127 years of modern automobile evolution

127 years of modern automobile evolution

The year 1886 is regarded the year of birth of the modern automobile – with the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, by German inventor Carl Benz.
Motorized wagons soon replaced animal-drafted carriages, especially after automobiles became affordable for many people when the Ford Model T was introduced in 1908.

It is mind boggling to realize that in just one (and a quarter) century humanity developed technology that replaced horse powered carriages with ultra sophisticated cars responding to voice commands and driven by an onboard computer (an autopilot system).

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FORTUNE — The longtime dream of sci-fi fans-cars smart enough to drive themselves-is still many years off. That doesn’t keep Google from trying. Its seven custom-equipped self-driving cars have logged more than 200,000 miles on the road without crashing. Well, one suffered a dent when a human driver rear-ended a Prius. So far the cars are officially legal only in Nevada-liability issues need to be worked out. More likely the technology will appear piecemeal in new vehicles. For instance, most car companies already offer accident-warning alarms.

Google says the sophisticated operating system that guides the cars makes them safer than if a human driver were behind the wheel. The vast majority of car accidents are caused by human error. Self-driving cars an also travel closer together, which would cut down on traffic congestion.   Sources: LMC Automotive, Google, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Energy Information Administration   
Source: Self-Driving Cars: Traveling On Autopilot

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Toyota Unveils Car With Autopilot System

Toyota has unveiled the next generation of cars featuring an autopilot system that will swerve to avoid collisions without drivers touching the wheel. 


The Automated Highway Driving Assist (AHDA) system lets vehicles communicate wirelessly to avoid running into each other while keeping the car in the middle of the road, regardless of how many twists and turns lie ahead. Although rivals Nissan and Google have been designing self-driving cars for a while, Toyota’s AHDA technology could be available to consumers in a few years.

Don’t miss Present & Future Trends (scroll down on this page) >>


History of the automobile

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  

An automobileautocarmotor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor. Most definitions of the term specify that automobiles are designed to run primarily on roads, to have seating for one to eight people, to typically have four wheels, and to be constructed principally for the transport of people rather than goods.

  • The history of the automobile begins as early as 1769, with the creation of steam engined automobiles capable of human transport.
  • In 1806, the first cars powered by an internal combustion engine running on fuel gas appeared, which led to the introduction in 1885 of the ubiquitous modern gasoline- or petrol-fueled internal combustion engine.
  • The year 1886 is regarded the year of birth of the modern automobile – with the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, by German inventor Carl Benz.
  • Cars powered by electric power briefly appeared at the turn of the 20th century but largely disappeared from use until the turn of the 21st century.

The early history of the automobile can be divided into a number of eras, based on the prevalent means of propulsion.
Later periods were defined by trends in exterior styling, size, and utility preferences.


Early Automobiles

Steam-powered wheeled vehicles, precursors to later automobiles

17th century – 18th century

Ferdinand Verbiest, a member of a Jesuit mission in China, built the first steam-powered vehicle around 1672 as a toy for the Chinese Emperor. It was of small enough scale that it could not carry a driver but it was, quite possibly, the first working steam-powered vehicle (‘auto-mobile’).  

Steam-powered self-propelled vehicles large enough to transport people and cargo were first devised in the late 18th century.
Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot
demonstrated his fardier à vapeur (“steam dray”), an experimental steam-driven artillery tractor, in 1770 and 1771.

cugnotOld Engraving depicting the 1771 crash of Nicolas Joseph Cugnot’s steam-powered car into a stone wall.


The design of the Cugnot Steam Trolley (Jonathan Holguinisburg) (1769) 

As Cugnot’s design proved to be impractical, his invention was not developed in his native France.

The centre of innovation shifted to Great Britain. By 1784, William Murdoch had built a working model of a steam carriage in Redruth, and in 1801 Richard Trevithick was running a full-sized vehicle on the road in Camborne. Such vehicles were in vogue for a time, and over the next decades such innovations as hand brakes, multi-speed transmissions, and better steering developed.

