How the Car Economy Began

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It makes sense that the US is a car-based economy. The bulk of the continent is rural and everyone needs to use them to get from town to town. Unlike Europe with large population centers a small distance apart where public transport is more economical privately owned vehicles are baked into Americana. But when did it start and were there people trying to defy the rise?

Despite the latter days of the nineteenth century being a steam driven age, the biggest form of transport was actually the horse and carriage. It was such a slow method of being transported that people often got out and walk overland to avoid crowded, windy roads, and easily outran a horse-drawn wagon. Horses also added to the amount of manure in big cities. It seems that things were ripe for a change.

While steam travel rose sharply it had its own problem; the smoke from a steam train was a great deal more polluting than the early cars.

The idea of cycling could have taken off, but in many ways, it is harder to cycle than use one of these early cars. Consider the size of a wagon or horse compared to a bicycle for starters. Remember they didn’t have crosswalks, traffic lights, or for the most parts paved roads. Ever ride a bike on cobblestones? Not easy.

The first big issue with cars was the price. Every part of a car had to be scratch built and that is a highly expensive way of building autos. There were no plastic parts either, so you built everything out of steel, brass, or wood—even the dashboard. All that medal and labor were costly. A car cost $1,000, about $30,000 today.

A side effect of all that metal is weight, and with no power steering, it’s no wonder cars were difficult to operate which brings us to the second big difficulty with cars. They broke down a lot, requiring anyone who drove one to also be a mechanic. And fairly intrepid, as they occasionally blew up. The early internal combustion engine wasn’t as perfected as they are now and maintenance wasn’t an exact science.

Although mechanics were in great demand it was not until the Ford assembly line factories that they would get anything like $5 a day, about $130 today. It was not until the process became slick that car builders were paid anything like their true worth.

Since the price already put cars in the luxury category, makers tried to help sell the car with interior trim, giving it a plush look. This was an unfamiliar environment for those accustomed to buckboard, but it allowed cars to compete with the railway carriage for first class travelers.

The other problem for the early car driver was the lack of infrastructure, in other words, the roads. Although tarmac was invented in 1902 it took a long time for it to be the mainstay of roads, in America, the longest roads resembled trails for a long time. Even when the cities had tarmac it would take decades for interstate highways to be created.

It was an industry finding its feet. The fact that the automobile pushed through to success is a function of the American dream, families all searching for freedom and the ability to travel. By no coincidence, it was during the great era the 1950s that the car completely replaced horse and steam as the main form of transportation for most Americans.

 

Best of the Web: Buick Y

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Why the ‘Y-Job’ — Harley Earl and the Buick Dream Car

by the fully retractable Albert Mroz

 

Perhaps the real question you might be asking is, “Who was Harley Earl?” Well, this well-crafted post by Albert Mroz is truly an expose of a creative genius which does eventually answer the question in the title. It’s a fun read and it’s worthy of our best of the web series.

For complete story read the original at the link below.

http://www.prewarbuick.com/features/why_the_y_job

The Rise and Fall of the Motor Town

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When you think of motors and motor manufacture you think of Detroit. Nowadays though it is like a ghost town with many abandoned factories. The Big Three factories were all based here, namely General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, but the place is full of so many remains of old car factories that it is hard to chronicle properly. But let’s start at the beginning.

The very earliest factory in Detroit was in 1899 and was called the Detroit Automobile Company. It only lasted two years and the cars and trucks weren’t that impressive, especially as the cars manufactured looked like they were made with baby-buggy wheels. At that point, cars weren’t thought to replace the horse and carriage and no one was looking at them as economically viable.

Only slightly later the Packard Automotive Plant was built in Detroit; 1903. Based on the East Grand Boulevard it still stands as a huge urban sprawl of concrete. Although it closed in 1953 businesses were still using the space up to the 1990s.

Although everyone associates the Ford Motor Company with the Model T Ford these were built in Highland Park, Michigan in 1908. Having said that he did have a factory in Detroit also in 1903 in Mack Avenue but it took some time to be as large as the Packard factory. Ford had put money into the Detroit Automobile Company too but the Model T would be a real turning point for him.

The biggest Ford factory in Detroit was the Rouge Factory or Rouge Complex built between 1917 and 1928. To date, this is the largest factory in the world and went on to inspire car factories all around the globe. It is currently a museum to the history of car manufacture and innovation in general. It is not unremarkable that Detroit still holds their automobile heritage in high esteem.

