History + Heritage

Throughout our long history, Allison Transmission has been a leader in innovation, creativity and continually pushing toward new advances in technology. Our heritage, starting in 1915 with James Allison, has been strong and steady throughout the decades that we’ve been creating fully automatic transmissions.

We were there from the beginning, with the invention of the world’s first heavy-duty automatic transmission, and even now Allison is the premier designer, developer and manufacturer of medium- and heavy-duty fully automatic transmissions and hybrid propulsion systems.

Our experience and longstanding history have made Allison the brand to trust. Read below to learn more about our history and heritage.

1872-1917: Origins Era


James Asbury Allison is born in Marcellus, Michigan, eight years before the Allison family moves to Indianapolis.


Noah Allison, James A. Allison’s father, starts the Allison Coupon Company.


The Indianapolis Cycling Club, later called the Zig-Zag Cycling Club, forms as a haven for cycling enthusiasts. Before the club merges with a larger cycling club in 1898, notable members include James A. Allison, Carl Fisher, Arthur Newby and championship bicycle racer Marshall “Major” Taylor, the club’s first African-American member.


Construction is completed on the Newby Oval, a quarter-mile cycling track that is the brainchild of Arthur Newby, James A. Allison and Carl Fisher.


An unexpectedly large turnout at The New York Auto Show inspires many entrepreneurs to create automobile manufacturing companies.


While still a vice president at the Allison Coupon Company, James A. Allison co-founds the Concentrated Acetylene Company with Carl Fisher and Percy Avery. Avery leaves the company two years later, and the company changes its name to Prest-O-Lite.


James A. Allison, Carl Fisher, Arthur Newby and Frank Wheeler purchase 320 acres of farmland west of Indianapolis and begin planning the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Also this year, General Motors is founded by William “Billy” Durant, already a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn vehicles in Flint, Michigan.


Arthur Newby and Robert Hassler join James A. Allison and Carl Fisher in the creation of the short-lived Empire Motor Car Company, which is sold two years later to a group of investors. Also this year, to address durability and safety issues after initial racing caused drastic deterioration of the track, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway partners repave the original racetrack surface with 3,500,000 bricks. Plans are laid for an annual 500-mile race.


Planning begins on James A. Allison’s Riverdale mansion in Indianapolis, which would be added to the National Register of Historic Places some 60 years later.


The first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race takes place on Memorial Day with an estimated 80,000 spectators.


James A. Allison establishes the Speedway Team Company — the forerunner to what eventually would become Allison Transmission — to support his Indianapolis 500 racing activities. From the beginning, quality and workmanship are the foundation of the company's business philosophy. This quote by Jim Allison would eventually hang on a sign in the shop: “Whatever leaves this shop over my name must be of the finest work possible.”


Union Carbide & Carbon Company purchases Prest-O-Lite, the acetylene-gas headlight company founded by James A. Allison and Carl Fisher, for $9 million. Also this year, Jim Allison commissions a machine shop at 1200 West Main Street in Speedway. The next year, he incorporates the Allison Experimental Company, essentially replacing the Indianapolis Speedway Team Company, which he will dissolve by 1920. Norman Gilman becomes the company’s chief engineer and shop superintendent.














One day after World War I is declared, James A. Allison instructs his Speedway Team Company to cease all activities associated with race cars and cancels the Indianapolis 500. His engineering company focuses on the war effort, producing tractors, tank components and more. “Ace of aces” Eddie Rickenbacker, the United States’ most successful fighting pilot and a close ally of Jim Allison, wins 26 aerial victories during the war.


James A. Allison’s racing team wins the Indianapolis 500, but entrepreneurial pursuits in aircraft and marine engines lead him to sell all his automobile interests. Using the Liberty engine as a model, Norman Gilman engineers the Allison Twelve engine for Jim Allison’s yacht.


The Speedway Team Company changes its name to the Allison Engineering Company. By this time, the company's reputation for quality is firmly established, and it receives recognition from the U.S. Bureau of Aircraft Production for its Liberty aircraft engines. Soon after the end of World War I, Allison Engineering produces precision reduction-gear assemblies for the nation's Liberty aircraft engines, as well as V-drive marine gears, four-cylinder generator sets and 12-cylinder marine engines.


After World War I, Allison Engineering Company Chief Engineer Norman H. Gilman designs steel-backed bronze bearings that extend the service life and flight times of aircraft engines. After years of legal battles, the company acquires patent protection for the Gilman bearing in 1926. Soon, Allison will supply steel-backed bearings to aircraft engine manufacturers worldwide, including Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce. Also this year, Speedway, Indiana, is officially incorporated.


