I first wrote this back in 2017 and was wondering what this unusual contraption was like to actually drive around with. Fear not, it’s been done and recorded for posterity and courtesy of the ever-fascinating Triggers Road Tests on flickr we can read all about it right here
CAR magazine of the UK (still going strong) carried out what they call a twin test so they could compare and contrast two French examples of different degrees of transmission automation. The Simca 1000 Automatique was less than automatique in that it had a three speed manual box, a torque converter and an electomagnetic clutch while the Renault 10 had the three speed Jaeger automated manual, also using an electromagnetic clutch. The Simca required you to choose your desired gear by yourself, the Renault did it for you.
In summary the Renault was somewhat less than satisfactory, at least by modern standards. Starting off was jerky unless you went very gently and gearchanges were both jerky and too common as when driving around town the gearbox tended to hunt between second and third.
What each car had in common, inevitably so at the time, was a carburettor and therefore a choke for cold starting. This brought with it difficulties in warming up, as the drag caused by the Simca’s torque converter tended to stall a cold engine unless the choke was just so while the Renault’s party piece was to close the throttle completely during a gearchange, also resulting in a stalled cold engine unless the choke was just right.
No, I wouldn’t want either. We’ve come a long way.
Now, back to the original:
In homage to the day that’s in it let’s explore the French contribution to unusual ways to change gear with as little input as possible.
If you had an older British car your speedometer almost invariably said Smiths on the face and the same Smiths made the Easydrive, a twin clutch gearbox long before its time.
If you had a French car the equivalent name was Jaeger and they got in on the automatic transmission game too. Meet the Jaeger push button automatic
Interestingly, this used an electromagnetic particle clutch to a Smiths design. Attached to this was a three speed manual box operated by solenoids. The whole lot was controlled by a relay case containing switches which managed clutch, throttle and gears to provide a jerky but efficient automatic transmission. The system was available in the 1960s in various Renaults including this 10.
Production continued until 1971 when the 10 was replaced by the 12 which had the option of the first electronically controlled automatic box.
Renault still sell cars with automated manuals.