The early cars and its development sprung first from the fertile mind of Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, a French inventor, who lived from 1725-1804. He built the first working self-propelled land-based mechanical vehicle, the world's first automobile.
He trained as a military engineer and acquired the ranked of a captain. In 1765 he began experimenting with working models of steam-engine-powered vehicles for the French Army, intended for transporting cannons.
A Cugnot car, circa 1771
But experiments in Europe and in the United States were gaining ground. Building on the work of earlier scientists and engineers, Jean Joseph Etiene Lenoir's experimentation with electricity led him to develop the first internal combustion engine which burned a mixture of coal gas and air ignited by a "jumping sparks" ignition system by Ruhmkorff coil, and which he patented in 1860.
A Lenoir automobile
About 1865 and Austrian inventor, Siegfried Marcus, built and road tested a simple four-wheeled vehicle with an internal combustion engine that used liquid fuel. Ten years later he produced a second liquid-fueled vehicle which ran successfully and is now preserved in a museum in Vienna as forerunners of the modern automobile - early cars in their infancy.
In 1875, the Austrian engineer Siegfried Marcus (1831-1898) made this petrol-driven motor car. Top speed is 4 mph, the car worked well but unfortunately he did not realize its commercial potential until Karl Benz produced the first commercial motor car.
Nikolaus A. Otto, a German inventor, built the most direct ancestor of today's automobile engine in 1876. Otto's engine for the early cars used the four-stroke principle of operation - intake, compression, power, and exhaust. Car engines today operate on this principle. Otto's engine originally operated on coal gas but was soon adapted for use with other fuels. Otto's engine provided a compact yet powerful engine, much different from the cumbersome, noisy and clunky engines a few decades back. These early cars were important to the developments that would come later.
Nikolaus A. Otto
Nikolaus A. Otto
Gottlieb Daimler and another German, Karl Benz, are usually credited with being the earliest builders of successful automobiles that used internal combustion engines. Each produced a motor car in 1886 and they are now classic automobiles that command very high prices for classic car collectors. Daimler produced light, reliable, medium-speed gas engine. The design formed the basis for the modern car engine.Benz concentrated on the idea of a vehicle fitted with a gasoline motor which combined with body, chassis (frame and wheels), and other parts into an efficient unit. The pair produced excellent early cars.
Between 1890 and 1930, the concept of the automobile emerged and resulted in competing types of automobiles powered by electricity (batteries), gasoline, and steam. The electric car was superior to the steamer or the gasoline car because it ran quietly and smoothly, without the vibration and smelly fumes of its rivals. It did not require a complicated set of gears or clutches to transmit the power to the wheels or to run in reverse. But they are good to only 20 to 40 miles. After that, the batteries run down. And the low speed (12 miles per hour) did not appeal to prospective buyers.
Steam-driven cars were even more popular than electrics in the late 1890's and early 1900's. There were more than 100 different makes of American steamers during those times. Steamers offered more power than electrics, quiet operation, and smooth performance. But their drawbacks were serious. It took a long time to build up steam and and procedures were complicated. Also, owners were afraid that the boiler might explode.
Some More Early Cars
1867 Benz Car
1885 Benz Car
1895 Chicago Benton Harbor Autocycle
1896 Duryea Runabout
1898 Stover High Wheeler
1899 Daimler Car
1899 Winton Phaeton
1895 American LaFrance Steamer
1885 Amoskeag Steam Fire Engine
1902 Steam Fire Engine with Blaze
1900 Locomobile Steam Runabout
1907 Baker Electric Car
1908 Holsman Highwheeler Electric Car
History of the Automobile:
Forerunners of the Modern Automobile
Early 1900's cars
More About 20's Cars
More About 30's Cars
1950's Imported Cars
1960's Economy Cars
1960's Muscle Cars
1960's Pony Cars
1960's Foreign Cars
More '70s Cars
More '80s Cars
More '90s Cars
'90s Imported Cars
'90s Fastest Cars
Popular Movie Cars
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