By Luke Geisz
Today, we do not think much of our cars. Everyone has them, they’re a common object. They weren’t always like that. Cars used to be only owned by wealthy enthusiasts. They weren’t today’s enclosed, climate controlled, easy to use devices at all. In fact, they were incredibly hard to use. There was no standard controlling system like today’s gas/brake/clutch pedals, auto transmission, steering wheel, and other controlling devices. Some had a steering wheel, some had a long stick that you turned one direction to go the other called a tiller. There was no power steering, no fuel injection, and no traction control. The first cars had engines the size of the engines found commonly on today’s sport touring motorcycles, but produced about the same amount of power as a toy car like this one These cars weren’t factory built, they were built in a shed by a man who some would call crazy. These cars weren’t an everyday object; they were a hobby that only crazed gear heads could get into. They were inventive, clever, intelligent, and most of all, speed crazy. These cars would take YEARS to build, thousands of dollars, many new egg ideas, several ruined tools, and very many injuries. They were VERY basic. They usually had no brakes, Auto transmission? Forget about it. Electric start? Hahaha, you’re joking right? Try a hand crank.
Many basic components of modern cars that seem very universal; radio, automatic transmission, power steering, brakes, speedometer, rear view mirrors, computer based control systems, all very common on the cars of today, many of these now considered fundamental components did not exist on the first cars.
There were many different eras, or periods of time of development of cars. Veteran era, Brass era, Vintage era, Pre-WWII era, Post-war era, and Modern era are all different eras of development.
Before the real development of cars there were ideas, like engines. many different ideas of engines were around, many looked nothing like today, external combustion was even sometimes used, but it was usually internal combustion, because they are most efficient at capturing all the power of the small explosions that are constantly going on inside the engine. Steam was the most popular power source for trains/cars for most of this time.
At this time, people used trains or horse drawn carriages for transportation, which to us seems absurd, but to them, it was premium transportation, because their only other option was walking. The discoveries of this period would change automobiles, trains, airplanes, and boats in such radical ways, the inventors had no idea their inventions would become so widely used, even to this day. The only cars of this period were complete experiments, only the ones built in John Doe’s tool shed.
This was a very inventive era, the first production automobiles were built in this era. The cars weren’t much; they were sometimes referred to as “horseless Carriages” as they weren’t much more than just that. A crude engine strapped onto the back of a horse carriage, a way of steering, and a place to sit. People fueled by more speed would continuously worked on these strange machines, to try to make them go faster. This era was the first time of “production cars,” or cars that were mass produced in factories and bought only by the wealthy who could afford it. One of the first production cars was the Benz (not Mercedes-Benz, they didn’t join together until later). These cars weren’t considered a transportation device as much as a hobby, like today’s dirt bikes, not for transportation, but for fun, as a hobby. Benz entered in 1888 in Germany, and under license in France, by Emilie Roger.
There were numerous others, like the Tricycle
(not a child’s toy) built by Rudolf Egg, Edward Butler, and...