The invention of the
automobile is widely considered the single most important development
in the history of transportation since the discovery of the wheel.
Cars have increased
personal mobility and permitted people to live farther and farther
from their workplaces, leading to the formation of suburbs and the
increase in urban sprawl.
Cars and trucks bring goods
and services to shopping malls and even right to our front doors. We
judge others and ourselves by what kinds of cars we drive.
Special memories - of
family trips, first dates, and friends - are often made in cars.
And although we're
sometimes frustrated by how much time and money our cars devour, we
can't imagine life without them.
The automobile as we know
it was not invented in a single day by one individual.
Instead, it was the result
of an evolution in technology that took place worldwide over
centuries. Many inventors dreamed of building self-propelled
machines, and plans for motor vehicles were actually drawn up by both Leonardo
da Vinci and Isaac Newton!
The vision of self
propelled machines capable of transporting people and goods was first
recorded as early as 1645 when Gui
Patin, of Paris, France wrote of: "A certain
Englishman, son of a Frenchman, who proposes to construct coaches
which will go from Paris to Fontainbleau and return within the same
day, without horses, by means of wonderful springs
. . . If this plan succeeds it
will save both hay and oats . . ."
The machine was apparently
built and demonstrated successfully in a whirl of unwinding springs.
Unfortunately, like so many
new concepts, the benefits envisaged in the swell of early enthusiasm
faded as the wages of the two men required to wind up the spring
mechanism were found to far exceed the cost of hay and oats!
The ensuing years saw other
forms of propulsion proposed, or actually harnessed, in an attempt to
replace the horse. As well as giant clock springs, these ranged from
windmills driving wheels through large gears, sails and kites.
From quite early on steam
was envisaged as a power source with considerable potential,
sometimes as a direct pressure-jet providing rearward thrust and
subsequently as a source of pressure acting on rotating paddles to
form a crude turbine system.
Many small models were
built to test the ideas of inventors. Some full-sized prototypes were
made and demonstrated before gatherings of potential backers or
paying audiences. Many failed to impress, some failed to move at all
and one that did, was later discovered to have been powered by
Whether they succeeded or
failed, all provided a sense of anticipation that one day it would be
possible for human beings to travel freely from place to place in
ways not governed by the limitations of beasts of burden.
Suffice it to say that this
period produced many stories of courage, persistent effort, failure
and tragedy but it also sewed many seeds which would come to life later.
becomes a reality The Steam
Real progress towards the
automobile that we take for granted today started about 1690,
with Denis Papin. Papin is best known for his work as an
inventor, particularly his work on the steam engine.
In 1679 he invented the
pressure cooker and in 1690 he put
forward written proposals for the first piston-driven vehicle
publishing his first work on the steam engine in "De novis
He goes on to build
the first steam engine to raise water to a canal between
Kassel and Karlshaven. He also used a steam engine to pump water to a
tank on the roof of the palace to supply water for the fountains in
the grounds. In 1705, when Leibniz
sent Papin a sketch of a steam engine, Papin began working on that
topic again and wrote The New Art of Pumping Water by using Steam (1707).
He designed a safety valve
to prevent the pressure of steam building up to dangerous levels.
Other inventions which
Papin worked on were the construction of a submarine, an air gun and
a grenade launcher. He tried to build up a glass industry in
Hesse-Kassel and also experimented with preserving food both with
chemicals and using a vacuum.
In 1707 Papin built the
first paddle boat
First Auto Vehicle
Many history books indicate
that the automobile was invented by either Gottlieb
Daimler or Karl
This is because both
Daimler and Benz invented highly successful and practical gasoline-powered
vehicles that ushered in the age of modern automobiles.
Daimler and Benz invented
cars that looked and worked like the cars we use today.
However, it is unfair to
say that either man invented "the" automobile.
For in 1765
was the foundation for steam engine powered vehicles. Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot
was a French inventor and Belgian military engineer who built what
may have been the world's first self-propelled
mechanical vehicle or automobile.
