Home » Okay, That’s A Pretty Clever Way To Sell Automatic Transmissions: Cold Start

Okay, That’s A Pretty Clever Way To Sell Automatic Transmissions: Cold Start

Cs Unclutchable
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When I first saw this 1970 Volkswagen brochure advertising their automatic and semi-automatic transmissions, I thought, hey, that’s a funny play on The Untouchables, that movie that I can’t quite remember if I’ve ever seen or not that surely had to have been popular and well-known about that time! What a jape! And then I discovered that, huh, The Untouchables wasn’t released until about seventeen years after this ad. The phrase had to have been known well enough to be used back then, though? So what was it referring to?

That’s when I found out The Untouchables was a television show from 1959 to 1963. So that’s likely it? A reference to a television show seven years off the air?

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

I mean, the concept of an “untouchable” was certainly known then, and I know it was used to derogatorily refer to members of the Dalit caste in the old, oppressive Indian caste system that was outlawed in 1950, but I can’t imagine it was a reference to that.

Cs Unclutch 3

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Whatever it was, it’s telling of the era that the lack of a clutch was the big selling point of these transmissions, since it implied that most drivers were aware of what driving with a clutch was like. In modern America, of course, this wouldn’t work. I mean, I guess advertising that your car simply has an automatic option wouldn’t work, because it’s very much the default today.

But, it wasn’t always! And that’s why if you were okay with your Type 3 Fastback or Square back being significantly slower than it would normally be, you could enjoy not shifting! And there were people who absolutely felt that way.

Cs Unclutch 2

Of course, in the case of Type 1 VWs like Beetles and Ghias, the “untouchable” claim is a bit deceptive, because there was a clutch in the semi-automatic transmission you could get. You just didn’t use your foot to activate it. And, you still had to do some shifting!

If only there were a video with some dork explaining it all. Oh wait! There is!

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Fun fact: that’s still visible on the whiteboard I have here. That may have been the wrong kind of marker.

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Voeltzwagen
Voeltzwagen
10 months ago

I have a ‘69 type 1 “auto” and a ‘73 type 3 auto. The latter will take more power if looking to mod, but it still feels more fun “rowing your own” with the former.

Last edited 10 months ago by Voeltzwagen
Rafael
Rafael
10 months ago

I feel that manual x automatic in the automotive world is like GUI versus command line in software. One has a much steeper curve, but allow finer control and has die hards that swear by it.
I love manuals, drive an automatic by lack of options. I use command line at work, and would much rather use a GUI.
I AM THE CHOSEN ONE THAT WILL BRING BALANCE TO THE FORCE!

Last edited 10 months ago by Rafael
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
10 months ago

My left legs muscle memory is like the Sharpie on your whiteboard.
It can’t be erased.
The feeling of driving a manual can’t be replaced.
The unclutchables? I try to avoid them at all costs.
Automatics are nefarious in their nature.
Idle hands and what not.

Last edited 10 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
10 months ago

It’s a cute but technically incorrect line since VW Automatic Stickshift and Porsche Sportomatic still have a clutch, but no pedal. My only drive in an air-cooled Beetle was a college roommate’s 73 with Automatic Stickshift and it was trippy since my Scirocco and both family cars were manual so I reflexively reached for the clutch pedal.
I can see why these were popular in the US since the torque converter took over the skill of starting on a hill and some Formula Vee and Baja cars also used these to allow left foot braking

Last edited 10 months ago by Slow Joe Crow
Eephus
Eephus
10 months ago

I learned how to drive on one of these. It just occurred to me that this may be the reason I never developed the habit of leaving my hand on the shifter.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
10 months ago

I gave a friend a ride for the first time last night, and she said, “Wow, I didn’t even know they still made cars with stick shifts”.

