Timeline of motoring history 1679 – 1939
Practical French scientist Denis Papin invents the pressure-cooker or ‘digester’.
Many before him have experimented with single charges of gunpowder as a means of moving a piston in a bore but, Denis Papin publishes his ideas for harnessing steam as an alternative, to achieve repeated cycles of movement. In doing so, he recognises the potential for a mechanical alternative to animals for mobilising carriages. He goes on to build the first steam engine, which is used to pump water to a canal running between Kassel and Karlshaven in Germany.
English military engineer Thomas Savery uses Papin’s ‘Digester’ as the basis of a crude steam engine for pumping water out of flooded mine-shafts.
Denis Papin, visiting London in the hope of finding patronage, writes to a friend reporting his failure and asking for financial support to pay for his return to Germany. Never heard of again, it is likely that Papin died in London in abject poverty and complete anonymity.
Thomas Newcomen, an "ironmonger" and blacksmith of Dartmouth, England, patents the "Atmospheric Steam Engine" and, together with John Calley starts to build and sell engines for pumping water out of mines.
James Watt, while engaged in repairing a Newcomen engine, comes up with several improvements which substantially change its method of operation and increase its efficiency. In so doing he lays a firm foundation for the design of all steam engines yet to come.
In Paris, Nicolas Joseph Cugnot, a military engineer, demonstrates a self propelled steam vehicle – the first on record. The French government requests Cugnot to design and build a larger vehicle, capable of moving large amounts of artillery.
At the French government’s immense cost, Cugnot builds ‘Fardier’ a large three- wheeled artillery carriage and creates history’s first motor accident by knocking down part of a wall.
Oliver Evans of Maryland patents a steam engine for the use in powering carts and carriages.
Richard Trevithick, an early pioneer of the Steam Railway, builds the first successful motor vehicle, and drives it through Camborne, Cornwall. Four days later it is destroyed by fire.
Trevithick builds a second steam powered carriage, which makes several successful runs through the streets of London. Unfortunately it also frightens horses and kindles considerable public hostility.
In 1804 Oliver Evans, builds the world’s first amphibious vehicle, ‘Orukter Amphibolas’, a steam powered dredger on wheels, for the Philadelphia Health Service. In July of 1805 it makes a one and a half mile journey from Central-Square to the banks of the Schuykill. It weighs 20 tons and is powered by a 5 HP twin cylinder beam engine driving both the paddle and 2 wheels. With no method of steering on land, the vehicle is much more successful as a boat.
In Switzerland, Francois Isaac de Rivaz builds, and demonstrates the first working internal combustion engine. It is fuelled by a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen and reliant on a foot-operated exhaust valve. Mounted on small trolley, travels just a few metres.
Concerned about the number of people being killed by exploding steam engines Reverend Robert Stirling invents and patents an alternative which is not only safer but also much more efficient. It runs on hot air and rotation is caused by heat differentials as it passes between various parts of the engine. It can use a number of alternative fuels to heat the air and, in spite of its improved safety and superior efficiency, it remains largely ignored for use in vehicles.
Samuel Brown patents and builds his "gas-and-vacuum" engine. It has two cylinders linked by a rocking beam, with a capacity of 8,800cc and an output of just 4hp. The engine powering a carriage successfully drives up Shooters Hill at Blackheath, on the outskirts of London.
Goldsworthy Gurney, having built his ‘London and Bath’ steam coach, sets out on the world’s first long distance coach service, a round trip from London to Bath and back. While the outward journey is marked by many breakdowns the return journey is accomplished in ten hours at an average speed of 8.4 miles per hour. Gurney is later to be the inventor of the theatrical ‘Limelight’.
A regular steam omnibus service is established between Stratford, East London, and Paddington, West London by Walter Hancock. Using ‘Infant’, his second steam carriage.
Sir Charles Dance sets up the world’s first scheduled passenger service by automobiles between Gloucester and Cheltenham, using three Gurney steam carriages. It operates for just a few months.
