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Antique Cars


Typically, the Antique Era automobiles reflect the basic roots of the automotive industry: cars are somewhat crude and unsophisticated, and look somewhat like their predecessors--the horse-drawn carriage or bicycle. All-white tires and often slab-sided bodies were typical, as were squared radiator shapes or no visible radiator. Fenders were square-shaped and often leather covered.

The Antique Era begins with the earliest self-propelled motor vehicles. The pioneers, notably Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot of France, and Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz of Germany, dreamed of and experimented with self-propelled vehicles for varying reasons. Cugnot's steam-powered tractor of 1771 was built to move heavy military armament, and is also believed to have been involved in the very first motor vehicle accident when it ran uncontrolled into a French arsenal. Daimler, an industrial engine manufacturer, fitted his engine to a crude wooden-framed, wooden-wheeled "motorcycle" to demonstrate the versatility of his internal combustion engine. Benz, however, set out to build a compact and practical self-propelled vehicle, and he succeeded. The result was the world's first patented motor vehicle, the three-wheeled Benz Patent Motorwagen of 1886.

During the next fifteen to twenty years, self-propelled vehicles really developed. Germany and France were at the forefront while England lagged behind due to very restrictive road-use laws. America's motor vehicle development really began in the mid-1890s. Charles and Frank Duryea are recognized as the earliest American automotive manufacturers; indeed, 1996 is the centennial of the American automobile industry with the Duryea brothers' thirteen "mass-produced" cars. Notable American manufacturers include Ransom E. Olds, whose goal was to replace the horse for everyday transportation with his lightweight Curved Dash Olds.

After the turn of the century, Olds is credited with manufacturing America's first mass-produced auto as nearly 12,000 were built between 1901 and 1904. Alexander Winton of Cleveland, James Packard of Detroit, and Henry Ford all produced automobiles similar to the Olds and went on to further develop their individual brands. Various forms of motive power were steam, electric and the complicated but more efficient internal combustion engine. Transmission of this power was developed through trial and error. Geared transmissions, planetary transmissions, electric motor transmissions, and final drives were all tried and developed into practical, efficient units. Over the years the internal combustion engine has been developed to be efficient and dependable.

The Antique Era saw England's restrictive road-use laws repealed while in Europe and America better roads were built to handle the increased popularity and practicality of automobiles. Henry Ford's relatively simple Model T went into production in 1908 and a staggering 15 million were produced through 1927. By 1924, the Ford sold for $290, making it less expensive to use and maintain than a horse. R. E. Olds' dream had come true.

One of the most innovative advancements in automotive development, the electric self-starter introduced on the 1912 Cadillac, replaced the dangerous hand crank which eliminated the possibility of broken bones from engine kick-back. As Charles Kettering's electric starter eliminated the hand crank, an on-board generator now provided electricity for head and tail lights, making acetylene gas and kerosene lamps suddenly obsolete. The Antique Era, 1886-1915, ended with efficient, self-propelled, self-starting motor vehicles throughout the world.

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