Toyota is making waves with its recent patent for a simulated manual transmission in electric vehicles with up to 14 ratios. While this innovation is turning heads and is promising to deliver engagement behind the wheel, it’s worth noting that Mitsubishi had a manual transmission with more than six gears way before it became cool. Enter the Super Shift transmission, developed by Mitsubishi in the late 1970s, featuring an eight-speed manual with a 4×2 arrangement.
The gearbox, also known as Twin-Stick, emerged as a manual transaxle transmission that was born from a standard four-speed designed for the first-generation Mitsubishi Mirage. However, the innovative eight-speed gearbox featured a unique two-speed high-low selector. The transmission’s mounting beneath the engine necessitated a creative approach to power transfer, leading to the incorporation of an additional “idle” shaft. This shaft evolved into a separate two-speed gearbox controlled by a secondary shift lever alongside the main gear shift lever inside the cabin.
The result was a transmission with a conventional four-speed H-pattern shift mechanism, augmented by an additional two-speed high-low selector. This effectively doubled the number of gears, providing drivers with an impressive eight forward speeds. Remarkably, the Super Shift transmission also allowed for the use of the two-speed selector in reverse, leading to the existence of two reverse gears. In most cars, the selector was labeled as Power for the lower range and Economy for the higher range, with a dashboard light system indicating the selected mode.
While the gearbox had eight gears, making the engine even more flexible, practical use posed challenges. Sequentially utilizing all eight forward speeds required simultaneous movement of both gear levers – an intricate feat that proved nearly impossible without the use of both hands. Many owners opted for the convenience of the transmission’s low Power mode, occasionally switching to the secondary selector to engage high Economy mode when in fourth gear.
Gallery: Mitsubishi Colt (1978–1984)
The transmission was installed on a number of different Mitsubishi products, including the Mirage, Colt, Cordia, Tredia, and Chariot. Rebadged versions of some of these models were sold by Plymouth, Dodge, and Eagle. Production concluded in 1990 with the discontinuation of the Mitsubishi Tredia and Cordia.
It’s worth pointing out that Porsche and Chevrolet also experimented with the idea of a manual transmission with more than six gears. The Stuttgart-based automaker offers a seven-speed stick shift ‘box for some versions of the 911 in certain markets as a no-extra-cost alternative to the dual-clutch PDK. The Corvette C7, meanwhile, had a three-pedal configuration with seven gears built by Tremec. Aston Martin also offered a seven-speed dog leg manual in the Vantage. The Pagani Utopia has an available seven-speed manual.
As Toyota explores the realm of a 14-speed manual transmission for electric vehicles, it’s good to remember that almost everything new is actually old. And even though the design of Toyota’s transmission for EVs looks a little confusing at this point, it seems that it will be simpler to use and much more refined than Mitsubishi’s mechanism. For now, you can only row up to seven gears in a modern car but in the future, that number might double.
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