Monday, March 3, 2008

History of Cars

Cars are everywhere you look. All kinds of models are available from VW Bugs to sports cars, sedans, station wagons, and limousines. They all come with standard features that we take for granted like a gas gauge. And the colors! You can see a crayon box full of colors ranging from quiet beige or silver all the way to boisterous yellow or screaming lime green.

It wasn’t always this way. Back in the early 1900s when Henry Ford first started producing cars in the United States, he only offered one color, black. His first car was the “Model A” and in 1908 he introduced a new and improved version called the “Model T.” Because Ford used lightweight sheets of metal for the car’s body, the Model T was nicknamed “Tin Lizzie.”

By 1919 you could buy a Tin Lizzie for $525.00. (That would be about $8,641.00 today.)

To start the car you would have to “crank the engine,” a process similar to winding up a very large toy. If you didn’t want to work that hard, you could get an electric starter as an “extra”. “Demountable,” or removable tire rims were also extras and you could get both the starter and rims for an additional $100.00, or about $1,646.00 in today’s dollars.

Did you know that windshield wipers and a fuel gauge weren’t included when you bought your Model T? If you wanted to see in rainy weather or know how your fuel supply was holding up, you had to order the “extras” from other companies that made parts for cars.

Old Antique Car The very earliest cars didn’t even have doors or windshields!

Filling up the tank was not as easy as it is today. The gas tank was under the driver’s seat! The front seat of the car was like a bench. The part that the driver and passenger sat on, was one long piece that could be lifted out. And as if that weren’t enough of a headache, there was no door on the driver’s side. The fuel hose had to be passed through from the passenger side.

Once the gas tank was full and the oil and coolant were checked, it was hard going. In the year 1900 there were only 10 miles of paved road in the whole United States. The situation hadn’t changed much by 1919 and odds were you would be driving on dirt roads.

Traveling on unpaved, rocky roads meant a very bumpy ride and lots of flat tires and overheated radiators. In the interest of self-preservation, every driver carried his own “tourist kit.” The kit was filled with wrenches, screwdrivers, and jacks to change tires and fix other problems. And just in case your were stuck by the side of the road for a long time, the kit also included food rations.

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