In 1963, American Motors created the Twin-Stick, a unique transmission control that is a unique feature among other automakers in the industry. Here’s everything about it.
American Motors struggled to distinguish its brand in the crowded 1960s auto industry because it lacked the financial and technological capabilities of the Detroit Three (General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Ford).
But thanks to the designers Roy Chapin Jr., Richard Teague, and Roy Abernathy, the innovative carmaker was always able to come up with something new and exciting. The Twin-Stick transmission, which was used from 1963 to 1965, is one of those unique features.
Rambler’s Borg-Warner electronic overdrive system, appreciated by fuel-conscious penny-pinchers everywhere but with a sporty twist, that is the Twin-Stick. The three-speed manual transmission has a second shifter fitted to the console shifter.
Essentially, the design operated like a conventional three-speed plus overdrive gearbox, but with a second stick that allowed the driver to activate or deactivate overdrive whenever they wanted.
A small white button on top of the shift knob allowed drivers to swiftly move from overdrive into regular gear range without using the clutch.
Isn’t that clever? The Twin-Stick blended the Rambler’s fuel efficiency with a dash of sporty enjoyment. On top of that, drivers had access to five distinct gear ratios thanks to an overdrive range in the top two gears.
For roughly $145, AMC and Borg-Warner engineers were able to adapt the system to all three B-W three-speed gearboxes utilized by AMC (small and big sixes, V8) to offer the optional feature throughout the automaker’s model range.
But in 1966, after much discussion, the manufacturer opted to use a more traditional four-speed manual gearbox instead of the Twin-Stick function. This is something we don’t know about, but it appears that buyers preferred the four-speed.
Since then, it has appeared in a few passenger cars, such as Mitsubishi models from the late 1970s and early 1980s that emphasized both efficiency and performance in a single transmission. We wouldn’t be surprised if the Twin-Stick concept reappeared again in the future.