The Chrysler factory was also known as the Dodge Main Plant. To be technical, the Dodge brothers owned the factory before Chrysler but that’s just the story of car manufacturers, takeovers and more takeovers. The Dodge brand was originally about working cars, vans and trucks such as the Texaco tanker. In about 1939 it became a more luxurious brand (although all cars from this point look rather stylish).

The factory closed in 1979 and became the site of a General Motors factory building cars like the Cadillac, though it looks like even the GM factory will be demolished this year. Chrysler had been merged with Daimler in 1998. In 2014 Fiat went into partnership with Chrysler to create further Dodges, such as the Dodge Dart. It’s sad that they are no longer associated with Detroit.

There are plans for a new car factory in Detroit building the Grand Cherokee and the Jeep, ironically on the site of Ford’s Mack Avenue car factory. Of course, the SUVs won’t be ready until next year, but the investment in Detroit is the main thing. So maybe Detroit’s love affair with the car will remain.

 

Chauffeur Driven Limos

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What could be more stylish than a chauffeur-driven limousine greeting you from the airport? The business is all about creating a positive experience which needs to operate 365 days a year, even Christmas Day. But what is the life of a chauffeur all about?

Becoming a Chauffeur:

I addition to passing a background check many chauffeurs have to take a comprehensive test as well. Then they need to gain the knowledge of the streets they will work on and usually have to know them backward. In fact, training is ongoing as construction and driving patterns change with time, and different customers require different services en route.

Types of Gigs:

In some cities, a Limo is nearly as affordable as a taxi and many Limos serve the airport commuter, but we also think of the party limo which is rented by teens going to prom or bachelors/bachelorettes for their last big bacchanal before they settle down for good (or 7 years whichever comes first).

stretch-limousine-2714963_1920These days Limo companies typically diversify into specialty party limos for these gigs. You might see a stretch hummer with a built-in hot tub on the streets of Los Vegas, but smaller towns will still push their basic black stretch into double duty from Friday nights black tie to Saturday nights stag party.

The key to a party/airport driver might simply be patience. If you can drive and you are longsuffering this could be your calling, and the tips aren’t bad either.

The upscale driver will also do Corporate Services, and some chauffeurs work in the diplomatic services. These Limos are now outfitted with access to TV news and radio while you are driving along – well access to radio isn’t that new, but you get the gist. Onboard wifi for internet access isn’t unheard of.

These drivers still need to know where the best places to relax in the city are, but will also know how to find the opera hall and the bank tower buildings. So again training is vital.

Communications:

In the old days communications were down by CB radio, which we probably think of more with taxis, but no, they were also a mainstay in Limos as the company needed to know the whereabouts of their car at all times and provide updates about traffic and road conditions. If this seems counter-intuitive, just think about how often a business person has a change of schedule or a gang of drunks decides to switch clubs. The company needs to receive updates. Also, they need to give them, because speed bumps and potholes that are an inconvenience in a taxis, present a bad limo ride experience and cause costly damage. Of course, now the mobile phone fills in for the CB radio.

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History of Limos and Chauffeurs:

The limousine has a longer history than you might think of being named after the town of Limousin, found in Central France. The most noticeable feature is the partition between the driver and the chauffeur. In Germany, a limousine is referred to a Sedan, though in other countries, sedans refer to a more generalized type of car.

The stretch limo has surprisingly workaday origins, created as it was by a  coach company in Fort Smith, Arkansas and was used by Big Band Leaders. It seems to show that it always had been about style rather than substance, a fun way to travel rather than something more presidential.

Early types of the limousine were the berline and the brougham. The berline takes its name from a type of horseless carriage and began with the driver in the open air and the passenger in the roofed area.  The Brougham was similar but had the driver in the center of the vehicle using a steering wheel which was on a pivot which seems a hell of a job to maneuver. The evolution was to improve life not only for the passenger but also for the chauffeur.

Personality Types for a Chauffeur:

Unlike taxi drivers, chauffeurs know where they are going before the day and can plan for it. So you don’t require quite as much desire for an unscripted workplace. Limo drivers’ personality tends to be available but not too sociable as they need to know when to keep quiet. The other three primary character needs are knowledgeable, professional and prompt.

prom-264219_1920We have this mental picture of chauffeurs as crisply professionals though that is not always the complete picture. Whole books have been written talking about unreliable drivers who are not given adequate rest breaks, so accidents are waiting to happen, such as a 1908 book called Motor Age. As with anything, you get what you pay for.