Some were commercially successful in providing mass transit, until a backlash against these large speedy vehicles resulted in the passage of the Locomotive Act (1865), which required self-propelled vehicles on public roads in the United Kingdom to be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag and blowing a horn. This effectively killed road auto development in the UK for most of the rest of the 19th century; inventors and engineers shifted their efforts to improvements in railway locomotives. (The law was not repealed until 1896, although the need for the red flag was removed in 1878.)

The first automobile patent in the United States was granted to Oliver Evans in 1789.

19th century

Among other efforts, in 1815, a professor at Prague Polytechnic, Josef Bozek, built an oil-fired steam car. 

Walter Hancock, builder and operator of London steam buses, in 1838 built a four-seat steam phaeton.

In 1867, Canadian jeweller Henry Seth Taylor demonstrated his 4-wheeled “steam buggy” at the Stanstead Fair in Stanstead, Quebec, and again the following year. The basis of the buggy, which he began building in 1865, was a high-wheeled carriage with bracing to support a two-cylinder steam engine mounted on the floor.

What some people define as the first “real” automobile was produced by French Amédée Bollée in 1873, who built self-propelled steam road vehicles to transport groups of passengers.

The American George B. Selden filed for a patent on May 8, 1879. His application included not only the engine but its use in a 4-wheeled car. Selden filed a series of amendments to his application which stretched out the legal process, resulting in a delay of 16 years before the US 549160 was granted on November 5, 1895.

Karl Benz, the inventor of numerous car-related technologies, received a German patent in 1886.


Source: Eckermann, Erik (2001). World History of the Automobile.

  • The four-stroke petrol (gasoline) internal combustion engine that constitutes the most prevalent form of modern automotive propulsion is a creation of Nikolaus Otto.
  • The similar four-stroke diesel engine was invented by Rudolf Diesel.
  • The hydrogen fuel cell, one of the technologies hailed as a replacement for gasoline as an energy source for cars, was discovered in principle by Christian Friedrich Schönbein in 1838.
  • The battery electric car owes its beginnings to Ányos Jedlik, one of the inventors of the electric motor, and Gaston Planté, who invented the lead-acid battery in 1859.

The first carriage-sized automobile suitable for use on existing wagon roads in the United States was a steam powered vehicle invented in 1871, by Dr. J.W. Carhart, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Racine, Wisconsin.

It induced the State of Wisconsin in 1875, to offer a $10,000 award to the first to produce a practical substitute for the use of horses and other animals. They stipulated that the vehicle would have to maintain an average speed of more than five miles per hour over a 200 mile course. The offer led to the first city to city automobile race in the United States, starting on July 16, 1878, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and ending in Madison, via Appleton, Oshkosh, Waupun, Watertown, Fort Atkinson, and Janesville. While seven vehicles were registered, only two started to compete: the entries from Green Bay and Oshkosh. The vehicle from Green Bay was faster, but broke down before completing the race. The Oshkosh finished the 201 mile course in 33 hours and 27 minutes, and posted an average speed of six miles per hour. In 1879, the legislature awarded half the prize.

Steam-powered automobiles continued development all the way into the early 20th century, but the dissemination of petrol engines as the motive power of choice in the late 19th century marked the end of steam automobiles except as curiosities. Whether they will ever be reborn in later technological eras remains to be seen. The 1950s saw interest in steam-turbine cars powered by small nuclear reactors (this was also true of aircraft), but the dangers inherent in nuclear fission technology soon killed these ideas. The need for global changes in energy sources and consumption to bring about sustainability and energy independence has led 21st century engineers to think once more about possibilities for steam use, if powered by modern energy sources controlled with computerized controls, such as advanced electric batteries, fuel cells, photovoltaics, biofuels, or others.