He experimented with
working models of steam engine powered vehicles for the French Army,
intended for hauling heavy cannons.
Cugnot seems to have been
the first to convert the back-and-forth motion of a steam piston into
rotary motion. A functioning version of his "Fardier à vapeur"
("Steam wagon") ran in 1769.
The following year he built
an improved version.
Cugnot demonstrated a
steam-powered, piston-driven carriage.
Its boiler capacity
would only allow it to run for 15 minutes at a speed of between 2 and
2½ miles per hour. Unfortunately, this meant that, having
covered just over half a mile it required another 15 minutes to build
up sufficient head of steam to cover the next half-mile.
Nevertheless, it was a start and the French government ordered Cugnot
to produce a larger unit capable of carrying about 4 tons of
artillery. The following year he revealed to the world a large
3-wheeled wooden chassis with a huge boiler mounted ahead of its
single front wheel. Two pistons drove this wheel through ratchet
arrangements, which endowed it with a violent lurching motion. Also,
because of the huge weight of the boiler and pistons concentrated
over and around its front wheel it was extremely difficult to steer.
This was probably the first
It did move enough to
demolish part of a wall and is preserved today in the Conservatoire
des Arts in Paris.
first known automobile accident.
James Watt, a
Scottish instrument maker, made the historic improvements that moved
the steam engine forward.
Watt determined the
properties of steam, especially the relation of its density to its
temperature and pressure, and designed a separate condensing chamber
for the steam engine that prevented enormous losses of steam in the
cylinder and enhanced the vacuum conditions.
Watt's first patent, in 1769,
covered this device and other improvements on Newcomen's engine,
such as steam-jacketing, oil lubrication, and insulation of the
cylinder in order to maintain the high temperatures necessary for
In so doing he lays a firm
foundation for the design of all steam engines yet to come.
Soon after, many other
inventors, buoyed by his success, tried developing engines that would
be suitable for transport.
Steam engines powered cars
by burning fuel that heated water in a boiler, creating steam that
expanded and pushed pistons that turned the crankshaft, which then
turned the wheels. During the early history of self-propelled
vehicles - both road and railroad vehicles were being developed with
steam engines. Steam engines added so much weight to a vehicle that
they proved a poor design for road vehicles;
however, steam engines were
very successfully used in locomotives.
Oliver Evans of Maryland
patents a steam engine for the use in powering carts and carriages.
Richard Trevithick, an
early pioneer of the Steam Railway, builds the first successful motor
vehicle known as the Puffing Devil, , and drives it through
Trevithick builds a second
steam powered carriage, which makes several successful runs through
the streets of London. Unfortunately it also frightens horses and
kindles considerable public hostility.
Steam engines were not the
only engines used in early automobiles. Vehicles with electrical
engines were also invented. Between 1832 and 1839 (the exact year
is uncertain), Robert Anderson of Scotland invented the first
electric carriage. Electric cars used rechargeable batteries that
powered a small electric motor.
The vehicles were heavy,
slow, expensive, and needed to stop for recharging frequently.
Electricity found greater
success in tramways and streetcars, where a constant supply of
electricity was possible.
Despite the success of
steam power, many scientists and inventors were convinced that even
more effective ways of running an engine could be developed. People
began searching for a more compact and convenient alternative for
powering pumps, factory machines, and transport vehicles, and through
tinkering and experimentation,
. . . the modern internal
combustion engine was eventually born.