Another interesting character trait often found in chauffeurs is natural networkers, One reason is that chauffeurs be the last profession to rely on word of mouth to get new clients? Lately, though, everything seems to need to surrender to social media, and limo drivers remain avid networkers. So it’s likely that the profession draws people who like to be near people of influence.

Wherever you want to go, be it a concert, the airport or just round in a circle it is reassuring to know that there is someone to drive you.

Winter Roads and Ice Roads

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Most of the time when we’re talking about winter weather and roads we’re talking about getting rid of it’s effects on the road to improve safety. However, there is a type of road which is built over snow or a similar substance called a winter road due to their reliance on seasonal climate. A special type of winter road is called ice road and this is what the majority of this article is in reference to.

If you live in a temperate region you may live your whole life without seeing an ice road. It is a road built over a frozen lake or even a bay of the ocean, though the word “road” may be pushing it somewhat.

Ice roads can be permanent or temporary–some only exist between late Fall and early Spring. Even when they are melted the lack of vegetation in a specific part of the water shows where the road used to be.

But why use an ice road when you can wait until the thaw occurs? As with many other things it comes down to expense. It’s cheaper to transport things by truck than by air freight. The other concern is that for some items, carrying by air is impractical. But the basic reason is the old adage, “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” If you can drive straight across a lake instead of taking a twisty road around it and a mountain you save a lot of time and fuel.

Making an Ice Road

In order to keep the road as traversable as it can be this routes are often snow plowed. Most people consider ice to be level, but not all types of water being frozen provide a level surface–snowplowing helps make it level.

To create a road takes more than plowing a couple lanes. Often you need to thicken the ice by drilling holes at intervals. The water from these holes floods out and in turn thickens the ice.

The vehicles on the ice road tend to be big trucks, though smaller pickups are also used. The speed limit for ice road is about 25 mph to help prevent the truck from falling through the ice.

Because you can’t just drive out onto most lakes you need some bizarre engineering. One way is a ramp made of slush. It doesn’t sound like a good solution, but it seems to work.

History of Ice Roads

Perhaps the most famous ice road in history is the 900-day siege of Leningrad. In June of 1941, the German and Finnish Army attacked and ultimately blockaded the city where many munitions were manufactured for the Red Army. The attempt to starve out the army and inhabitants failed in large part to allies driving supplies across Lake Ladoga at night. The Nazi Army simply didn’t think anyone was crazy enough to do it so they didn’t waste bombs breaking up the ice.

The ice roads in Canada have a long history going back to the 1930s. These weren’t used by trucks though but by caterpillar sleds. A number of them can be traced back to Al Hamilton of Grimshaw Transport, which still exists. Their main business is to transport fish from the topmost parts of Canada to the USA and beyond. These roads have since been improved by other trucking companies.

What’s in a Driver’s License?

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Sixteen is the minimum age for issuing driver’s license in most states, but there are states in which you can be younger and states where you need to be older. It wasn’t always the case.

Brief History

The first licensed vehicle was in 1901 in New York and it took another seventeen years before all states issued license plates. Licensed drivers, however, were harder to come by, in 1935 for example only 39 states issued licenses and barely any needed a test.

There were no driving schools at this time, incidentally. People were taught by the YMCA, high schools and similar organizations. Even now, some schools still teach their students to drive. Even if your school does not, you may still be entitled to reduced insurance rates so it is worth starting early.

Types of Licenses

The license that most people own is called “unrestricted” which allows you to drive most vehicles, provided that you don’t ply for hire. The various types include restricted, chauffeur, motorcycle and so on, which some states call endorsements since they’re added to a basic driver’s license.

Hardship licenses are especially interesting in that they are for teenagers between 14 and 18 who have to drive themselves back and forth to school or work. They are issued if their family has medical or financial needs which prevent them from driving. There’s a different type of hardship license issued for those which would be otherwise a suspended or revoked unrestricted license.

The provisional license is another form of beginner’s license, issued to the newly qualified, usually between 14-17 years old. This type of license doesn’t let you drive at night or and restricts the number of passengers.

Professional Licenses

A chauffeur’s license is slightly misnamed as most states require them for other forms of passenger transport like a taxi or a tuk-tuk. Usually, you do have to be over 25 to be awarded this type of license.school-buses-2801134_1920

You may also need CDL endorsement to drive specific vehicles, such as a tractor with a trailer or a bus. There are other types of endorsements needed for hazardous materials, vehicles carrying bulk liquids and so on. It’s very complex. For example, a liquid such as diesel is flammable & combustible which is an upgrade from mere flammable. It’s also an upgrade from a liquid endorsement, which requires extra stopping distance when transported in large quantities.