Electric automobiles   

  • In 1828, Ányos Jedlik, a Hungarian who invented an early type of electric motor, created a tiny model car powered by his new motor.
  • In 1834, Vermont blacksmith Thomas Davenport, the inventor of the first American DC electrical motor, installed his motor in a small model car, which he operated on a short circular electrified track.
  • In 1835, Professor Sibrandus Stratingh of Groningen, the Netherlands and his assistant Christopher Becker created a small-scale electrical car, powered by non-rechargeable primary cells.
  • In 1838, Scotsman Robert Davidson built an electric locomotive that attained a speed of 4 miles per hour (6 km/h).
  • In England, a patent was granted in 1840 for the use of rail tracks as conductors of electric current, and similar American patents were issued to Lilley and Colten in 1847.
  • Between 1832 and 1839 (the exact year is uncertain), Robert Anderson of Scotland invented the first crude electric carriage, powered by non-rechargeable primary cells.
  • The Flocken Elektrowagen of 1888 by German inventor Andreas Flocken is regarded as the first real electric car of the world.


German Flocken Elektrowagen of 1888, regarded as the first electric car of the world

Electric cars enjoyed popularity between the late 19th century and early 20th century, when electricity was among the preferred methods for automobile propulsion, providing a level of comfort and ease of operation that could not be achieved by the gasoline cars of the time.

Advances in internal combustion technology, especially the electric starter, soon rendered this advantage moot; the greater range of gasoline cars, quicker refueling times, and growing petroleum infrastructure, along with the mass production of gasoline vehicles by companies such as the Ford Motor Company, which reduced prices of gasoline cars to less than half that of equivalent electric cars, led to a decline in the use of electric propulsion, effectively removing it from important markets such as the United States by the 1930s. However, in recent years, increased concerns over the environmental impact of gasoline cars, higher gasoline prices, improvements in battery technology, and the prospect of peak oil, have brought about renewed interest in electric cars, which are perceived to be more environmentally friendly and cheaper to maintain and run, despite high initial costs, after a failed reappearance in the late-1990s.

Internal combustion engines 


1885-built Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the first car to go into production with an internal combustion engine 

Early attempts at making and using internal combustion engines were hampered by the lack of suitable fuels, particularly liquids, therefore the earliest engines used gas mixtures. Early experimenters used gases.

  • In 1806, Swiss engineer François Isaac de Rivaz who built an engine powered by internal combustion of a hydrogen and oxygen mixture.
  • In 1826, Englishman Samuel Brown who tested his hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine by using it to propel a vehicle up Shooter’s Hill in south-east London.
  • Belgian-born Etienne Lenoir’s Hippomobile with a hydrogen-gas-fuelled one-cylinder internal combustion engine made a test drive from Paris to Joinville-le-Pont in 1860, covering some nine kilometres in about three hours.
  • A later version was propelled by coal gas. A Delamare-Deboutteville vehicle was patented and trialled in 1884.
  • About 1870, in Vienna, Austria (then the Austro-Hungarian Empire), inventor Siegfried Marcus put a liquid-fuelled internal combustion engine on a simple handcart which made him the first man to propel a vehicle by means of gasoline.Today, this car is known as “the first Marcus car”. In 1883, Marcus secured a German patent for a low-voltage ignition system of the magneto type; this was his only automotive patent. This design was used for all further engines, and the four-seat “second Marcus car” of 1888/89. This ignition, in conjunction with the “rotating-brush carburetor”, made the second car’s design very innovative.


The second Marcus car of 1888 at the Technical Museum in Vienna

It is generally acknowledged that the first really practical automobiles with petrol/gasoline-powered internal combustion engines were completed almost simultaneously by several German inventors working independently: Karl Benz built his first automobile in 1885 in Mannheim. Benz was granted a patent for his automobile on 29 January 1886, and began the first production of automobiles in 1888, after Bertha Benz, his wife, had proved – with the first long-distance trip in August 1888, from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back – that the horseless coach was absolutely suitable for daily use. Since 2008 a Bertha Benz Memorial Route commemorates this event.