Like the car itself, the
internal combustion engine wasn't created by any one person. Instead,
improvements by several different inventors led to a machine that was
lighter, more compact, and more easily controllable than the steam engine.
reality we would have to jump back in time around 1666
when Christian Huygens, a
physicist from the Netherlands, had already tried to push a piston
upward by the explosion of shooting powder.
built an engine similar to this image
explosion of gun powder shoots the piston upward. When the piston
stops at the top of the "cylinder", the gas can escape from
the tub. Then, the atmospheric pressure moves the piston back down
and the piston lifts another weight (blue). When the piston reaches
the bottom of the cylinder, a new explosion can occur.
the materials could not stand such a big strain yet. Further, an
exact processing was a problem. For his first attempts, Huygens
used a tub of a canon as cylinder. He just did not have the
possibility to create such an engine. The development mended the
scientists to a combustion outside of the cylinder.
a student of Huygens, finally built one of the first steam engines.
Nonetheless only many years later, when the classic steam engine
worked already in a lot of factories without any competitors,
scientists continued to think about Huygens idea with a cumbustion in
In Switzerland, Isaac de Rivaz
designed many successful steam-run cars toward the end of the
De Rivaz is generally
building the first internal
combustion engine in 1807.
In these kinds of engines,
the fuel is burned inside the engine itself, not in a separate
boiler, as happens with a steam engine.
De Rivaz's engine was
gas-driven and used a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen to generate energy.
He used this engine
to power a car, which was probably the first vehicle to run on an
internal combustion engine.
Samuel Brown patents and
builds his "gas-and-vacuum" engine.
It has two cylinders linked
by a rocking beam, with a capacity of 8,800cc and an output of just
4hp. The engine powering a carriage successfully drives up Shooters
Hill at Blackheath, on the outskirts of London.
Charles Goodyear invented
that was later used for tires.
Robert William Thomson of
Stonehaven, Scotland patents the world's first vulcanized rubber
pneumatic tire. It is well received on trials in London but does not
reach production for fear of its cost. (Thompson is also the
inventor of the fountain pen)
effective gasoline-powered engine was developed until 1859,
when the French engineer Jean Joseph Étienne Lenoir
builds the worlds first practicable internal combustion engine
running on a mixture of coal gas and air and using a 'jumping-spark'
ignition system that could be operated continuously.
company is formed in Paris to develop the engine further and he
was able to market them successfully. Lenoir's engines were more
popular because they used gas for fuel, instead of Rivaz's
hydrogen-and-oxygen mixture. In 1862,
Lenoir built a two-stroke engine with a single cylinder and electric
ignition that could go almost two miles an hour.
A year later, he put
a variation of the same engine into a "horseless carriage"
and attained a speed of three miles an hour
that managed to complete an
historic fifty-mile road trip.
Alexander II Tsar of Russia
buys one of Lenoir's carriages making it the first export sale of a
car in history.
there were actually five hundred of his engines in use in Paris alone.
the French engineer Alphonse Beau de Rochas invented the
principle of the 4 stroke combustion engine. In this engine, a
fuel-air mix is introduced in the engine and the explosion of this
mixture pushes directly on the piston. There is no need for an
intermediate step like boiling water.
After Germany's Nicolaus Otto
read of Lenoir's
two-stroke, gas-driven internal combustion engine, he began working
on his own model in a workshop in Deutz, near Cologne.
he found a way of improving Lenoir's engine to make it a practical
power source, and in 1876, he
created the four-stroke internal combustion engine, a real
alternative to the steam engine and the most efficient gas engine
produced up to that time.
Otto patented his
invention in 1877, calling it the Otto Cycle Engine.
Unfortunately, his patent was invalidated in 1886 when it was
discovered that another inventor, Alphonse
Beau de Rochas, had already described the engine in a
privately published pamphlet.
compressed-charge engine marked the beginning of an era and was the
foundation of the modern engine.
Still, it was not
originally intended for transport. Instead, it was meant to replace
steam engines in powering factories. And it had one great drawback
that made it impractical for use in vehicles - the engine had to be
connected to gas supply for refueling.