Testing

The test is both written and driving (or practical). There is an additional visual test required. It is recommended that if have glasses or contact lenses normally that you wear them for the test, as it is to give an idea of your usual driving state.

As well as these three parts there may be additional courses, for instance, drugs awareness, traffic awareness and so on.

It is also a good idea to know the validity of your driver’s permit and to get another one should you need it. They are conditional and they expire. (In other words, if something is stopping you getting a full driver’s license). Making a mistake while driving with a permit could result in a severe delay in getting your full license.

As Identification

The advantage of owning an enhanced license doesn’t involve driving. It means that your license can be used as a document for establishing US nationality. Many states that border Canada have begun issuing this type of license to reduce the need for a passport when traveling to such a friendly neighboring nation.

You also need to show proof of identity in order to prove who you are and where you live. If you’re taking the test while under age 18 many states need proof that you are attending school.

The license is all about the freedom of the road, as long as you remember everyone else too!

The Story Behind Today’s Car Wheels

Vanity Fair dot com

It’s something we see every day and take for granted, but in reality, the car wheel is a result of several decades’ worth of engineering and redesign.

The basics design of the wheel hasn’t altered much since the beginning—central hub with spokes or rods radiating out to a circular tire support surface. The reason hubs have spokes is simply to save weight and keep the vehicle as light as possible. The heavier the wheel, the more uncomfortable the travel, especially when the car has to break.

httpcar-part.comWheelexp dot HTMLThe basic parts of a wheel are…the Hub (or center disc), Lug, Spoke, Rim (or outer lip), Barrel, Tire, and Valve Stem.

In the very center of the hub may be a center bore or a center cap but either will be surrounded by lug holes for bolts to fit through. Of course, securing the wheel to your vehicle are lug nuts. Exactly why lug nuts are called lug nuts is a bit of a mystery. Handles are sometimes known as lugs, but these aren’t exactly handled? If you have any information about this let us know.

Around the edge of the wheel is the tire. It seems that tires go back to the very first gas-powered car in 1888. Before then tires used for carts and steam engines were metallic, and amazingly most people felt that pneumatic tires were as revolutionary as the horseless carriage itself. As with the spokes it is all about keeping the weight down as much as possible.

Strangely, given the usefulness of the pneumatic tires, they didn’t catch on for another seven years. Finally, a car featured in the automobile race from Paris to Bordeaux used pneumatic tires. These cities are only about 400 miles apart but at the time cars routinely broke down, making this race an “endurance race.” The pneumatic tires performed well, keeping the car moving, and garnered the attention they deserved.

car-932455_1920Although we now associate tires with having a tread or a specific pattern the idea of incorporating this into a tire’s design didn’t start until 1920. Nowadays it is possible to know who made a tire simply from the tread alone.

While tires quickly took on the look we’re accustomed to seeing they didn’t start making them from synthetic rubber until about 1931. At that time Du Pont industrialized the manufacturer of the rubber, similar to the way that Henry Ford had industrialized the manufacturer the main chassis of the car a few decades earlier. Everything was moving to make the whole process of creating a car more efficient.

Miraculous and ubiquitous as the car modern rubber car tire is, their Achilles heel is obvious–when they become flat they no longer function. To combat this problem, Michelin first invented a “semi-bullet-proof” tire in 1935, which was ultimately too expensive for all but military and bank armored cars. Then in 1958 Chrysler and Goodyear teamed up to create an interlining that prevented blow-outs. In 1972 Dunlop launched their version with the Total Mobility Tyre which became their TD/Denloc tire. Eventually, the Modern run-flat tires were born.

The strategy of most of these tires is to either an inner lining that is “self-sealing” or to insert an inner ring capable of carrying the car’s weight. The latter solution is more rugged and preferred for “armored” vehicles, where weight is an issue.

The only real solution when encountering a flat is to change the wheel. For decades the answer was to carry a “spare,” but in more recent times the practice of carrying an entire replacement tire has morphed into small “donut” tire suitable for only a short distance. This saves valuable weight (and therefore fuel cost) and takes up less room in the trunk. Most recently new cars are selling without a spare of any kind because people hate changing their own tires and prefer roadside assistance.

Not only are car wheels important for getting your around, but they are also intimately involved with the braking system, but that’s a story for another day. Just know that properly working wheels may save your life.