Soon after, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Stuttgart in 1889 designed a vehicle from scratch to be an automobile, rather than a horse-drawn carriage fitted with an engine. They also are usually credited with invention of the first motorcycle in 1886, but Italy’s Enrico Bernardi of the University of Padua, in 1882, patented a 0.024 horsepower (17.9 W) 122 cc (7.4 cu in) one-cylinder petrol motor, fitting it into his son’s tricycle, making it at least a candidate for the first automobile, and first motorcycle; Bernardi enlarged the tricycle in 1892 to carry two adults.

One of the first four-wheeled petrol-driven automobiles in Britain was built in Birmingham in 1895 by Frederick William Lanchester, who also patented the disc brake; and the first electric starter was installed on an Arnold, an adaptation of the Benz Velo, built between 1895 and 1898.

George F. Foss of Sherbrooke, Quebec built a single-cylinder gasoline car in 1896 which he drove for 4 years, ignoring city officials’ warnings of arrest for his “mad antics.”

In all the turmoil, many early pioneers are nearly forgotten. In 1891, John William Lambert built a three-wheeler in Ohio City, Ohio, which was destroyed in a fire the same year, while Henry Nadig constructed a four-wheeler in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It is likely they were not the only ones.

Early Industrial Automobile Production

The first production of automobiles was by Karl Benz in 1888 in Germany and, under license from Benz, in France by Emile Roger.

There were numerous others, including tricycle builders Rudolf Egg, Edward Butler, and Léon Bollée. Bollée, using a 650 cc (40 cu in) engine of his own design, enabled his driver, Jamin, to average 45 kilometres per hour (28.0 mph) in the 1897 Paris-Tourville rally. By 1900, mass production of automobiles had begun in France and the United States.

The first motor car in Central Europe was produced by Czech company Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau (later renamed to Tatra) in 1897, the Präsident automobil. The first company formed exclusively to build automobiles was Panhard et Levassor in France, which also introduced the first four-cylinder engine. Formed in 1889, Panhard was quickly followed by Peugeot two years later.

By the start of the 20th century, the automobile industry was beginning to take off in Western Europe, especially in France, where 30,204 were produced in 1903, representing 48.8% of world automobile production that year.

 In the United States, brothers Charles and Frank Duryea founded the Duryea Motor Wagon Company in 1893, becoming the first American automobile manufacturing company.

However, it was Ransom E. Olds and his Olds Motor Vehicle Company (later known as Oldsmobile) who would dominate this era of automobile production. Its production line was running in 1902.

The Thomas B. Jeffery Company developed the world’s second mass-produced automobile, and 1,500 Ramblers were built and sold in its first year, representing one-sixth of all existing motorcars in the U.S. at the time. Within a year, Cadillac (formed from the Henry Ford Company), Winton, and Ford were also producing cars in the thousands.

Within a few years, a dizzying assortment of technologies were being produced by hundreds of producers all over the western world. Steam, electricity, and petrol/gasoline-powered automobiles competed for decades, with petrol/gasoline internal combustion engines achieving dominance in the 1910s. Dual- and even quad-engine cars were designed, and engine displacement ranged to more than a dozen litres. Many modern advances, including gas/electric hybrids, multi-valve engines, overhead camshafts, and four-wheel drive, were attempted, and discarded at this time.

Edwardian (Brass) Era

Named for the widespread use of brass in the United States, the Brass (or Edwardian) Era lasted from roughly 1905 through to the beginning of World War I in 1914.

Between 1907 and 1912 in the United States, the high-wheel motor buggy (resembling the horse buggy of before 1900) was in its heyday, with over seventy-five makers including Holsman (Chicago), IHC (Chicago), and Sears (which sold via catalog); the high-wheeler would be killed by the Model T. In 1912, Hupp (in the U.S., supplied by Hale & Irwin) and BSA (in the UK) pioneered the use of all-steel bodies, joined in 1914 by Dodge (who produced Model T bodies).
While it would be another two decades before all-steel bodies would be standard, the change would mean improved supplies of superior-quality wood for furniture makers.