Lithiumbomb
Lithiumbomb
10 months ago

My first car, in 1989, was a ’69 Squareback with the 3 speed automatic. It actually worked pretty well as long as I kept it slightly overfilled. I even wrote an article about it for type3.org which is somehow still on the internet after nearly 30 years.

http://type3.org/owners.manual/mechanical/autotrans.shtml

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
10 months ago

Our family bought a 70 Beetle with the auto clutch. We traded in a (somehow) rusted out Corvair. I was a toddler at the time and would often ride in the “cubbie hole” behind the back seat. Later in life, my dad bought a used Cutlass and my parents gave me the VW to drive while I was in college. Before I got rear-ended and it was totaled, it was in dire need of some engine rehab, and I had to shift into low gear to get it moving from a stop… so essentially it was a 3-speed.

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
10 months ago

Years ago I had the opportunity to drive a ’71 Beetle with the semi-automatic transmission. It seemed pretty pointless and I immediately found myself wishing for a clutch.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
10 months ago

Have to post that, seeing the ad quickly and in passing when I opened The Autopian this morning, I totally read it as:

“The Unclutchables. You may never shit yourself again.”

RWilhelm
RWilhelm
10 months ago
Reply to  Rollin Hand

I mean, that’s how I read it too… lol

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
10 months ago

My Grandpa bought a used fastback with this feature? However there were issues. He was confused by the need to shift an automatic, as such he tended to leave it in 1st gear. Even on the 70 mph interstate. When my 12 year old ass would yell at him to shift the damn thing, he would sometimes hit the brake pedal. In his brain ALL autos that you had to shift ALSO had a clutch.

A ride with Grandpa in any car was truly “an adventure in motoring.”

Re The Untouchables. Remember watching it in reruns in the 80s & 90s. Usually with a great buzz on. Made me laugh my butt off.

Last edited 10 months ago by Col Lingus
Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
10 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

The Type 3 (and Type 2 bay window) had a 3spd fully automatic from Borg Warner, the semi-auto was only in the Beetle and Karmann Ghia.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
10 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Well crap. I started driving it at age 12. And want to swear it had 3 forward positions to select by the shifter. Now am wondering if this was a Euro model import or something? I do recall it had fuel injection. Thanks?

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
10 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Could have had a different auto clutch fitted to the 4spd, like a Saxomat

Data
Data
10 months ago

I had a 1972 Ghia with the Autostick. It’s been a few decades, but it definitely had more than the 2 speeds mentioned in the ad. I probably should have kept it, but it would likely still be sitting in the garage and inoperable.

Clark B
Clark B
10 months ago
Reply to  Data

Yep, there was also a low range gear if I remember correctly! I rode in a Beetle with the autostick and I’m pretty sure it has one.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
10 months ago
Reply to  Data

Yeah, but Volkswagen really tried to market it as a 2 speed to sell the convenience. It was basically just their normal 4 speed manual connected to a torque converter and with 1st gear blocked off. The two driving gears (1 and 2) were equivalent to 3rd and 4th on the 4spd and VW told owners they were all that were needed in normal operation, the extra gear, marked L or Low, was equivalent to 2nd on the 4spd and was supposed to just be for steep hills or heavy loads, but you got better performance and fuel economy if you shifted through all 3. Road & Track somehow got a slightly better 0-60 time with an Autostick test Beetle than with a 4spd, probably because they used all 3 gears instead of driving as VW recommended.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
10 months ago

BTW, I’m not sure when it happened or what changed, but for the past few weeks videos haven’t worked for me here: I get a black rectangle with gray playback buttons/indicators, but the time of the video is 0:00, and nothing happens when you click on anything. Used to work just fine.

Reading on Safari on a desktop Mac everything up to date.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
10 months ago

Well, The Untouchables was in the top 10 in the ratings for pretty much its entire run, and would have still been showing regularly in reruns by 1970, and of course, would have been regularly parodied or referenced in other pop culture, so people definitely would get the connection.

