Rise of Automobiles in India (Before Independence)

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Introduction
The first wheel may have been used for transport about 4,000 years ago in India in the civilization of Harappa Mohenjo-Daro, it is said, but it was the 18th Century before the first horseless carriage actually hit the roads. Powered vehicles, however have been experimented with from as early as the 14th Century, several Italians having tried out wind driven cars, Leonardo da Vinci being one among them.

It was after James Watt’s steam engine in 1705 that a powered vehicle was looked at more seriously.
Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot of France developed a three-wheeled, steam powered vehicle in 1769 and this considered the first automobile. By the 1830s the steam car had made considerable progress, but stiff competition from the railways and an ill considered legislation in Britain forced the steam Automobile off the roads.

Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler of Germany laid the foundation of the motor industry as we know it today. Benz invented the petrol engine in 1885 and, a year later, Daimler built a car driven by a motor of his own design. In America, Randsome Olds, who had built steam –driven cars and is said to have sold one to an Indian potentate, build a motor car driven by a gasoline engine in 1887. By 1890, two Frenchmen, Panhard and Levassor, began producing automobiles powered by Daimler Engines. And in America, Charles Duryea built a car carriage with a petrol engine in 1892. By 1898, there were 50 automobile companies in the United States and as many as 241 by 1908. In that year, Henry Ford, who had built his first car in 1893, revolutionized the manufacture of automobiles with his assembly line style of production. Herbert Austin and William Morris introduced the system in Britain.

Motorized public transport had its beginning in 1830, when Sir Goldworthy Gurney in the U.K. designed a large stagecoach driven by a steam engine to serve as a bus. The first Truck was built by Gottlieb Daimler in 1896 with a four-horsepower engine. It was meant to carry heavy loads. Until the 1920s, a bus consisted of a bus body mounted on a truck chassis. It was in 1921 that a chassis was developed in the United States especially meant for bus operation.

Both steam and gasoline driven cars were well developed before they made their appearance in India. MOTOR TRANSPORT’S INDIAN BEGINNINGS
It was 1897 that a resident of Calcutta brought the first car to India. The next year, there four cars in Bombay (nowadays Mumbai), one of them owned by Jamshedji Tata and the three are also from are owned by Parsis. That same year, the first pneumatic tyres arrived in Bombay, with Dunlop opening an office in the city.

Chennai, it would appear, lagged behind, though it is related that a car was seen on Mount Road on a grief outing in 1894. If that unconfirmed appearance is ignored, the first recorded date of a car being in regular use in Chennai is 1901. The car owned by A.J. Yorke, a director of Parry & Co. He drove it daily from Ben’s Gardens, Adyar, to Parry’s in ‘Black town’. The South’s first registered car, MC-1, belonged to Francis Spring, at that time Secretary of the Madras Railway Board and, IN 1904, to become the chairman of the Madras Port Trust and ‘father’ of the Madras Harbour. The first Indian-owned car in Chennai, MC-3, was building contractor T. Namberumal Chetty’s.

Before long, several Madras firms became agents for British, Continental and American motor car manufacturers. The pioneer was Addison & Co. Addison’s, who have pioneered the cycle industry in Madras, is variously mentioned as having imported petrol driven cars from 1901 or1904, but a date closer to the former is likely. It also pioneered the import of motor cycles.

On 1903, Samuel John Green of Simpson & Co., Madras, built India’s first car and caused a sensation on the roads of the city. The Madras Mail Hailed its appearance as the beginning of “a new industry for madras”. Two years later, Simpson’s built the first Steam bus. It...
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