The solution was an engine
that would run on liquid fuels that would create gas in the
combustion chamber. At the time, oil was used mainly for lighting and
cooking. But with the advent of Otto's engine, sonic inventors began
to see the possibilities of using it as a fuel for engines. Gottlieb
It was a colleague of
Otto's, a German engineer named Gottlieb Daimler, (together
with his design partner Wilhelm
who took Otto's
internal combustion engine a step further and patented what is
generally recognized as the prototype of the modern gas engine.
Daimler's connection to Otto was a direct one; Daimler worked as
technical director of Deutz Gasmotorenfabrik, which Nikolaus Otto
co-owned in 1872.
and the same
German engineer Karl
were both in the process of simultaneously building the world's first gasoline-fueled
worked on his in Karlstadt and Benz on his in Mannheim,
62 miles away,
neither aware of the activity of the other.
Daimler left Otto's company
and set up his own business with a partner, Wilhelm
the Daimler-Maybach engine was small, lightweight, fast, using a gasoline-injected
carburetor, and had a vertical cylinder. The size, speed, and
efficiency of the engine allowed for a revolution in car design.
Daimler came up with the idea of adding an internal combustion engine
to a bicycle that had been stabilized with side wheels, producing one
of the first "motor vehicles?' (motorcycle) *
There is some controversy as to who built the first motorcycle, Otto
On March 8, 1886,
Daimler took a stagecoach and adapted it to hold his engine, thereby
designing the world's first four-wheeled automobile.
Daimler is considered the first inventor to have invented a practical
Daimler and Maybach built
their first automobile from the ground up.
The new Daimler automobile
had a four-speed transmission and obtained speeds of 10 mph.
Daimler sells rights for
France to a new V configured twin cylinder engine to Panhard & Levassor
In 1890 the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, (meaning "Daimler
was founded at Cannstadt.
With no thought of
manufacturing cars, Panhard & Levassor
license the Peugeot
ironmongery business to use the engine in automotive applications.
Levassor decides to build
cars after all,
designing and building a
rear engined car.
Levassor introduces a new
design of motor car which is to become the template for the vast
majority of designs for many years to come.
Four wheels, front mounted
engine, sliding gear transmission and rear wheel drive.
At first this configuration
is known as Systeme Panhard.
Levassor created the first
transmission for the automobile.
It was very similar to the
cone-shaped clutch and sliding gears he observed on woodworking machinery.
wasn't very efficient.
Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft merged with Benz & Co.
the company founded by Karl
Benz's company became
who later manufactured the Mercedes-Benz
by Wilhelm (Maybach Zepplin).
"Mercedes" came from one of Daimler's business partners,
Emil Jellinek. Emil Jellinek was an Austrian businessman, who had a
young daughter, named "Mercedes". He was also an avid
car-racer and was known among his circles as "Monsieur
Mercedes". In the early 1900s, Jellinek was fascinated by
the latest model cars provided by Daimler-Motoren AG, and bought a
bunch of them, giving the crucial capital and exposure to different
markets. He had two conditions for buying these cars from Daimler:
First that he would become sole-agent in the Austrian-Hungary
monarchy, France, and US, and secondly, the car would be named after
his daughter, Mercedes.
Maybach was the major
collaborator with Gottlieb Daimler throughout the late 19th century
through their development of the first internal combustion powered vehicles.
In 1909 he left the
Daimler company to manufacture his own luxury vehicles.
Maybach was a
nameplate to be reckoned with in the world of luxury cars. The
automaker quickly built a major reputation for outstanding styling,
flawless quality and technical excellence. One of the
highlights was in 1930, the flagship Zeppelin model which was some 18
feet long and ranked at the time as one of the most prestigious cars
Germany had ever produced.
contributed his engineering skills to those cars as well as future
Daimler milestones. The Maybach-designed V-twin engine built in 1889
was so advanced that Daimler sold its production rights to third
parties such as French automakers Peugeot and Panhard-Levassor.
Maybach's focus on
components led him to achieve firsts with the gearwheel transmission (1889),
the float-chamber spray-jet carburetor (1893)
and the honeycomb radiator core (1896).
