Cars quickly take us anywhere, anytime; and as such, the introduction of the Automobile is one of the most revolutionary events in history.
It all started with the wheel, the inventor of which lost his patent and will never be known. Animals have been pulling carts and chariots since at least 3500 BC. The horse drawn carriage is the oldest mode of transportation (besides “shanksmare”). It is believed that the first modern carriage was created in Hungary in the 15th century to carry a princess to her wedding.
Leonardo Da Vinci and Isaac Newton are credited with drawing up the first theoretical plans for a motor vehicle.
1769 – Nicolas Joseph Cugnot, an engineer and mechanic in France, invents a self-propelled (steam) tricycle.
1771 – Cugnot drives one of his vehicles into a stone wall and becomes the first traffic accident.
1883 – Karl Benz of Germany invents the first gasoline powered automobile.
1898 – Traveler Insurance Company issues the first car insurance policy to Dr. Truman Martin of Buffalo, N.Y. His policy cost $12.25 and gave him $500 in coverage. Martin was chiefly concerned about the 20 million horses on the road at the time.
1898 – The New York City Police Department pursues speeding motorists by bicycle.
1898 – The first speeding ticket is issued.
1908 – Henry Ford begins production of the Model-T on September 27th in Detroit Michigan.
1916 – 55 percent of the cars in the world are Model T Fords, a record that has never been broken.
1922 – The first gas gauge appears in cars
1929 – The first car radio is installed.
1938 – Buick introduces the first electric turn signals.
Most American car horns beep in the key of F.
The automobile is the most recycled consumer product in the world.
The Benz Motorwagen powered by Benz’s own four-stroke cycle gasoline engine was built in Mannheim, Germany in 1885 and granted a “concept” patent in January of the following year. Benz had been granted a patent for an earlier engine in 1879. He began selling his production vehicles in 1888. 25 Benz vehicles were sold between 1888 and 1893. During the last years of the nineteenth century, Benz was the largest automobile company in the world, having sold 572 cars.
Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach founded their company in 1890 under the brand name, Daimler, and sold their first automobile in 1892. This was a horse-drawn stagecoach that they retrofitted with an engine of their own design. By 1895 about 30 vehicles had been built by Daimler and Maybach.
In 1892, Rudolf Diesel was granted a patent for the first Diesel Engine.
On June 28, 1926, Benz, Daimler and Maybach merged their companies, becoming Mercedes Benz (Daimler opting for his daughter’s name).
Large-scale, production-line manufacturing of automobiles was instituted by Ransom Olds at his Lansing Michigan Oldsmobile factory in 1902. This concept was greatly expanded by Henry Ford in 1914. The assembly line killed “hand-crafting”, forcing workers to work at a controlled pace with simple, repetitive motions that led to greater efficiency and output.
The assembly line quickly dominated the automotive industry and spread worldwide with the founding of Ford France and Ford Britain in 1911, Ford Denmark 1923 and Ford Germany 1925. In 1921, Citroen was the first native European manufacturer to adopt this production method. Companies that did not convert, could not compete and went broke; by 1930, 250 companies had disappeared, by 1940 only 17 car companies remained.
Key developments in automotive technology were the electric ignition and the electric self-starter (both by the Cadillac Motor Company in 1910-1911), independent suspension, and four-wheel brakes. An estimated 100,000 patents are said to have created the cars as we know them.
Cars are a part of everyone’s psyche and the cars we own are reflections of who we are. From the earliest beginnings until now, cars have given us the times of our lives and the freedom to go… and to be. Join us for more on the meaning and mystique of cars.
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