As we’re about to see below, the big story at Oldsmobile for 1956 was a major redesign of the Hydra-Matic automatic transmission introduced by General Motors back in 1940. Jetaway Hydra-matic, as it was known at Oldsmobile (each GM division had its own name for the Model 315 Controlled Coupling transmission, as it was called internally) continued to use a fluid coupling rather than a torque converter, but added a secondary hydraulic coupling and a set of sprag clutches to cushion the gear changes. This addressed a familiar complaint with the pioneering GM automatic: harsh upshifts, especially in second to third. The new and improved gearbox, standard on the 98 and Super 88 for ’56, also included a Park position at the top of the shift quadrant, just like all automatic transmissions today.
Other changes for 1956 included a freshened up grille and front bumper, revised bright metal side trim, and a bump in compression ratio to 9.25:1 for the 324 CID Rocket V8, boosting the output to 230 hp for the two-barrel version and 240 hp for the four-barrel. Popular options included power steering (standard on the 98) and a deluxe six-tube AM push-button radio for $96. All told, the 1956 model year was a pretty solid one for GM’s Lansing division. Despite a contracting new car market, Olds produced more than 485,000 cars, good enough for fifth place in the annual sales war, trailing Chevy, Ford, Buick, and Plymouth. Now here’s the good news about Jetaway Hydra-Matic.