But his strength was combining many such individual solutions to
create the complete concepts that turned engine-driven carriages into motorcars.
was the 1901
Mercedes 35 Horsepower in which he combined his two decades of
automotive engineering experience. The rear-wheel drive car had a
front-mounted four-cylinder engine, partly made of light alloy,
and a three-speed transmission.
The Mercedes also
featured a revolutionary low-to-the-ground design, setting it apart
from the tall, clumsy looking cars of that period, as well as front
wheels that were turned by a round steering wheel on an angled
Wilhelm Maybach left
the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in 1907,
seven years after Daimler's death. Just before departing, Maybach
created an overhead valve twin-ignition 120hp racing engine.
today, the name Daimler is used by two completely separate groups of
car manufacturers. Both trace back to Daimler, who patented an engine
design in the late 1800s, built
(together with Wilhelm
the first motorcycle in 1885 and the first 4-wheeled car in 1886. *
There is some controversy as to who built the first motorcycle, Otto
or Daimler. This
was the origin of the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, (meaning
"Daimler Motor Company"), which built cars from the 1890s
onwards, and also sold licenses of its designs and patents to others.
To avoid confusion and licensing troubles, the name Mercedes was
adopted for the cars built by Daimler itself in the early 1900s,
while the name Daimler was last used for a German built car in 1908.
adopt the steering wheel instead of the tiller.
Amazingly, at that same
time that Daimler was working on the
gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine another German engineer, Karl
Benz, patented a similar engine - one with an electric ignition,
differential gears, and water-cooling - and fitted it to a tricycle.
Benz seeked a source of
financial support in Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Eblinger who ran
a shop in Mannheim which sold, among other things, bicycles and who
Benz met through his interest in cycling.
In October the three men
founded the company
"Benz & Co.
a bicycle company to
produce industrial engines in Mannheim, Germany.
Karl Benz designed and
built the world's first practical automobile to be powered by an
On January 29, 1886,
Benz received the
first patent (DRP No. 37435) for a gas-fueled car.
Benz built his first
four-wheeled car in 1891
On March 8, 1886,
Daimler designed the world's first four-wheeled automobile.
Daimler is considered the
first inventor to have invented a practical
Karl Benz was such a
visionary that even his first motor vehicle was designed from the
ground up as an automobile, unlike Daimler's
retrofitted carriage and n 1886 Benz was granted Patent for the
vehicle and unveiled his first "Benz Patent Motor Car"
to the public,
however buyers weren't
exactly standing in line for the new creation.
That is, until Benz's wife
and two sons drove the vehicle from Mannheim to Pforzheim, a distance
of some 70 miles. The car has hardly trouble-free on the journey, but
it made the trip in less than a full day and, because the Benz family
outing was widely reported in the press, it proved to be a marketing coup.
When Benz learned of
Gottlieb Daimler and how he was working on a four wheeled vehicle.
This inspired Karl and he then began designing a "motor
carriage", with a four-stroke engine (based
on Nicolaus Otto's patent).
Benz designed not only his
engine, which was a single-cylinder, with an electric ignition,
958 cm³, 0.75 hp (560
The vehicle was powered by a water cooled gas engine
that was driven by the vapour of ligroin, or benzine. The rear wheels
received the power by a pulley and belt that were attached to a
transmission shaft whilst the water cooling was by water evaporation
in a jacket round the cylinder.
Benz designed his 4-wheeled
vehicle - "Victoria", (The Benz Viktoria).
Karl Benz exclaimed
when he succeeded in developing a king-pin steering system which
allowed the front wheels of a cornering vehicle to turn at different angles.
That was how the new model
incorporating this system got its name.
Benz's car, however, was
not an immediate commercial success. Seven years passed, in fact,
before the vehicle caught on. With twelve hundred units built, the 1894
Benz Velo became the first mass-produced car sold to the general public.
