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 The Automobile

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 concealed children!

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.

Self-propulsion becomes a reality
The Steam Engine

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 quibusdam machinis."

 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

The First Auto Vehicle

Many history books indicate that the automobile was invented by either Gottlieb Daimler or Karl Benz.
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 automotive vehicle.
It did move enough to demolish part of a wall and is preserved today in the Conservatoire des Arts in Paris.

The 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 maximum efficiency.
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 Camborne, Cornwall.


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.

Early Electric Cars 

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.

The Internal Combustion Engine

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.

In all 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.
He built an engine similar to this image

The 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.

Unfortunately, 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.

Papin, 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 the cylinder.

In Switzerland, Isaac de Rivaz designed many successful steam-run cars toward the end of the eighteenth century.
De Rivaz is generally credited with
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 vulcanized rubber
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) 

But no 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.

A 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.

By 1865, there were actually five hundred of his engines in use in Paris alone.

In 1862, 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.

In 1863, 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.

Nevertheless, Otto's 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 Daimler

It was a colleague of Otto's, a German engineer named Gottlieb Daimler, (together with his design partner Wilhelm Maybach)
 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.

Gottlieb Daimler
and the same 
with another German engineer
Karl Benz
who were both in the process of simultaneously building the world's first gasoline-fueled automobiles.

Daimler worked on his in Karlstadt and Benz on his in Mannheim,
only a 62 miles away,
but neither aware of the activity of the other.

In 1882,
Daimler left Otto's company and set up his own business with a partner, Wilhelm Maybach .

By 1885 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.

In 1885 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 or Daimler.

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 internal-combustion engine.

In 1889,
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 Motor Company"),
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.

Eleven years later, 
Wilhelm Maybach designed the Mercedes automobile.


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.
Levassor's transmission wasn't very efficient.

In 1926 Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft merged with Benz & Co.
the company founded by Karl Benz.
Karl BenzDaimler
Benz's company became Daimler-Benz AG,
who later manufactured the Mercedes-Benz 
designed by Wilhelm (Maybach Zepplin).

The name "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.

Wilhelm Maybach

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.

 Maybach 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.

Maybach's masterpiece 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 steering column.

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.

Confusingly 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 Maybach) 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.


Panhard-Levassor adopt the steering wheel instead of the tiller.

Karl Benz

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.

In 1883,

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. Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik"
a bicycle company to produce industrial engines in Mannheim, Germany.

In 1885,
Karl Benz designed and built the world's 
first practical automobile
to be powered by an internal-combustion engine.

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 internal-combustion engine.

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, differential gears,water-cooled,
958 cm³, 0.75 hp (560 W) unit,

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 in 1926,
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.


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. 


John Boyd Dunlop a Scottish Veterinary Surgeon living in Belfast, re-invents and re-patents the pneumatic tire

 without knowledge of the previous work and patent of fellow Scott Robert William Thomson.

 André Michelin was the first person to use pneumatic tires on an automobile, however, not successfully.

As Levassor's transmission wasn't very efficient.
It 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.
 The clutch wasn't revised until 1921 by taking out the complication of sticking plates and replacing them with a single a single plate.

By 1905
gasoline cars were more popular than steam or electric cars because they were easier to use and could travel further without adding fuel.

By 1910
gasoline cars became larger and more powerful, and some had folding tops to keep drivers and passengers out of the rain.

The 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 Springfield, Massachusetts,
on September 22, 1893.

 They were the first in the country to manufacture and sell cars that were powered by an internal combustion engine.
By 1896, 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 Eli Olds
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.
Unfortunately, Olds's 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


· · 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 4-wheel-drive car
in 1906
in 1907
begin a company called the
Four Wheel Drive Auto Co.

Henry Ford
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 a half.

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!
 By 1927, 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 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.
 By 1927, production was stopped.

 Philip Strauss 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.

In 1929, General Motors introduced the synchromesh gearbox.

In 1929, 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.

in 1932 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.

 In 1938, General Motors developed the first line of cars to sport automatic transmission.
Oldsmobiles that offered "Hydra-Matic drive." 

Up 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)
 Walter R Chrysler's Company (founded in 1925).
In 1998 Daimler-Benz took over Chrysler to form DaimlerChrysler.

Through recessions, strikes, times of peace and times of war,
these three companies have continued to exercise tremendous influence over the world's automobile industry.
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, and Rolls-Royce).

From power steam to gasoline, 
the history of the automobile has taken many twists and turns. 

Let's take a closer look at how cars operate today . . .

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The objective of this Web Page is to familiarize you with basic auto maintenance
-  in some common emergencies -
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