Most people around the world know about the major car companies such as Ford, Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz, Citroen and the numerous Japanese companies. With these well-known firms dominating the world of automobiles today, some may believe that someone connected with one of these businesses came up with original idea for a motorized vehicle.
But the history of the automobile goes back far beyond the first “horseless carriages” of the late 19th century in the United States and England. Some records indicate that men in Italy were working on a type of powered vehicle as early as the 14th century. A couple of centuries later, a priest is said to have devised a steam-powered, wheeled vehicle.
Much of automobile history includes references to various steam-generating engines and other devices, though none were proven to power a moving, car-like vehicle. French inventors may have actually created such a “car” in the years before the American Revolution.
This vehicle moved about in Paris at a crawl, limited by its huge size and the lack of smooth surfaces on which to roll.
Fast-forward to England in the early part of the 19th century and history records that a vehicle was developed to operate in a fashion similar to the railroad engine/train. What separated it from the train was the fact that it didn’t need rails on which to operate.
Other attempts at automobile travel included Lenoir’s work in France and the efforts of German native Siegfried Marcus. However, many people who look at the high points of automobile history start their story from the construction of a vehicle by Gottlieb Daimler, whose name would eventually be connected with the Benz of –Mercedes-Benz fame (Karl Benz).
In the United States, some enterprising men had developed steam-driven vehicles as well, though it wasn’t until the 1870s that a usable version was moving along a road or two in the U.S.
The name Oldsmobile was, for 100 years, a recognizable name in the industry, thanks to the efforts of one Ransom E. Olds. He developed his “car” in the 1890s. This was soon followed by the first gasoline-based vehicle, credited to the Duryea brothers.
Henry Ford, who almost single-handedly created an assembly-line auto industry, worked on his own version during the last decade of the 19th century as well. He formed his company just as the century turned.
Some may feel that the idea of an electric car is brand new idea and might well be revolutionary. But Olds and a few others produced prototypes of the electric car more than 100 years ago.
The term “automobile” is pretty much self-explanatory, since people were attempting to be mobile (move about) automatically (without horses, oxen or people doing the pushing and pulling). Aside from steam power, the most important factor in the creation of the first viable car was the internal-combustion engine. This invention is credited to a man from Switzerland named de Rivaz.
Putting the wheels in combination with steam or gasoline power resulted in the presence of cars in every country.