In London, Walter Hancock sets up a chain of garages to service his passenger carrying steam omnibuses en route between their destinations.
Robert William Thomson of Stonehaven, Scotland patents the world’s first vulcanized rubber pneumatic tyre. It is well received on trials in London but does not reach production for fear of its cost.
Belgian J. J. Etienne Lenoir builds the worlds first practicable internal combustion engine running on a mixture of coal gas and air and using a ‘jumping-spark’ ignition system. A company is formed in Paris to develop the engine further.
Le Monde Illustre. Devotes an article to J. J. Etienne Lenoir’s first gas- engined carriage.
First oil well in USA is drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania.
French engineer Alphonse Beau de Rochas, patents the four-stroke cycle used in most modern internal combustion engines.
Lenoir demonstrates a second carriage, powered by a 1.5hp ‘liquid hydrocarbon’ engine. Several six-mile journeys are successfully completed between Paris and Vincennes.
Alexander II Tsar of Russia buys one of Lenoir’s carriages making it the first export sale of a car in history.
Britain’s government introduces the ‘Locomotives on Highways Act’ more widely known as the ‘Red Flag Act’. This requires that all mechanically powered road vehicles must have three drivers, must be limited to 4 mph on the open road and 2 mph in town and, must be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag, to warn the public.
In Germany Nikolaus August Otto patents a "free-piston" atmospheric engine.
First steam driven vehicle ‘Cornubia’, exported to India.
Nikolaus Otto and Eugen Langen form N.A. Otto & Cie to produce the ‘free-piston’ engine.
The smooth-running "Otto silent" engine is patented in Germany as employees, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach prepare it for production.
An initial ‘master patent’ for the automobile is filed in the United States by engineer and Patents Lawyer George B. Selden. He extends his application period for many years, by filing many amendments to delay its issue. Meanwhile he struggles to establish his own production capability.
A petroleum (gasoline) powered four stroke engine is used to adapt a horse carriage by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach.
French inventor Ferdinand Forest, builds an opposed-piston engine with low tension magneto ignition and a spray carburettor.
Nicolaus Otto fails to obtain a patent covering his four-stroke engine because of Alphonse Beau de Rochas’ 1862 patent in France. Nevertheless we still refer to the four-stroke principle as the Otto cycle
Carl Benz’s three wheeler, makes its first successful runs. This is the first petroleum powered car to be designed from scratch, rather than adapted from a horse-drawn carriage.
John Boyd Dunlop a Scottish Veterinary Surgeon living in Belfast, re-invents and re-patents the pneumatic tyre without knowledge of the previous work and patent of fellow Scott Robert William Thomson.
In the UK, Brighton inventor Magnus Volk begins production of electric carriages. His electric Railway still runs along the coast today.
Karl Benz starts to produce three wheeled, petroleum powered cars; sales are slow.
Daimler sells rights for France to a new V configured twin cylinder engine to Panhard & Levassor
With no thought of manufacturing cars, Panhard & Levassor licence the Peugeot ironmongery business to use the engine in automotive applications.
Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft set up by Gottleib Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Bad Cannstatt, Germany.
M. Levassor decides to build cars after all, designing and building a rear engined car.
Frederick R. Simms acquires Daimler rights in the UK, with the intention of using the engines to power motor launches.
Ferdinand Forest produces the world’s first four cylinder petrol engine with mechanical valve operation for use in boats and goes on to build the world’s first six cylinder engine for the same purpose. The marine application ensures that his contribution to motoring history is ignored.
Levassor introduces a new design of motor car which is to become the template for the vast majority of designs for many years to come. Four wheels, front mounted engine, sliding gear transmission and rear wheel drive. At first this configuration is known as Systeme Panhard.
Brothers Charles Edgar Duryea and James Frank Duryea of Springfield, Massachussetts build their first motor buggy, Charles having an established background in the cycle trade. They are credited with being the first in America to build a practicable automobile.