Charles Lindbergh successfully crosses the Atlantic in a plane equipped with Gilman bearings from Allison Engineering Company, forever changing the public perception of air transportation. Also this year, work begins on a 6-cylinder, 900- horsepower, in-line diesel engine for the U.S. Navy. The development of this diesel engine provides Allison engineers with valuable experience and foreshadows the company’s role as a supplier of transmissions that pair with diesel engine manufacturers worldwide.


At the age of 55, James A. Allison dies of bronchial pneumonia. He leaves behind a strong company respected for its expertise designing and building aircraft engines, gears, parts, tools and prototypes. Allison Engineering Company is listed for sale with the stipulation that offers will only be considered from buyers who’ll base operations in Indianapolis, where Allison Transmission's headquarters and manufacturing base remain today.


After James A. Allison’s death, ownership of the Allison Engineering Company transfers to the Fisher Brothers of Detroit, and Eddie Rickenbacker becomes president of the company for a brief period in early 1929. General Motors purchases Allison Engineering Company for $400,000, from the Fisher Brothers, and names Norman Gilman President and General Manager. Gilman ambitiously directs his team to design a 1,000-horsepower liquid-cooled aircraft engine.


The U.S. Navy signs a contract with Allison Engineering Company to design and develop a diesel engine in the 650- horsepower class to power its zeppelins, but after the U.S. Navy zeppelin Macon crashes off the California coast, the Navy abandons “lighter-than-air” operations. Allison engineers’ progress in diesel engines continues when General Motors picks up where they leave off and incorporates their ideas into GM products.


Norman Gilman retires, and O.T. Kreusser becomes general manager of Allison Engineering Company. Also this year, Plant 2 is completed.


Allison Engineering Company's V1710 12-cylinder liquid-cooled aircraft engine passes its 150-hour acceptance trials at Wright Field, making it the first 1,000 horsepower American engine to accomplish this task. The Allison V1710 goes on to power many of the U.S. Army Air Corps' most famous fighters, including the North American P-51 Mustang, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk (used by Chennault's Flying Tigers) and the Bell P-39 Aircobra.


Because complex engines and parts must be properly operated, serviced and maintained by pilots, engineers, mechanics and other support personnel, the Allison Division of General Motors develops customer support channels for both military and commercial operators. To support these efforts, in May ground is broken for Plant 3 on 10th Street in Speedway, an office and factory building with a total floor space of 300,000 square feet.













In March, the Allison Division of General Motors receives contracts from the U.S. Army Corps, Great Britain, China and France for engines. Also this year, Fred C. Kroeger becomes General Manager after O.T. Kreusser retires in February.


On December 7, Pearl Harbor is attacked, and the U.S. enters World War II. The Allison Division of General Motors’ V1710s, V3420s and their variants are called upon to support the U.S. Army Air Corp and the nation's allied air forces. Production climbs to 1,000 engines a month and changes models every 40 days. Prior to Pearl Harbor, capacity had been 225 engines a month.


The Allison Division of General Motors boosts production of V1710 engines for Allied airplanes fighting in England, Africa and China. Plant 5, a 2 million-square-foot production plant in the Indianapolis neighborhood of Maywood, is completed after only three months and 27 days of construction. Also this year, Allison is presented with the Army-Navy “E” Award for exceptional performance and patriotism on the home front, the first of four by war’s end.


As women join the workforce to support the war effort, the Allison Division of General Motors reaches a record number of female employees, more than 30% of the total workforce. Production at Allison peaks at approximately 3,000 engines a month, and employment reaches an all-time high of 23,019. On November 17, Allison’s V3420 engine makes its first flight in a P-75 Eagle. E.B. Newill is named General Manager of the Allison Division after Kroeger falls ill.


The Allison Division of General Motors produces its 50,000th V1710 engine for the Army Air Force and begins work on the J-33 jet engines.


World War II comes to an end. Orders for V-1710 engines are canceled. Yet in August the Allison Division of General Motors announces to the press the company’s intention to keep 80% of the workforce. Innovative projects, like a new marine gear requested by the U.S. Navy for barges powered by Detroit Diesel engines, are explored for further development.








The Allison Division of General Motors outlines an extensive post-war work plan, which includes bringing commercial production of shock absorbers, blowers and hydraulic lift pumps for other General Motors divisions to Plant 3. Additional projects include the first “M” model of the Marine Gear, the V-drive for GM Truck & Coach and the first generation military tank transmission, the CD-850, which will power the famous M46 Patton battle tank.


The Allison Division of General Motors continues building a substantial commercial operation at Plant 3 with major production of locomotive parts for General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division. Also this year, the first Allison "V" (angle drive) transmission is shipped to the General Motors Truck and Coach Division. GM buses equipped with Allison transmissions will transport millions of passengers throughout North America for more than 30 years.