 

The Mini – From Paper to Production

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By Paul Wimsett

What is the spark that brings a car into existence? Well, it’s probably the same as everything else. Someone is daydreaming and wonders “wouldn’t it be great if…?” And as the case with ideas, many of them go nowhere. And once in a while ideas really fly.

Take the Mini. It seems such an obvious design for a small car that we can’t imagine a time without it. But the problems with the small size meant that it probably needed a great deal of working out.  The solution of a “transverse engine front wheel drive” seems like nonsense to most people, so let’s break it down.

Transverse engine – having the engine facing the same way as the way you’re traveling.

Front wheel drive – having the engine drive the front wheels only.

These seem rather obvious but the Beetle for example has an engine that is at right angles to the way you’re traveling – it does make sense in a smaller car – and there could be a world where a Mini would have a four-wheel drive, only it would probably cost more. It’s all about coming up with the perfect vehicle.

mini-458330_1920The best part of these features is that it allows more room for both the luggage and the passengers, space is a premium in smaller vehicles. Whether there was an “Aha!” moment with the Mini it is difficult to say, but creating the right engine and the right drive seems to be part of it.

Once you create a brand of car you can develop it. The Countryman is a new version of the Mini which is all about advanced technology and better use of space. Because of the shape of the Mini there cannot be endless supplies of space in a vehicle and technology can only improve the vehicle so far. But these are marketable ways of changing the brand and creating a better vehicle to drive.

Speaking of marketing…

The best thing to happen to the Mini was the 1960’s. The number of celebrities that seemed to come out in favor of the Mini – George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Steve McQueen, and Mick Jagger improved its reputation by miles. It didn’t seem to be about luxury travel, it seemed to be all creating a British car that got you from A to B.

There have been failures too…

The first being the Issogonis. Created in 1959 one of the points you’d notice is that it looks look like a small Ford car rather than a Mini. There were some problems with this type of car, not least the strange name. The most pressing would be that it was hard to get at the engine. Maybe this was due to reducing a fairly big car’s design into a small car-the engine just didn’t quite fit in the same way. But there are always pitfalls in car production.

It seems now that the Mini is impossible to replace in the affections of the public, in spite of the fact that it is now made by an Anglo-German company. Still, you can’t expect everything to stay the same.

The Complicated World of Power Steering

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Most of us think we know what power steering is – some kind of additional help needed to steer – but it’s actually a bit more complicated than that. It is all about making the whole process of steering easier. Without power assist, a car needs a great amount of pressure to steer it. Having some assistance means it is less of a strain.

Oddly enough the physical weight of the vehicle impacts how hard it is to force those tires to move sideways instead of rolling forward. Therefore, the reasons behind power steering come from the fact that cars and trucks are getting heavier and heavier, making them in turn difficult to manoeuver. The good news is that we haven’t run into any studies which suggest that drivers have become weaker.

What is the power behind power steering? Quite simply, hydraulics. But it’s too simple to stop there. For one thing, you need the engine on to use hydraulics. Without that the hydraulics actually work against the driver has to muscle the works of that system on top of shoving the tire against the friction of the rubber and road. The answer to that is to create a system that lets the car operate manually when there isn’t the power to the hydraulics. The way to switch between manual and power steering needs to be thought out in the design phase, every car uses a slightly different system.

The physical item which operates the power steering is known as an actuator. It’s basically a cylinder which moves thanks to hydraulics.

The Most Recent Advances:

Most recent improvements chalk up to tweaks to what already worked, BUT one advanced type of power steering has immerged–called “drive by wire” (also known as “steer by wire” or “brake by wire”) Created for off-road vehicles to make them less likely to break down due to jarring. The problem with this type of steering is that might be possible to hack from an outside force. But it can also be controlled by game controllers and laptops given the right type of alterations. Because you don’t need as many physical components as the usual type of power steering you cut down on weight. There are different systems in place for braking, parking and so on in these kinds of vehicles.

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Brief History:

Surprisingly power steering dates back to the very early days of the automobile. In 1876, a carriage builder named Jeantaud created a special type of steering operation where the wheels operated in parallel. These pieces are now known as the Pitman and the Idler arms and are found in all vehicles. Without them no steering – manual or otherwise – could take place.

Prior to this gear, drivers were forced to apply so much pressure to the wheel that they struggled to judge the right steering pressure to the speed at which they moved. Often the result was vehicle tip at relatively low speed.old-1184126__340

The creation of a steering gear meant less pressure on the steering wheel. The steering gear used by Henry Ford didn’t become the pattern for later designs, probably because the worm gear is ultimately a better design. The worm (steering) gear got it’s name from worm roller it drove.

