From Horse and Buggy to Cars That Fly

Cars? No way! To live without your horse and buggy for transportation was unthinkable. A hundred years ago most people couldn't grasp how society could ever depend on those 'monstrosities' to do anything but stir up trouble. Now it's the horse and buggy that is out of style.

The first workable engine is said to have been built by a German in 1876. He placed it in a vehicle that eventually became the motorcycle of today. And, his vehicle actually worked. While others invented gas-powered engines, their inventions were only on paper.

Some of the first major problems that beset car developers were the lack of availability of fuel, and you couldn't get replacement parts by going to a store. Once people finally accepted that 'that noisy thing' was here to stay, the mechanically minded set out to improve it. Safety was a major concern and by about 1900 there were disc brakes. The overall design was quite impressive when they added fenders. These were originally intended to protect both the passengers and the engines from flying gravel and dust, but laid the foundation for unique styling. Seat belts were not considered a necessity until around 1950 when the car speeds were considered 'awesome,' but it was in the '70s and '80s that air bags began to be tested. Buick created a 'first' by introducing turn signals during the 1930s.

Having a radio in the car was a luxury that an American, Paul Gavin, dreamed up. Other early luxuries included a heating system to break the cold. Air conditioning in cars didn't happen until the late 1930s, although keeping cool was considered a luxury at the beginning. Safety features were what counted most.

Trolley cars soon followed the public use of vehicles. One thing hadn't been invented yet - a windshield wiper. This early necessity for a vehicle was originally patented by a woman, Mary Anderson. After observing trolley car drivers having to stick their heads out the side windows during the rain she obtained the patent for the first manually operated windshield wiper.

Every year brought massive changes in design as the competition between manufacturers increased. Cars and their accessories became more and more sophisticated. AM/FM radios replaced the older AM radios. These in turn were replaced with cassette tape players, CD players, and eight-track tape players. Speakers were designed to bring sound from every direction. Protection from the elements was created by enclosing the open cabs of cars and trucks, and then the closed space was opened up again with sunroofs, ragtops, and convertibles. Vivid paint jobs with new shades invented for every year became common, along with sleek body designs replacing the older squared look.

The imaginations of filmmakers and writers create a major influence on what the developers and creators of vehicles are expected to come up with. The public almost demands that cars will soon sprout wings and take off into the blue. They will be moving in all directions and perhaps be propelled by thought, all while going 500 miles per hour. One hundred years ago no one could even imagine where we are now, so perhaps the screen writers aren't so far out of focus.

Troy Voitarre is the owner and operator of Found Car, Inc., a leading Internet directory for car information and resources. For more car and truck information, be sure to visit:

Copyright © 2005 Troy Voitarre