Coming Of The Automobile


Coming Of The Automobile Essay, Research Paper

In 1900 the average American traveled about 1200 miles in a lifetime, mostly on foot, and

mostly within his or her own village or town. By the end of the century, the typical

American adult would travel some 12,000 miles by automobile alone, in just one year.

About 8,000 cars were registered in the America at the start of the 20th century. There

are now some half billion in the world, with one-third in the United States, where more

than 1.5 trillion miles are traveled each year. How the auto industry grew from a few

thousand Tin Lizzies to the modern, aerodynamic and multipurpose vehicles of today is a

chronicle of engineering at its most resourceful – from materials development to mass

production techniques.

For hundreds of years, humans have attempted to develop means for faster, more

economical travel. Vehicles have been powered by humans, animals, springs,

clockwork, and wind. In 1769, Frenchman Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot built the first

automobile, which was actually a steam-powered tricycle. For much of the 19th century,

steam power prevailed, despite the danger of boiler explosions and unpleasant odors

left by exhaust fumes.

Electric cars made their appearance in the late 1800s. Cleaner than steam-powered

cars, they had a large bank of storage batteries under the hood. They could travel at 10

to 20 miles per hour for a distance of 50 miles before the batteries needed recharging. In

the second half of the 19th century, Siegfried Marcus of Austria created the forerunner

of the modern automobile, German engineer Gottlieb Daimler put a gasoline-powered

engine on a bicycle, and Karl Benz followed with the first gasoline car.

By 1900 a typical automobile in the United States looked something like this: It was

shaped like a box, much like a horseless carriage, with little protection from rain, dust, or

other hazards. It was started by a hand-crank – a dangerous undertaking since a

backfiring engine could turn the crank into a whirling weapon known to shatter bones.

Engines were mounted haphazardly under the body, and steering was often by tiller. All

of the parts including the gears and drive systems were exposed to the elements. Early

tires were solid rubber, and did not cushion bumps. The arrival of pneumatic tires made

the ride more comfortable, but punctures every 10 or 20 miles were the norm. Kerosene

side lamps and smelly acetylene head lamps lit the traveler’s way. There were no shock

absorbers or heating systems.

People who drove autos in the early days were seen as heroic adventurers. Backyard

tinkers and bicycle makers were the auto repairmen of the day, and owners were

encouraged to carry repair kits that listed at least 60 things one should not be without on

the road – mastic to seal leaks in the gas line, extra hoses, wire, spark plugs, towing

cable, oil, grease, and a can of gasoline with funnel and chamois for straining.

By 1900 there were 50 automobile-manufacturing companies and some 8,000 cars

registered in the United States. Each car was hand-made and cost about $1,550. With an

average wage of $12.74 per week, only the wealthy could afford cars. The masses

rode horses, hopped trains, or walked. It was 20th century engineering, through the

advent of mass production, that opened the door to mass car ownership.

The first to originate this key industrial innovation was Ransom E. Olds in 1901, who had

his workers wheel carts of car parts to each car frame during production. This method

boosted factory output from 425 cars a year to 2500 in 1907. In 1908, Henry Ford – Olds’

great rival – improved the system by adding a conveyor belt that brought the car frame to

the workers. This cut production time for one Model T from a day and a half to an

unbelievable 93 minutes. Ford was able to reduce its cost from $850 in 1906, to $400 in

1916, and $290 by 1924. Ford’s mantra was “fast and cheap” – and that did not leave

any room for variety. All his cars were painted black, because it was the color of enamel

that dried the fastest. He sold 1 million cars by 1921 and 15 million between 1908 and

1927 – 50 percent of the market. His operation made him the pacesetter of the industry,

and it made the industry the paragon of technological progress.

Engineering milestones began to enhance the popularity of the car and improve its

safety. They included the electric starter in 1911, introduced by Charles Kettering; the

synchronized transmission for easier gear shifting; improved carburetors; heaters;

mechanically operated windshield wipers; and interchangeable parts. Henry Leland,

president of Cadillac Automobile Co., believed that car parts should be the same for

similar models. Skeptics disagreed, so to prove his point, he shipped three cars to

England, had them disassembled, their parts all mixed together, and then reassembled.

