29 Jul 2016

The History of the Car

Cars, General No Comments

Over time, the style and engineering that make up a car have changed drastically, meaning that the cars of yesteryear are extremely distinct from their modern brethren. The process of how this came to be is interesting, tracking the change of a functional mode of transport to one that required more and more style elements.

The history of the car can have said to be split into different eras, ones that are dictated by the type of propulsion used by the car of that era. These eras help to tell the story of the car and how it came to dominate our roads.

Early History

The first solo-powered vehicle was made, surprisingly, as early as 1672. It was made as a toy for the Chinese Emperor and was too small to actually sit a driver. But, this steam-powered vehicle was perhaps the first working vehicle to ever be made. This idea was developed into a vehicle large enough to carry people in the latter half of the eighteenth century. This was developed further in the next century and by 1801 there were examples of full-sized vehicles on the road.

Over the first couple of decades of the nineteenth-century developments such as brakes, transmissions and the development of more intuitive steering. The first ‘real’ car was made in 1873 by Frenchman Amédée Bollée, a steam powered vehicle which he developed in order to transport groups of passengers. Following this, many tried to patent the locomotive as they recognised that it would be a huge factor in transportation. Though to the extent that it did in fact spread, no one could have guessed. By 1900 cars were being mass produced in France and the United States.

Classic & Vintage Series - various imsges depicting details from classic and vintage automobiles

The lead-up to the Second World War saw many advancements of the engineering of cars, more efficient engines being an aspect of this development. However, steam power had begun to become obsolete. This was due to the invention of the diesel engine, which from around 1930 began to replace the steam engine quite dramatically. The period also saw the rise of the front-engine car, the saloon body type and the integration of headlights into the car body. Before the outbreak of war in 1939, most of the engineering technology that we find in cars today was already invented.

Modern Era

The post-war era saw a rise in car speed, more attractive designs and the marketing of automobiles on a national scale. Technological inventions began to occur rapidly as independent suspension, fuel injection and improved methods of road safety began to be implemented. The modern era has been a period of standardisation and sleeker design, in an attempt to reduce costs and the time in development across the board.

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