T-model Ford car parked outside Geelong Library at its launch in 1915

Some examples of cars of the period included:

  • 1908–1927 Ford Model T — the most widely produced and available 4-seater car of the era. It used a planetary transmission, and had a pedal-based control system. Ford T was proclaimed as the most influential car of the 20th century in the international Car of the Century awards.
  • 1909 Morgan Runabout – a very popular cyclecar, cyclecars were sold in far greater quantities than 4-seater cars in this period
  • 1910 Mercer Raceabout — regarded as one of the first sports cars, the Raceabout expressed the exuberance of the driving public, as did the similarly conceived American Underslung and Hispano-Suiza Alphonso.
  • 1910–1920 Bugatti Type 13 — a notable racing and touring model with advanced engineering and design. Similar models were the Types 15, 17, 22, and 23.

Vintage Era

The vintage era lasted from the end of World War I (1919), through the Wall Street Crash at the end of 1929. During this period, the front-engined car came to dominate, with closed bodies and standardised controls becoming the norm.

Bugatti_1926Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix Racer 1926 [ Source:  Wikipedia ]

Exemplary vintage vehicles:

  • 1922–1939 Austin 7 — the Austin Seven was one of the most widely copied vehicles ever, serving as a template for cars around the world, from BMW to Nissan.
  • 1922–1931 Lancia Lambda — very advanced car for the time, first car to feature a load-bearing monocoque-type body and independent front suspension.
  • 1924–1929 Bugatti Type 35 — the Type 35 was one of the most successful racing cars of all time, with over 1,000 victories in five years.
  • 1925–1928 Hanomag 2 / 10 PS — early example of ponton styling.
  • 1927–1931 Ford Model A (1927-1931) — after keeping the brass era Model T in production for too long, Ford broke from the past by restarting its model series with the 1927 Model A. More than 4 million were produced, making it the best-selling model of the era. The Ford Model A was a prototype for the beginning of Soviet mass car production (GAZ A).
  • 1930 Cadillac V-16 — developed at the height of the vintage era, the V16-powered Cadillac would join Bugatti’s Royale as the most legendary ultra-luxury cars of the era.

Pre-WWII era

The pre-war part of the classic era began with the Great Depression in 1930, and ended with the recovery after World War II, commonly placed at 1946. It was in this period that integrated fenders and fully closed bodies began to dominate sales, with the new saloon/sedan body style even incorporating a trunk or boot at the rear for storage. The old open-top runabouts, phaetons, and touring cars were phased out by the end of the classic era as wings, running boards, and headlights were gradually integrated with the body of the car.

By the 1930s, most of the mechanical technology used in today’s automobiles had been invented, although some things were later “re-invented”, and credited to someone else.

CitroenTractionAvant1934–1956 Citroën Traction Avant — the first mass-produced front-wheel drive car, built with monocoque chassis.

Exemplary pre-war automobiles:

  • 1932–1939 Alvis Speed 20 and Speed 25 — the first cars with all-synchromesh gearbox.[citation needed]
  • 1932–1948 Ford V-8 (Model B) — introduction of the powerful flathead V8 in mainstream vehicles, setting new performance and efficiency standards.
  • 1934–1938 Tatra 77 — first serial-produced car with aerodynamical design.
  • 1934–1940 Bugatti Type 57 — a singular refined automobile for the wealthy.
  • 1934–1956 Citroën Traction Avant — the first mass-produced front-wheel drive car, built with monocoque chassis.
  • 1936–1955 MG T series — sports cars with youth appeal at an affordable price.
  • 1938–2003 Volkswagen Beetle — a design for efficiency and low price, which was produced for over 60 years with minimal basic change; it has the largest production in history with over 20 million units produced in several counties. The car was awarded the fourth place in the international Car of the 20th Century competition. A new car echoing the styling of the original has been produced in the 21st century.
  • 1936–1939 Rolls-Royce Phantom III — V12 engined pinnacle of pre-war engineering, with technological advances not seen in most other manufacturers until the 1960s. Superior performance and quality.

