On an automobile, describing the gearshift lever of a steering column-mounted three-speed manual transmission.
2. noun
On an automobile (especially those produced from 1939 through the mid-1970s), a three-speed manual transmission whose gearshift lever is mounted on the steering column.

In drivers education, they used to teach students to drive in cars with a three-on-the-tree, but now the cars all have automatic transmission.

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