Did you ever wonder where our obsession with all
things automotive began? The history of the vehicle
that allowed travel for the masses across great
distances, or to the other side of the street,
began in earnest in the late 1800s.
Nikolaus A. Otto built the first practical four-
stroke engine in 1876, and the two-stroke engine
was developed by George Brayton in 1872.
In 1862 Alphonse Beau de Rochas came up with the
idea to use an engine, until then used as a
stationary device, to power a vehicle and Otto’s
engine were built for that purpose.
The 1890s Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler pioneered
mass production of the automobile.
So who came up with the drive-train layout that
still exists today on some cars and most trucks?
Panhard & Levassor was the first to standardize
the front engine, rear wheel drive, with a gearbox
in the middle set up in the 1890s.
A short time later, the Duryea brothers Charles E.
and J. Frank, started the first American automobile
production company in 1895. The same year the very
first organized car race was ran in America.
By 1900, the automobile was a toy for the rich,
and 38% of cars made were electric. It wasn’t long
before the electric car fell out of favor due to the
batteries inability to provide power for long
In 1905, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)
was founded and in 1906 a Stanley Steamer set land
speeds records of 205 km/hr. It would not help the
steam powered car survive as people found the gas
powered vehicles easier to deal with.
And that ends this politically incorrect but
light-hearted look at the history of one of our
most used conveniences.
Comments are always welcome.