Post-war era

Since World War II automobile design experienced the total revolution changes to ponton style (without a non-compact ledge elements), one of the first mass representatives of that were the Soviet GAZ-M20 Pobeda (1946), British Standard Vanguard (1947), US Studebaker Champion and Kaiser Special (1947), and small serial Czech luxury Tatra T600 Tatraplan (1946) and Italian Cisitalia 220 sportcar (1947).

Automobile design and production finally emerged from the military orientation and other shadow of war in 1949, the year that in the United States saw the introduction of high-compression V8 engines and modern bodies from General Motors’ Oldsmobile and Cadillac brands. The unibody/strut-suspended 1951 Ford Consul joined the 1948 Morris Minor and 1949 Rover P4 in waking up the automobile market in the United Kingdom. In Italy, Enzo Ferrari was beginning his 250 series, just as Lancia introduced the revolutionary V6-powered Aurelia.


1946 GAZ-M20 Pobeda one of the first mass-produced cars with ponton design

Notable exemplary post-war cars:

  • 1946–1958 GAZ-M20 Pobeda — Soviet mass car with full ponton design.
  • 1947–1958 Standard Vanguard — British mass car with full ponton design some and
  • 1948–1971 Morris Minor – a popular and typical early post-war car exported around the world
  • 1953–1971 Chevrolet Bel Air and 1953–2002 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham – in its first generations were a bright representatives of golden epoch of American tailfin car design
  • 1955–1976 Citroën DS — bright and non-often representative of unusual bogie (hydropneumatic) ? design (one of the most mind), due to what became a movie star; car was awarded third place in the international Car of the 20th Century competition.
  • 1959–2000 Mini — this quintessential small car lasted for four decades, and is one of the most famous cars of all time; car was awarded the second place on international Car of the 20th Century competition; the car has a re-styled new version in the 21st century.
  • 1961–1975 Jaguar E-type — the E-type saved Jaguar on the track and in the showroom.
  • 1963–1989 Porsche 911 – wanted non-cheap but mass sport car, famoused[clarification needed] its company; car was awarded the fifth place on international Car of the 20th Century competition; the car has successors with a similar design.
  • 1964–present Ford Mustang — the pony car that became one of the best-selling and most-collected cars of the era.
  • 1966–end of the 20th century Fiat 124 — an Italian car that was licence produced in many other counties including the Soviet Union where as the VAZ-2101 it launched mass automobilisation.
  • 1967 NSU Ro 80 — the basic wedge profile of this design was much emulated in subsequent decades.,[39] unlike that its other technical innovation – rotor engine.
  • 1967–2002 Chevrolet Camaro – The pony car that General Motors introduced to compete with Ford’s mustang which featured the relatively new Coke bottle styling.
  • 1969 Datsun 240Z — one of the first Japanese sports cars to be a smash hit with the North American public, it paved the way for future decades of Japanese strength in the automotive industry. It was affordable and well built, and had great success both on the track and in the showroom.

Modern era 

The modern era is normally defined as the 25 years preceding the current year. However, there are some technical and design aspects that differentiate modern cars from antiques. Without considering the future of the car, the modern era has been one of increasing standardisation, platform sharing, and computer-aided design.

Some particular contemporary developments are the proliferation of front- and all-wheel drive, the adoption of the diesel engine, and the ubiquity of fuel injection. While all of these advances were first attempted in earlier eras, they so dominate the market today that it is easy to overlook their significance. Nearly all modern passenger cars are front-wheel-drive monocoque/unibody designs, with transversely mounted engines, but this design was considered radical as late as the 1960s.