As production shifts to transmissions and locomotive parts, the Allison Division of General Motors designs Powershift transmissions for the Euclid Road Machinery Company’s 40-ton diesel-powered mining trucks. Their requirements — 400 horsepower in twin-engine installations of 200 horsepower each — cannot be reached through manual transmissions.


The Cincinnati District of the Army Ordnance Department awards the Allison Division a contract to supply CD850 transmissions for the M46 General Patton medium tanks. However, Allison-produced torque converter transmissions developed for Budd Company are used in cutting-edge Budd Rail Cars in large subway systems for half a century.


As the Korean War begins, the Allison Division of General Motors makes significant durability improvements to turbojets such as the J31, J33 and J35 and receives orders from Martin Aircraft Company and Boeing to retrofit their plane engines to the Allison T40 turboprop. Plant 7 on Northwestern Avenue is leased for production of tank transmissions. Also this year, an Allison-powered plane strikes down the first North Korean MiG-15.


On January 15, ground is broken for an administrative building at Plant 3, which still stands as the Allison Transmission Global Headquarters.


The 10,000th tracked military transmission is delivered to the U.S. military.


The Allison Division of General Motors applies its transmission expertise to the application of front-end loaders and forklift trucks at the request of Clark Equipment Co. Also this year, General Motors’ Chevrolet Division explores options with Allison for an automatic transmission for its medium-duty trucks.


Maintaining a hold in diversified markets, the Allison Division of General Motors builds 161 Torqmatic transmissions for Budd Rail Diesel Cars and two new transmissions, the TG627 and the TG647, known as the Oilfield Specials. In September, Allison introduces the CRT5530, a new Torqmatic transmission for crawler tractors. Euclid’s new TC12 twin crawler tractor marks General Motors’ entry into the crawler market.


The commercial automatic V-drive for buses receives a major refinement: insertion of a two-speed planetary input splitter gear to allow quicker acceleration.


The Allison Division of General Motors finalizes a six-speed design incorporating the Allison hydraulic retarder for Chevrolet medium-duty trucks. Chevrolet is also the first customer for the CTP4 Powermatic, the first automatic transmission designed specifically for highway trucks. The new on-highway automatic transmission, employing a four-element torque converter, six forward speeds and one reverse, is introduced. General Motors, Ford and Dodge commercial trucks offer vehicles with the Allison transmission.


The Allison Division of General Motors introduces the VH unit, a member of the V-line transmissions, with hydraulic and direct clutches. Reo and Dodge join Chevrolet and list Allison’s MT25 transmission as an option for their heavy-duty truck lines.


As the Allison Division of General Motors celebrates its 100,000th commercial transmission, the TX200, a military adaptation of the commercial MT transmission, is released to production. The first units are delivered for M113 Armored Personnel Carriers in 1960. Diamond-T begins to offer Allison MT25 transmissions for their heavy-duty product lines.


The Allison Division of General Motors introduces new transmissions targeting mining, infrastructure expansion and urban development: the CLBT5940 Torqmatic transmission, the CRT3531 for front-end loaders and the CRT3321 for forklifts. Other Allison transmissions — the CLT3340, CLBT4460 and the HT70 — serve the heavy hauling transportation industry. Also this year, Harold Dice replaces E.B. Newill as General Manager.


In a year marked by growth, the Allison Division of General Motors announces two new transmissions (the CLBT6060 heavy-duty Torqmatic and the TT2000 hydro-powershift) and receives two substantial military contracts for CD850 transmissions, which are installed in M60 tanks, as well as a contract to develop the XTG411 for M578 recovery vehicles and self-propelled gun carriages.


In the year that sees the first production contract for the TX100 transmission, the Allison Division of General Motors ships the first pressure tanks for the Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM), and the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM). A total of 142 are manufactured over the course of five years. Apollo 7 through Apollo 17 all incorporate Allison Division propellant tanks, including Neil Armstrong’s historical lunar landing mission in Apollo 11.


General Manager Harold Dice undertakes division-wide reorganization and consolidation of the Allison Division of General Motors in September, garnering facility and personnel efficiencies between locomotive parts, bearings and aerospace.


With the intensification of the Vietnam War, manufacturing responsibilities for vehicles and ammunition at the Cleveland Army Tank Plant transfer from Cadillac to the Allison Division of General Motors, which allows Allison to continue to expand within the U.S. military. In recognition of its global reputation for quality, Allison earns a U.S./Federal Republic of Germany Main Battle Tank Program Award. This year marks Allison’s 50th anniversary.


Harold Dice retires in September and Reuben R. Jensen is appointed General Manager at the Allison Division of General Motors.


After celebrating its 40-year anniversary as a division of General Motors, Allison announces the new four-speed AT540, the first automatic transmission for medium-duty trucks.