This successful innovation increased production efficiency and reduced costs, adding to

the affordability of the auto.

By the mid-1920s, other innovators were changing the industry. William Durant

surpassed Ford in sales by offering variety. He began buying different car firms that built

to different tastes – luxury, speed, comfort, and utility. The first were Olds, Oakland (later

the Pontiac), and Cadillac. Then he bought out makers of motors, spark plugs, and other

components and accessories. His acquisitive nature and vision resulted in the General

Motors Company, the forerunner of the modern automotive operation.

The 1930s saw more reliable braking, higher-compression engines, and the world’s first

diesel engine by Mercedes. Automobile engines were becoming larger, and many had 12

and 16 cylinders. Independent front suspension was added to make larger cars more

comfortable. Design-wise, automobiles on both sides of the Atlantic were styled with

gracious proportions, long hoods, and pontoon-shaped fenders.

In 1941, the brilliant engineering that had built the automotive industry was directed

toward other activities that would help win the war. Auto companies used their

production machinery, leadership, and experience to build 4 million engines of all types, 6

million guns, 3 million tanks and trucks, and 27,000 aircraft – plus an amazing assortment

of miscellaneous military hardware. After the war, they returned to the business of

building automobiles.

Large-scale production began in the early 1950s. New automotive features included air

conditioning, electrically operated car windows, seat adjusters, and a change from a

6-volt to a 12-volt ignition system which improved engine performance. American cars

tended to borrow design features normally found on aircraft and ships, including tailfins

and portholes. Cars increased in size and weight, but power steering and brakes made

them easier to handle. Across the Atlantic, Europeans were making smaller and lighter

cars that weighed less than 2800 lb. Their sports cars had hand-fashioned aluminum

bodies over a steel chassis and framework.

In the early days of the car, the biggest worry was keeping it running. Today we are

concerned with aerodynamic designs for speed and fuel efficiency, passenger safety

issues, and pollution control systems. In 1900 a car might have a total of 100 parts, while

today it has some 14,000. Design innovations incorporate breakthroughs in

computerization, high-strength plastics, and alloys of steel and nonferrous metals.

Accessories can include CD players, tape decks, television and phone installations, and

separate sound and temperature controls in the front and back of a vehicle. Some cars

come equipped with satellite-aided global positioning system (GPS) locator beacons,

enabling a remote operator to locate a vehicle, map its location, and, if necessary, direct

repair or emergency workers to the scene.

In one form or another, the vehicle has become the major transporter of people and

goods in the world, whether designed for urban use or rough terrain, one passenger or

a dozen. Its basic design and power systems have been widely adapted to vehicles

such as the ambulance, jeep, police car, minivan, limousine, pickup truck, and tractor


Today’s automobile industry has helped to shape the financial world, from banks to the

stock market, and is a major barometer of the economic health of a nation. Automobile

sales represent more than one-fifth of U.S. wholesale business, and more than

one-fourth of its retail trade. Japan and Western Europe are rapidly approaching these


Massive and internationally competitive, the automobile industry is the largest single

manufacturing enterprise in the United States in terms of total value of products and

number of employees. One out of every six U.S. businesses depends on the

manufacture, distribution, servicing, or use of motor vehicles. The industry is primarily

responsible for the growth of steel and rubber production, and is the largest user of

machine tools. Specialized manufacturing requirements have driven advances in

petroleum refining, paint and plate-glass manufacturing, and other industrial processes.

Gasoline, once a waste product to be burned off, is now one of the most valuable

commodities in the world.

As for changing social patterns, a historian has said that Henry Ford freed common

people from the limitations of geography, creating social mobility on a scale previously

unknown. Few, if any, other machines have been as widely adopted or used as an

agent of change in so many societal institutions and practices.

McGraw-Hill.Encyclopedia of technology and science. NY 2000

Додати в блог або на сайт

Цей текст може містити помилки.

A Free essays | Essay
16.5кб. | download | скачати

Related works:
Automobile Emissions
Automobile Emission
Automobile Industry
Impact Of The Automobile
Automobile Racing
Automobile Emissions
© Усі права захищені
написати до нас