Body styles have changed as well in the modern era. Three types, the hatchback, sedan, and sport utility vehicle, dominate today’s market, yet are relatively recent concepts. All originally emphasised practicality, but have mutated into today’s high-powered luxury crossover SUV, sports wagon, two-volume Large MPV. The rise of pickup trucks in the United States, and SUVs worldwide, has changed the face of motoring, with these “trucks” coming to command more than half of the world automobile market. There was also the appearance of new one-volume MPV class (smaller non-commercial passenger minivans), among the first of which were the French Renault Espace and US Pontiac Trans Sport.

The modern era has also seen rapidly rising fuel efficiency and engine output. Once the automobile emissions concerns of the 1970s were conquered with computerised engine management systems, power began to rise rapidly. In the 1980s, a powerful sports car might have produced 200 horsepower (150 kW) – 20 years later, average passenger cars had engines that powerful, and some performance models offer three times as much power.

The economic crisis of 2008 cut almost a third of light vehicle sales from Chrysler, Toyota, Ford, and Nissan. It also subtracted about a fourth of Honda’s sales and about a seventh of sales from General Motors.“Economic Crisis”. Retrieved 2013-06-03.

Since 2009, China has become the new world’s absolute car manufacturer leader with production more than US, Japan or all Europe. Besides large growth of car production in Asian and other countries, the junctions (and breaks) of producents into transnational corporate groups and the transnational “platforms” of a cars became as wide practice.

Since the end of the 20th century, several award competitions of cars and trucks have become widely known, such as European Car of the Year Car of the Year Japan, North American Car of the Year, World Car of the Year, Truck of the Year, and International Car of the Year, so that vehicles of different classes, producers, and countries win alternately. Also, Car of the Century awards were held, in which in the US the Ford Model T was named as most influential car of the 20th century.

NissanLeafNissan Leaf re-charging in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Exemplary modern cars:

  • 1966–present Toyota Corolla – a simple small Japanese saloon/sedan that has come to be the best-selling car of all time.
  • 1970–present Range Rover – the first take on the combination of luxury and four-wheel drive utility, the original ‘SUV’. Such was the popularity of the original Range Rover Classic that a new model was not brought out until 1994.
  • 1973–present Mercedes-Benz S-Class – electronic anti-lock braking system, supplemental restraint airbags, seat belt pretensioners, and electronic traction control systems all made their debut on the S-Class. These features would later become standard throughout the car industry.
  • 1975–present BMW 3 Series – the 3 Series has been on Car and Driver magazine’s annual Ten Best list 17 times, making it the longest running entry in the list.
  • 1977–present Honda Accord saloon/sedan — this Japanese sedan became the most popular car in the United States in the 1990s, pushing the Ford Taurus aside, and setting the stage for today’s upscale Asian sedans.
  • 1981–1989 Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant — the “K-cars” that saved Chrysler as a major manufacturer. These models were some of the first successful American front-wheel drive, fuel-efficient compact cars.
  • 1983–present Chrysler minivans – the two-box minivan design nearly pushed the station wagon out of the market, and presaged today’s crossover SUVs.
  • 1984–present Renault Espace — first mass one-volume car of non-commercial MPV class.
  • 1986–present Ford Taurus — this mid-sized front-wheel drive sedan with modern computer-assisted design dominated the American market in the late 1980s, and created a design revolution in North America.
  • 1989–1999 Pontiac Trans Sport was one the first of the one-box cars.
  • 1997–present Toyota Prius, launched in the Japanese market, in September 2010 reached worldwide cumulative sales of two million units, becoming the best known hybrid electric vehicle in the world.
  • 1998–present Ford Focus — one of the most popular hatchbacks across the globe, also one of Ford’s best selling world cars.
  • 2008–present Tata Nano — an inexpensive (100,000, ? $2200), rear-engined, four-passenger city car built by the Indian company Tata Motors and is aimed primarily at the Indian domestic market.
  • 2008–present Tesla Roadster — the first highway-capable all-electric vehicle in serial production for sale in the United States in the modern era.
  • 2010–present, Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt — an all-electric car and a plug-in hybrid correspondingly, were launched in the U.S. and Japanese markets in December 2010, becoming the first mass production vehicles of their kind.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_automobile 