The Benz and Daimler firms
merged to form Daimler-Benz
known today as The Mercedes-Benz.
By the 1890s,
Europeans were buying and driving cars made by Benz, Daimler,
Panhard, and others,
and Americans were buying
and driving cars made by Duryea,
Haynes, Winton, and others.
THE DIESELE NGININE
Rudolf Diesel was born in Paris in 1858. He designed many heat
engines, including a solar powered air engine. In 1893,
he published a paper describing an internal combustion engine that
would use the heat from compression rather than a spark to ignite the
fuel. In 1894, he filed for a patent for this new invention, dubbed
the diesel engine.
Diesel operated his first successful engine in 1897. With it, he
demonstrated that air could be compressed so much that heat would be
created, raising the temperatures to levels that would far exceed the
ignition temperature of the fuel. Although never as popular as
gasoline engines, the diesel engine has remained a viable alternative
for many drivers throughout the world because it burns less fuel and
has fewer parts to service.
Boyd Dunlop a Scottish Veterinary Surgeon living in Belfast,
re-invents and re-patents the pneumatic tire
knowledge of the previous work and patent of fellow Scott Robert
Michelin was the first person to use pneumatic tires on an
automobile, however, not successfully.
Levassor's transmission wasn't very efficient.
was more or less a rough draft that gave Louis Renault the idea to
make a more efficient transmission. In 1899
he developed the general layout of a transmission which automobile
industries would later use in their products. In Renault's design, he
placed "a propeller shaft with universal joints that drove a
pinion and crown wheel linked to the differential on the rear
axle" . Renault's transmission allowed for more power in the
lower gears and more speed in the higher gears . However, Renault's
transmission was extremely hard to shift as the engines advanced with
more horsepower. Some people couldn't drive because it sometimes was
so hard to shift gears. This was due to the poorly designed clutch.
Shifting was like hitting a piñata. A perfect 1-2-3 shift
without grinding the gears was sometimes impossible because when the
driver pulls it out of gear the gears are still spinning, he has to
perform a technique called double clutching. Otherwise, the gears
will grind horribly. This is because the clutch plates are not
spinning at the same rate.
clutch wasn't revised until 1921 by
taking out the complication of sticking plates and replacing them
with a single a single plate.
gasoline cars were more
popular than steam or electric cars because they were easier to use
and could travel further without adding fuel.
gasoline cars became larger
and more powerful, and some had folding tops to keep drivers and
passengers out of the rain.
Automobile in North America
In North America, there
wasn't quite as much tinkering with steam and internal combustion
engines. In North America, automobiles trace their heritage more to
the bicycle industry of the 1890s.
In fact, most of the early
car pioneers in America were men who built, sold, and serviced bicycles. Charles
and Frank Duryea
Charles and Frank Duryea
were two such bicycle makers. Charles spotted a gasoline engine at
the 1886 Ohio State Fair and became convinced that an engine-driven
carriage could be a reality. The two brothers designed and built the
car together, showing off their invention on the streets of
on September 22, 1893.
They were the first
in the country to manufacture and sell cars that were powered by an
internal combustion engine.
they had built thirteen of these.
Bicycle manufactures also
provided the engineering, parts, and facilities for the fledgling
automobile trade. In fact, the local bicycle shop was where most
North Americans bought their cars, until the first automobile
showroom opened in New York City in 1900.
But eventually car
manufacturing was taken out of the hands of the smaller-scale bicycle
makers and became an industry in its own right. Although Henry
Ford is commonly referred to as the father of this
industry in North America,
it was actually Ransom
who first mass-produced
cars to be sold to the public.
Olds introduced the
assembly-line concept and established a factory in Detroit, Michigan,
to manufacture several prototype automobiles. Detroit was the natural
choice, since it was already home to a number of firms that made
carriages, bicycles, and boat engines. It would eventually become the
world's largest auto-making center.
factory burned down in 1901, after
just fourteen years of production, and only one prototype - the
Curved Dash Olds, a single-cylinder buggy with a curved dash - survived.