I mean, Downton Abbey ended about 7 years ago and Breaking Bad ended 10 years ago, and I think people would pick up on references to either of those in ads

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
10 months ago

Yeah, sometimes it’s funny about old TV shows still being part of popular culture for years after they last aired (like if you say “Pivot! Pivot!” people still get what you’re referencing even though that TV show went off the air some 20 years ago.) And the TV series The Untouchables was based on an extremely popular book, a memoir by Eliot Ness, not to mention the fact that the real Untouchables were already well-known. So those VW ads were just playing with the zeitgeist, indeed in a pretty clever way.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
10 months ago

When you consider that back in the 40s to the 70s, cable wasn’t a thing, so there were only 3 major channels. Network TV shows got a much higher percentage of viewers compared to now with the bazillion streaming choices. Also, the amount of content for syndication was much lower, so any moderately successful show had a second life in reruns. So yeah, pretty much everyone in America was familiar with The Untouchables in the 70s.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
10 months ago

Yeah, the top rated TV show in 1970 was pulling in something like 29.6% of all TV owning households, if some producer figured out how to do that today, they’d make him CEO of the network

ES
ES
10 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

sat through an ad sales presentation once, and the AE talked about booking a client in MIami in the early 60’s into Saturday night (i think) on Lucy, Andy, and a third show, one spot each, and getting a 90% household reach.

Mike B
Mike B
10 months ago

My gf and I were in SoCal earlier this summer, on the 5 we saw a Tesla with the plate that read “PIVAAT”. I told her I was going to count that as a celebrity sighting, because it just HAD to be David Schwimmer.

10001010
10001010
10 months ago

Are we just going to skip over the ad also bragging about wall to wall carpet, a rear window defrogger, headrests, and an electric clock? I mean, holy shit VW, calm yourself down there. You can’t throw too many niceties all in one car, that’s how wrecks happen!

Chris D
Chris D
10 months ago
Reply to  10001010

My car has a plain rear window, and at times the accumulation of toads and frogs makes it difficult to see out of. The electric window defrogger is a wonderful invention!

AC2DE
AC2DE
10 months ago
Reply to  Chris D

At least you don’t have a mosquito problem!

DadBod
DadBod
10 months ago

A college friend of mine had a Karman Ghia with the electro shifter thingy, when she explained it to me I said, “weird.”

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
10 months ago

also available on the 911, 912, and 914. Porsche called it sport-o-matic

DadBod
DadBod
10 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

he covers that in the video!

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
10 months ago
Reply to  DadBod

cool, but it wouldn’t load for me 🙁

Nick Fortes
Nick Fortes
10 months ago

My sister had an automatic Squareback in Marina Blue. It certainly was dog slow but pre-drivers license me still thought it was cool. The strange VW interior vinyl smell is familiar and comforting.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
10 months ago
Reply to  Nick Fortes

When I read your comment I could actually smell that smell again. A friend in highschool had a Beetle (with the semi-automatic) and while I didn’t ride in it often, I can still smell it today 40 years later. Memory is a wild thing. A different friend had a VW bus but I don’t recall it smelling the same.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
10 months ago
Reply to  Nick Fortes

Funny how those smells are for people. I once pulled up to the US/Canada border in my old CJ5 with a small block chevy. Due to the age, it didn’t have any catalytic converter. The border guard mentioned how the smell reminded her of her dad’s old boat.

Clark B
Clark B
10 months ago
Reply to  Nick Fortes

There has been much discussion about the VW Smell in the air-cooled community. You can also thank the coconut fiber “horse hair” stuffing in the seats. I’ve got a 1972 Super Beetle and no matter what, it has smelled the same for the 19 years I’ve had it. One of the few constants in my life.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
10 months ago
Reply to  Clark B

That was going to be my comment as well: when I redid the seats in my 68, the burst of smell when I pulled the cover off made me say, “So THAT’s what that smell was!”
Kinda of a comfort smell to me now: years of being in the back-back of a bug

Nick Fortes
Nick Fortes
10 months ago
Reply to  Clark B

Talk about a green, renewable product. They were way ahead of the game. All these companies nowadays talking about how they make their seats out of renewable fibers and recycled plastic etc.

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