Brief Summary

The evolution of cars or automobiles started as early as 1769, by invention of steam-powered cars capable for human transport. In early 1800s – 1806 to be exact, the first cars powered by internal combustion engines running on fuel gas appeared, which in turn directed to the introduction in 1885 of the ubiquitous modern gasoline – or petrol-fueled internal combustion engine.

Cars powered by electricity briefly appeared at the turn of the 20th century but largely disappeared from commonality until the turn of the 21st century, when interest in low- and zero-emissions transportation was reignited. As such, the early history of the automobile can be divided into a number of eras based on the prevalent method of automotive propulsion during that time. Later periods were defined by trends in exterior styling and size and utility preferences.

It can be said that the future of automobiles will focus on those with low and zero emission, which is a return to the beginnings of transportation (e.g. horse powered chariots), only this time with much (many) more horse power.





Era Year Example of Brands and Models initiated
Classic / Antique 1890s Veteran 1889 Panhard et Levassor (France)
1891 Peugeot (France)
1893 Duryea Motor Wagon Co. (USA)
1898 Pioneer (Australia)
1899 FIAT (Italy)
1900s 1900 Vincke, Germain, Linon and Nagant (Belgium); Fritz Henriod, Rudolf Egg, Saurer, Johann Weber, and Lorenz Popp (Swiss); Vagnfabrik AB, Hammel (Sweden)
1902 Olds Motor Vehicle Company / Oldsmobile (USA)
1903 Cadillac, Winton, and Ford (USA)
Brass or Edwardian    
1908 Ford Model T
1910 Mercer Raceabout,
1910s 1910 Bugatti Type 13
1920s 1922 Austin 7, Lancia Lambda
1924 Bugatti Type 35
1925 Hanomag 2 / 10 PS
1927 Ford Model A
1930 Cadillac V-16
1930s Pre – World War II 1932 Alvis Speed 20 and Speed 25, Ford V-8
1934 Bugatti Type 57, Citroën Traction Avant
1936 MG T Series, Rolls-Royce Phantom III
1940s 1938 Volkswagen Beetle
1950s Post – World War II 1948 Morris Minor
1959 MINI
1960s 1961 Jaguar E-Type
1964 Ford Mustang
1969 Datsun 240Z
  Modern 1966 Toyota Corolla
1967 NSU Ro 80
1973 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
1975 BMW 3 Series
1977 Honda Accord
1980s 1981 Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant
1983 Chrysler minivans
1986 Ford Taurus
  2010s – Future    


  1. Georgano, G.N. (1985). Cars: Early and Vintage, 1886-1930. London: Grange-Universal.
  2. http://www.crucean.com/timeline.html#1903|title=American
  3. http://www.mazda.com/mazdaspirit/rotary/hre/about/index.html
  4. http://www.channel4.com/4car/ft/buying+guide/used+car+buying+guide/1208/1
  5. http://books.google.com/books?id=yLZeQwqNmdgC

Source: http://carsevolution.com/cars-evolution-the-evolution-of-cars-and-automotive

Present and Future Trends

Potential future car technologies include varied energy sources and materials, which are being developed in order to make automobiles more energy efficient with reduced regulated emissions. Cars are being developed in many different ways. With rising gas prices, the future of the automobile is now leading towards fuel efficiency, energy-savers, hybrid vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and fuel-cell vehicles. GPS navigation, voice command and autopilot system are no longer sci-fi ideas but reality…  [ more >> ]



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