1886 –The Benz Patent-Motorwagen
Prior to 1886 (commonly called The Dawn of the Motor Age), the idea of the automobile, that is, a self-propelled transportation vehicle, enjoyed a century of trial and error. In fact, in 1769, Nicolas Cugnot developed a powered road vehicle for the French army to haul cannons. It moved at walking speed, could carry 8,000 pounds, and was soon scrapped by the army. Over the next century, a British inventor by the name of Richard Trevithick would invent a steam powered car, Samuel Brown and Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir would begin refining the internal combustion engine, and the United Kingdom introduced speed restrictions on their roadways, for thirty years keeping top speeds at 4 mph. They could not travel any faster than 4 mph because this was slow enough for a man to walk in front of the car warning pedestrians of its presence.
It was not until 1886 that people began to produce and use cars in ways modern people might recognize as resembling contemporary practice. It was during this year that two engineers, Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, working in separate parts of Germany, that people began driving vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. Karl Benz would create what is today considered the first automobile, The Benz Patent-Motorwagen. Though cars of this era were largely unaffordable for the masses, they were practical and reliable enough to be purchased by affluent citizens.
The History of Mercedes-Benz – See how the Benz Patent-Motorwagen started a 125-year tradition of excellence.
Specs – A list of specifications for the Benz Patent-Motorwagen
Great Classic Cars: The Benz Patent Motor-Wagen – A resource on the history of the first modern automobile.
The Benz Patent-Motorwagen: A Mock Review – Ponder the considerable challenges to automobile manufacturers through this poignant and humorous “review”.
Karl Benz – A short biography of the man who is largely hailed as the inventor of the gas-powered automobile.
1902 – The Stanley Steamer
Freelan and Francis Stanley, after selling their photographic dry plate business to Eastman Kodak, decided to start designing cars, and to them the most promising design of motors was steam powered. At this time in the history of automobiles it was not yet entirely clear whether internal combustion or steam powered engines would be the future of the industry, and the Stanley twins decision to make engines in this fashion was not altogether unsuccessful.
Before forming the Stanley Motor Carriage Company in 1902, Francis and Freelan had already produced over 200 cars, with their initial claim to fame being Freelan and his wofe Flora driving one of these cars to the top of Mount Washington, one of the highest peaks in America. The twins would sell the design of this car to a company called Locomobile and start their company with the profits.
Although the Stanley Steamer (sometimes referred to as “The Flying Teapot”) was initially well received, it could not overcome the obsolescence of the steam engine by the middle of the 1910s. Despite their best efforts to convince the public that the internal combustion engine was unsafe for use, that it could explode at any moment, the power and fuel efficiency afforded by the internal combustion engine was simply too much to overcome and in 1917 Freelan, the sole remaining Stanley after Francis’ fatal car accident, sold the company to Prescott Warren.
An Authentic Paper on Steam Motor-Vehicles – This paper on the advantages of the steam motor, by Abner Doble, one of the Stanley brothers’ competitors, was delivered in 1916.
What is a Stanley Steamer? – Run by a Stanley Steamer enthusiast, this is a complete resource on Stanley Steamers.
America on the Move – An original advertisement from 1910 for the “Stanley Steam Pleasure Car,” as well as more on this history of the car.
The Stanley Song – From the Steam Car Club of Great Britain, this song relays the personal affection many people still have today for the Stanley Steamer.
The Stanley Museum – The Stanley Steamer is a piece of history, and for that reason it has had an entire museum dedicated to ensuring it is not forgotten.
The Ford Model T
By 1908, cars were still considered something of a luxury meant for the rich. While the demand for a car for the masses was certainly high, production remained low. This was not because of a lack of desire by car manufacturers, but simply because the cost of manufacturing the vehicles was too great, and to sell them at prices most people could afford would have quickly put companies out of business.
Henry Ford saw this problem of manufacturing costs not as a reason to keep cars from those less able to afford them and more as a reason to change the entire style of manufacturing to reduce cost. Whereas prior to 1908 workers would have to gather materials, take them to the car, and perform any number of tasks, Ford saw a way to increase efficiency and output while decreasing manpower.
With the introduction of Ford’s assembly line, the factory could do in 93 minutes what used to take them 12 hours, and they could work at a rate which got a new car off the line every three minutes.
The appeal of the Model T was two-fold. First, it was the world’s first affordable car. This is most likely the primary reason for Ford selling 15 million models in six years. The other reason for the Model T’s popularity is the quality of the car. The Model T was made during a time when most people did not have cars. For that reason, most roads, especially roads outside the city, were not paved. The car was made to handle rough dirt roads as well as smooth paved ones. This quality extended into the many other uses for the car. Many people converted the car into a tractor, used it as a generator, and, since one of the wheels could be removed and a pulley could be affixed to the hub, used as a flat belt for any number of agricultural purposes.
Model T Ford Club International – A resource complete with information on where you can see Model T Fords in person, pictures, and video.
The Life of Henry Ford – A brief glimpse into the life of one of the most influential men in history.
The First Moving Assembly Line – Not only was the type of car Ford made revolutionary, so too was the way in which he made them.
Model T Fords FAQs – A guide to the history and modern uses of the Model T Ford.
10 Ways the Model T Changed the World – The legacy of the Model T lives on to this day. Here are 10 reasons for its longevity.
The Rolls Royce Silver Ghost
The end of the beginning for the automobile was marked by a marvel of engineering and luxury. The Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, initially simply named the Rolls Royce 40/50 hp, was a six cylinder automobile capable of reaching speeds of over 80 mile
s per hour. When produced in 1906, the car was so luxurious and ahead of its time that Rolls Royce began providing drivers with a driver’s school of instruction after it became apparent that drivers of the time lacked enough knowledge to safely operate a car with such power.
As a testament to the engineering of the Silver Ghost, it took other motorcar companies almost twenty years to improve their comparable cars enough to cause a decline in Silver Ghost sales. Consequentially, Rolls Royce rolled out their new Phantom series, ending production on the Silver Ghost. As further testament to the craftsmanship of the car, many Silver Ghosts made during this time are still running today, and remain nearly silent on the road.
Technical Data – A complete listing of the specifications for the Silver Ghost.
Models of the Silver Ghost – The Silver Ghost is not the name of a single model of the car. Check out how the car evolved.
Images, Information, and History – 25 thumbnails featuring the interior and exterior of the Silver Ghost, along with more information and resources.
The Silver Ghost Association, Inc. – An organization run by enthusiasts looking to keep the public aware of “the best car in the world.”
The Spirit of the Silver Ghost – The history of Rolls-Royce began with one of the most technologically advanced machines to ever hit the road.
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