It can be argued that the automobile has been one of the most influential inventions to this day. The present vehicles owe their inspiration from a collaboration of ideas from their predecessors. The earliest record of an attempt to build a vehicle stems from the 17th century. A priest in China attempted to build a vehicle powered completely off of steam to please the Emperor. If he succeeded, this would be the first vehicle that relied on steam completely for power. By the time the 18th century rolled around, more designs for vehicles were beginning to surface. These vehicles were not elaborate in design, but would be powered entirely off of steam.
Gas Powered and Electric Vehicles
1806 would be the year that the first internal combustion engine would hit the streets. Instead of being powered off of steam like its earlier predecessors, this vehicle would be the first to run completely off of gas. This idea was met with lots of criticism and it would be a while before the idea would suddenly catch on. In the 19th century, gas powered vehicles were now more common than ever. Cars powered from steam were nearly forgotten. Eager to improve upon the gas powered vehicles, inventors started toying with the idea of electric powered vehicles. The world was content with the gas powered vehicles already on the streets and displayed no interest in the electric powered vehicles.
Around the 19th century, owning a vehicle was considered a luxury. Not everyone could afford to own one. Quite a contrast to today’s world. Nearly everyone capable of driving owns or leases at least one vehicle! The 19th century would also inspire inventors to begin designing vehicles according to their own tastes. Ransom Olds (Oldsmobile) would be the first to pave the way towards the creation of vehicles. The Cadillac and Ford brands would follow closely behind.
The technology that powered these amazing machines would undergo several changes. Previously the vehicle would be steered by what was called tillers. The Rambler Company would be the first automotive company to develop a round steering device called the steering wheel. Unlike the previous creations, no longer would the driver have to be positioned in the middle of the car. Instead, the steering wheel would be placed on the left side of the vehicle. The models that first rolled out onto the streets would be single speed vehicles only. The 20th century would see many improvements including drum brakes and even standard drive being developed.
Keeping Up With Demand
Money was considered abundant after the First World War, and people were all too happy to spend their hard earned money. Vehicles started rolling out onto the streets and everyone had to have one. Olds and Ford were producing increasing amounts of vehicles nearly every day, but had to find a new way to increase the efficiency of the production. The assembly line was the answer to the crisis. By developing the assembly line, more vehicles could be produced so as to meet the public demand, but it also became more efficient allowing the auto makers to lower the prices. This enabled the auto makers to produce a car that the general public could afford, whereas the car was considered a luxury in the previous years.
Henry Ford is recognized as being the inventor of the assembly line, but many others would create similar concepts. It was Henry Ford who finally produced something from his concepts. With his invention, Henry Ford was able to produce a vehicle every 15 minutes. His assembly line would produce another temporary problem, however. At the rate the vehicles were being assembled, the dry time for the paint would present a whole new problem. Waiting for the paint to dry caused several sales issues.
The only way around this problem, was to begin painting all his Model T’s with a paint known exclusively as Japan Black. This paint was known to dry faster than any other paint produced at the time. Henry Ford made it known that any customer desiring his cars would have to accept black as the only color palette for his vehicles.
When the First World War declined, designs for the vehicles continued to undergo changes. For instance, cylinder engines went from a minimal eight to a staggering twelve and sixteen. Malcolm Loughead would be credited with the design of the first ever hydraulic brake in the 1900’s. Hermann Rieseler decided the auto could be further improved by installing an automatic transmission. His first concepts were well known around the 1920’s, but it wouldn’t be till the 1940’s when cars started sporting the new automatic transmissions.
Horse Drawn Wagons/Steam Engines Completely Abandoned
After the end of the World War II, the world seemed to be in tatters. Economics took a hard hit and would take some time to rebuild. Horse drawn wagons and steam powered vehicles were completely forgotten, seemingly overnight. American based factories continued to produce vehicles instead of tanks. When the economy finally recovered, the car would be considered the symbol for this rapid recovery.
The United States was considered to be the top producer and perhaps the only place where you could purchase a vehicle. As time went on, other European countries began to build their own creations. Japan started producing enough vehicles to be able to compete with the United States. Ford, Cadillac, and Oldsmobile were no longer the only options to pick from. Japan produced the reliable Toyota, and Germany would go on to produce the sporty Volkswagen.
Our Cars Today
Today’s cars are being designed with a new interest in mind. The continuously rising costs of gasoline have made it more difficult to travel the world or get to our daily destinations without being charged an arm and a leg. The trend for vehicles these days is to combine fuel efficiency, cool electronic gizmos, with a stylish package. For this reason, smaller cars are purchased the most frequently.
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