This car, also called the
Oldsmobile Gas Buggy, sold more units than any other American car of
its time. In 1908, the Oldsmobile
Company was joined by Buick, and together they soon formed the
General Motors Group.
As cars slowly took their
place on the roads alongside horses, public response varied from
excitement to fear. There were laws that required motorists to stop
completely while buggies, surreys (small carriages), and
freight wagons dragged by. Speed limits as low as two and three miles
per hour were imposed by a few communities. In smaller towns, in
particular, marshals and other law officials lay in wait for
unsuspecting drivers, timing them by stopwatch. Lawmen were
authorized to shoot at tires or stretch chains or wire across the
road to stop those who endangered public safety by daring to
"hurtle" along at more than a snail's pace.
Despite all these efforts
to control the spread of automobiles,
people just had to have them.
P.W. Litchfield of
the Goodyear Tire Company patented the first tubeless tire, however,
it was never commercially exploited until the 1954 Packard.
Having built his
first motor car Henry Royce meets Charles Stewart Rolls,
already successful in the sales of quality cars in London and Royce
agrees to manufacture a range of cars exclusively for sale by CS
Rolls & Co.
They are to be known by the name Rolls-Royce.
· · The
successful commercial collaboration between Henry Royce and C S Rolls
results in the formation of the Rolls-Royce company and the launch of
the 40/50hp six-cylinder 'Silver Ghost', soon to be hailed as 'the
best car in the world'.
Otto Zachow and William
Besserdich of Clintonville, Wisconsin,
built the first successful
begin a company called the Four Wheel Drive Auto Co.
Henry Ford recognized that
there was a need for a car that was affordable and accessible to the
general public, and he understood that the way to do this was to make
each one exactly like all the others with identical parts.
He opened his first car
plant - also in Detroit - in 1903.
On the Ford assembly line,
a rope pulled a line of car chassis along a track manned by fifty
workers, each fixing his own allotted part to each chassis as it
moved by. As the cars rolled down the line, a worker would repeat the
same operation on each one, over and over again. With this method,
the assembly time for a chassis dropped from twelve hours to one and
The first car that Ford's
assembly line produced, called the Model T, cost less than other cars
but was still sturdy and practical.
It had a
four-cylinder, twenty-horsepower engine, and it reached a top speed
of forty miles per hour. From 1915 to 1925,
it came in only one color: black.
This was because
black paint dried faster than other colors, making it possible for
the Ford plant to produce more cars in a shorter period of time. And
the more cars the company could produce, the more affordable they
would become - although the $850 starting price was the equivalent of
a teacher's annual salary!
the price of a Model T had dropped to $260.
In addition, his
practice of providing loans to consumers to buy cars made the model-T
affordable to the middle class.
Popularly known as the
"Tin Lizzie" (because the body
was made of lightweight sheet steel, like tin, and Lizzie was a name
commonly given to horses at that time),
the Model T was a major hit.
THE FIRST LEMON?
The early Model T had so many quirks and defects that it's unlikely
liability lawyers would pass it today. Because the car lacked a fuel
pump, gasoline flow to the engine was controlled strictly by gravity.
This system worked fine until drivers encountered long, steep hills,
where the car would always stall. Ford, made aware of this problem,
simply put out the word that drivers should back up long inclines
instead of approaching them head on - and many owners did just that
without any lawsuits or nation-wide recall campaigns!
Ford sold 15
million from 1908 to 1927,
the only years it was in production. Though the car could seat just
two people, it sold more than any other type of car at that time.
Because it was both affordable and practical, it was truly the first
"people's car," with farmers, factory workers,
schoolteachers, and many other Americans making the switch from
horses or trains as a result.
