Driving Forward: A Brief History of the Automobile
What do renaissance men like Leonardo da Vinci, Karl Benz, and Henry Ford have in common? All three yearned to be in motion. Da Vinci tinkered with flying contraptions and other motion-based engineering experiments alongside his visual artworks. Karl Benz is credited as being the first inventor of a gas-powered vehicle. And Henry Ford – well, it’s probably obvious who Henry Ford is, and what he did.
Early Attempts at the “Horseless Carriage”
Most readers would be surprised to learn that the earliest automotive creations started in the late 1700s. It all began in Europe, as engineers from various countries began experimenting with steam power, combustion, and – later – electrical motors. By the middle of the 19th century, all of these had been tried. None had much lasting success. At this stage, it was still trial and error.
The steam-powered carriage seemed to have the most promise, although it was a costly enterprise that also came with the risk of a boiler exploding. Needless to say, it wasn’t a popular option.
France was the first to try building automobiles on a commercial scale in 1890. The USA caught up with Europe in the early 1900s, particularly when Henry Ford came on the scene. Even before Ford Motors started mass productions, there were early attempts in the States: the 3-horsepower Oldsmobile with the curved dash, which sold 425 units in 1901 and as many as 5,000 three years later – and 1903 saw the first Ford models not made via an assembly line.
The Advent of the Model T
When Ford Motor Company began, its founder probably already had a vision of the future, and that vision included affordable cars. Up until this point, automobiles were really only for the rich who were bored with their previous toys. Henry Ford changed all that by creating an assembly line production that – for the first time – made automobile ownership possible for everyone.
That first 1908 Model T sold for just over $800, but only four years later, the price had fallen by nearly half – and young Henry was poised to take over 48% of the existing automobile market, then and there.
The Call of the Open Road
Of course, today we can’t imagine our lives without cars. Since its earliest heyday, the car has become a symbol of freedom, exploration, and ease. We may have come a long way since the Model T, but we all still know the same thrill of the open road.
Are you ready to travel beyond the limits of your personal geography and set out on your own driving adventure? Let your friends at North Shore help challenge you to create your own path and keep driving forward.