Power steering by computer also goes back further than you might think; to be precise a Toyota Cressida built in 1985. It was called by the complicated name of Progressive Power Rack and Pinion Steering, making it sound more like a streetcar than an automobile.

In Conclusion:

Perhaps the most surprising thing about power steering is that not all cars have it. It seems that it is still a luxury to some drivers.

 

Car Evolution: (Part 2) From Vintage to Now

 

bmw-158703_1280The Evolution:

radiator-emblem-3248652_1920Soon after the Brass Car Era, (pre 1930) when any bicycle maker could try his hand at creating a horseless carriage, the US entered what we commonly call, the Vintage Car Era. What spurred the vintage car era in a more serious direction was the relatively short period between 1919 and 1930, which coincides with the First World War when the true potential of motorized vehicles and improved roadways became clear to citizens and government alike.

Thus began the vintage car era, 1930ish to 1948, which coincides with the Second World War. So when you are looking at what appears to be a vintage car it might be a Pre-War, War or Post-War car—in reference to World War II.

Visually Distinct Features:

When you think of a vintage car you think of a well-defined automobile, its headlamps stick out, it has quite a small radiator and beaded wheels. What most people don’t realize is that many vintage cars had radios. But with a few exceptions, it was all about being as comfortable as possible.

Some vintage cars evolved into brands we’d recognize today and others died out with time.

One example of Design that Stood the Test of Time:

oldtimer-3398320_1920In 1921 Citroen created the B2, which had a top speed of 45mph. This 3-speed car had a spring suspension and shock absorbers.

Fast forward to the 1955 2CV there is something familiar in the shape, in the headlights for instance, (though it seems to be taking inspiration from the Mini a bit, as well as the VW Beetle). The 55 2CV has four-wheel drive and a fourth gear. It is even suitable for off-road traveling. The main difference, though it would be hard to pick a specific feature, is that it no longer looks like a “boneshaker.”

But the Deux Chevaux (2CV) remained stripped down compared to other cars of its era. Citroen was ahead of its time in predicting what the average car buyer would value, and while the seats were barely more than metal and canvas, the car could carry 2 farmers and a basket of eggs across a plowed field without breaking anything. Sure the windows didn’t roll down, but it went 100 km on 3 liters of fuel, and that kept it popular for over 55 years.

A Vintage Car that Went the Way of the Dinosaur:

5ec518a39eaf726e41a7be0e3d7361c5A vintage car design that wouldn’t survive, the 1927 Pedroso. It might seem like a car from the future with ignition timing straight from the dash, the seats close to the ground and so on.

The trouble is that when you create a car for racing, parts become expensive very quickly. You also want something unique, not something that can be easily manufactured. Ultimately, the reason for Pedroso’s failure is that it remained a shed-built car; it didn’t go into mass production, so it’s vintage but actually so rare as to not be popular with collectors.

Other Differences between Vintage and Now:

It seems that as cars evolved they have become much more structural and possibly less defined. Terminology has also changed; in the U.K. we speak of “bodywork” rather than “chassis.” (In the US we call it a “frame” & “body” if it’s a truck or old car, or unibody as the case may be.) For more on car-component terms see our post from Monday.

Headlamps and wheel-wells moved from distinct items affixed to the body/frame closer and closer to the body itself and then incorporated completely inside the main body of the vehicle.

The partial convertible, or Coupe DeVille, with its open-top front seat and enclosed rear has given way to cars being only convertible (hard or soft top) or not convertible at all.

mercedes-benz-3204364_1920The regal “Estate Car,” gave way to the station wagon, which lost it’s spot to the much-maligned minivan, which lost it’s market to the citified version of an SUV.

What might surprise us the most when viewing old photos is the clothes drivers and passengers wore in different eras. Brass era drivers wore what might be thought of as “flying suits.” Vintage era drivers wore their Sunday best. Nowadays they just wear their usual clothes.

Cars as a category have become less special as they became integrated with our everyday life, even though we actually became more dependent on them.

What period of car development are we in now? Well since the 1980s all cars have just been described as modern. But you can divide modern cars up into 20th Century modern and early 21st modern if you so wished.

This doesn’t mean that a 20th Century modern car is fundamentally different from an early 21st Century car. Some things may have changed; the transmission, for instance, the number of speeds and so on. But we are no longer in the time of strong evolution as far the automobile is concerned.