But Henry Ford thought of
cars as appliances or commodities, much like refrigerators or washing
machines, so he didn't believe in tinkering with design or trying to
improve the Model T to keep it popular. General Motors, meanwhile,
introduced the concept of an annual model change, and soon the Model
T was losing out to its competitors.
production was stopped.
invented the first successful tire, which was a combination tire and
air filled inner tube. Strauss' company the Hardman Tire & Rubber
Company marketed the tires.
General Motors introduced the synchromesh gearbox.
American Paul Galvin, the head of Galvin Manufacturing Corporation,
invented the first car radio. He coined the name "Motorola,"
combining the idea of motion and radio.
In the 1930s,
several U.S. physicians equiped their own cars with lap belts and
begin urging manufacturers to provide them in all new cars.
Richard Spikes, a black man, invented the first automatic transmission.
Spikes simplified the
complication of using all four limbs of the human body to shift the
gears and drive with a manual transmission.
In France in 1933
Gaston Fleischel redesigned the automatic transmission.
General Motors developed the first line of cars to sport automatic transmission.
Oldsmobiles that offered
until 1970 three types of automatic transmissions were available,
fluid coupling, hydraulic torque converter, or mechanical linkage. By
1970 the hydraulic torque converter proved to be the better of the
three. By the mid-70s an electronic system was put into use one the
hydraulic transmissions. The sensors could tell more quickly and
efficiently if the automobile needed to shift down because of an
upward slope. The automatic transmission doesn't deliver as much
power as the manual because of the lower gear ratio. However, it
provides better performance because the engine doesn't have to pause
while the driver pushes the clutch in and shift to the next gear.
Automatic transmissions have a continuous, uninterrupted power flow.
In the 1920s, General Motors
further changed the industry by emphasizing car design. The company
introduced new models each year, marketed different lines of cars to
different income brackets (the Cadillac for the
rich; the Chevrolet for the masses),
and created a modern
decentralized system of management.
Many men contributed to the
development of the automobile industry
in the United States.
These included Elmer
and Edgar Apperson, who built a car conceived by Elwood G. Haynes in 1894;
the Studebaker brothers,
manufacturers of horse-drawn vehicles, who began making motorcars in 1902;
David Dunbar Buick,
who built his first car in 1903;
Frederic J. Fisher, founder
of the Fisher Body Company (1908), which became a part of General
Motors in 1926;
Louis Chevrolet, the
Swiss-American who founded the Chevrolet Motor Company in 1911;
Charles F. Kettering, who
invented the self-starter in 1911;
John and Horace
Dodge, the bicycle parts producers
who founded the Dodge Motor
Company in 1914;
Charles W. Nash, an
executive with other automobile manufacturers until he founded the
Nash Motors Company in 1916.
It was in the 1920's
that the so-called Big Three automakers emerged. Ford was
soon competing with the General Motors Corporation (an amalgam of
companies, including Chevrolet, Cadillac, Pontiac, Oakland,
Oldsmobile, and Buick)
and Walter R
Chrysler's Company(founded in 1925).
took over Chrysler to form DaimlerChrysler.
strikes, times of peace and times of war,
these three companies have
continued to exercise tremendous influence over the world's
But consolidation of the
industry is accelerating.
Today, the eight leading
manufacturing groups are BMW, DaimlerChrysler (which includes
Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, and Maserati),General Motors (which now
includes Daewoo, Isuzu, Saab, and parts of Lada, Subaru, Suzuki,
Toyota and launched its Saturn
automobile manufacturing company in 1990), Honda, Ford (which includes Jaguar,
Rover, and Volvo, plus parts of Mazda), Toyota, Renault (includes Nissan),
and Volkswagen (includes Audi, Porsche,
From power steam to gasoline,
the history of the
automobile has taken many twists and turns.
The objective of this Web Page is to familiarize you with basic auto maintenance
- in some common emergencies - not to make you an expert in auto mechanics
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