.  (You've seen uneducated sellers stating that 1963 Rivieras had a Powerglide transmission.)  Then in the mid 60's the Feds mandated that all automatic transmissions had to have the neutral gear between reverse and a forward drive gear.  Later Powerglides went to the same shift pattern as the 64 Buick - PRNDL.

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RivNut you are stating that the 64 was not a switch pitch

years ago i got a engine and trans from a 64 Electra wreck

and i am pretty sure that the dual quad linkage had the switch for the electric kick down 

just like the switch pitch cars so are you absolutely sure that the 64 did not have switch pitch

my out is it was many many years ago lol

 

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The 64 did have a switch that worked off the carb linkage but it was only used to control the electric kick-down.  It would have had two wires running to it, a brown and a yellow.  The 65 and later would have also had a micro switch attached to the throttle linkage shaft that would put the converter into the high stall mode at idle. As soon as you pressed on the accelerator, the micro switch (I think Buick called it the idle stator switch) would release and the converter would be in high stall. All of that wiring ran through the switch connected to the carb.  The 64 kick-down switch was a plunger type switch; the 65 and later kick-down / variable pitch switch was a pull type switch. The proof positive way to tell if the transmission is equipped with a variable pitch converter (without pulling the transmission) is to look at the solenoid on the side of the transmission. One male terminal - kick down only - 1964.  Two male terminals ( configured like a T) - kick-down AND variable  pitch 1965 and 1966. 1967 had the variable pitch feature as well but the case now had the BOP corporate bell housing patern so there's no way to confuse that one.

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The ST-400 version shown shown above replaced an earlier Dynaflow pin.  Buick offered this as an 'upgrade' to owners after receiving a slew of complaints about oily stains ruining neckties and often bleeding onto the shirt...  :unsure:

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

From my memory, lots of fun going on with transmissions!

 

So Full Size 63- last year of Dynaflow w/Nailhead bellhousing

64 Full Size -(non LeSabre coupes and 4-doors) non switch pitch 400 w/Nailhead bellhousing

65/6- Super Turbine 400 Switch Pitch w/Nailhead bellhousing

67 Super Turbine 400 Switch Pitch w/BOP bellhousing

68++ Turbo Hydramatic 3-speed w/BOP bellhousing

 

For LeSabre

63 last year of Dynaflow w/Nailhead bellhousing

64 (data unsure)300 cid BOP bellhousing; assuming 2-speed but was that switch pitch in 64? 

65/6/7 Super Turbine 300 2-speed, optional Super Turbine 400 Switch Pitch w/BOP bellhousing

68 2 speed turbo Hydramatic or Turbo Hydramatic 3-speed w/BOP bellhousing

69 ?

 

Cadillac also used a Switch Pitch 400 for 66; except for limousine.

 

 

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On 4/14/2020 at 2:35 AM, Ted "Wildcat65" Nagel said:

From my memory, lots of fun going on with transmissions!

 

So Full Size 63- last year of Dynaflow w/Nailhead bellhousing

64 Full Size -(non LeSabre coupes and 4-doors) non switch pitch 400 w/Nailhead bellhousing

65/6- Super Turbine 400 Switch Pitch w/Nailhead bellhousing

67 Super Turbine 400 Switch Pitch w/BOP bellhousing

68++ Turbo Hydramatic 3-speed w/BOP bellhousing

 

For LeSabre

63 last year of Dynaflow w/Nailhead bellhousing

64 (data unsure)300 cid BOP bellhousing; assuming 2-speed but was that switch pitch in 64? 

65/6/7 Super Turbine 300 2-speed, optional Super Turbine 400 Switch Pitch w/BOP bellhousing

68 2 speed turbo Hydramatic or Turbo Hydramatic 3-speed w/BOP bellhousing

69 ?

 

Cadillac also used a Switch Pitch 400 for 66; except for limousine.

 

 


For 64 add my 64 Skylark Sports Coupe, 300cu in 4bbl had Super Turbine 300, 2 1/2 speed automatic with switch pitch. It was a micro switch connected at the throttle and two wires went down to the transmission. I remember the orange concertina boot that covered the rod that connected to the carburettor at the throttle linkage. Not sure if it worked, I’m not that sort of guy! 😀😀😀😀

 

Im sure it worked, most things did on that one, sorry to see it go 😢😢😢😢

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