Karl Benz introduces the "Viktoria", powered by a 3hp petroleum (gasoline) engine with a top speed of 11mph. Forty-five cars are in this year.
After many years of financial difficulty, Karl Benz begins ‘mass production’ of two models, the Velo and the Viktoria.
Henry G. Morris and Pedro Salom of Philadelphia open America’s first car factory to build Electrobat electric cars.
The Apperson brothers and Elwood Haynes of Kokomo, Indiana collaborate to build an automobile.
Karl Benz sells 135 motor vehicles in the year.
Sir David Salomans organises Britain’s first exhibition of motor vehicles in the open air in October at Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
In November, the first indoor exhibition of cars in Britain takes place, at the Stanley Cycle Show.
Selden’s master patent is finally granted in the USA, after years of revision.
First petrol engine produced by De Dion and Bouton.
The Autocar magazine founded by J. J. Henry Sturmey.
Frederick, Frank and George Lanchester build the first all-British, four-wheel, petrol driven car featuring many technical innovations. Lanchester will go on to rival Rolls Royce in their reputation for excellence, but fail to achieve long-term commercial success.
A Peugeot L’Eclair becomes the first car to run on Michelin pneumatic tyres.
The British Motor Industry is born when Harry J. Lawson launches the Daimler Motor Company in Coventry.
British Parliament repeals the Red Flag Act and raises the speed limit to l4mph; Lawson organises the first Run from London to Brighton to commemorate ‘Emancipation Day’.
Duryea brings two cars over to Europe for the Emancipation Day event.
American pioneers Henry Ford, Charles Brady King, Ransome Eli Olds and Alexander Winton all complete and test their first cars.
The first car to be sold with pneumatic tyres as standard is Leon Bollee’s Voiturette.
Harry J. Lawson forms the Great Horseless Carriage Company (later the Motor Manufacturing Company) to acquire the rights to all important Continental patents, in an effort to gain control of the British motor industry.
Emil Jellinek, financier, international diplomat and racing enthusiast, orders the first four cylinder Daimler.
The first commercially available steam cars are manufactured by twin brothers Francis and Freelan Stanley.
Alexander Winton a bicycle manufacturer of Cleveland, Ohio incorporates the Winton Motor Carriage Co.
The Pope Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, at the time the USA’s largest cycle manufacturer, begin their attempt to build cars in large quantities.
A British-built Daimler is driven from John O’Groats to Lands End by Henry Sturmey, at the time a journalist with ‘The Autocar’ magazine.
The Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland is founded by F.R.Simms.
Emile Levassor dies.
R.E. Olds and a group of Lansing businessmen invest $50,000 to create The Olds Motor Vehicle Company.
Leon Serpollet builds his first steam car.
James Ward Packard of Warren, Ohio, becomes one of the earliest buyers of a Winton and, immediately unsatisfied with it’s reliability and performance begins literally, to ‘pick it to pieces’.
Rudolf Diesel is granted a patent for an internal combustion engine where extremely high compression of the fuel/air mixture causes self-ignition, rather than a spark.
Using a De Dion engine and axle, Louise Renault builds his first car.
Panhard-Levassor adopt the steering wheel instead of the tiller.
De Dion Bouton introduce the Voiturette.
Coventry-Daimler release their first four cylinder model.
The first Napier power unit is built.
FIAT, Sunbeam, Wolseley, Albion and Isotta Fraschini begin production.
In the USA, the Olds Motor Vehicle Company also begins Production.
Gottlieb Daimler dies at the age of 66. One week later Emil Jellinek secures an exclusivity agreement with Wilhelm Maybach. The cars in which he has been involved and will be marketing, will now be named after his favourite daughter, Mercedes.
The Thousand Miles Trial is organised by the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland to demonstrate the reliability and efficiency of the motor vehicle to the British public. Many people will see a car for the first time in their lives.
American manufacturers produce a total of 4192 cars, each selling at an average price of $1000.00.
With an exclusive sales agreement and some technical input from Emile Jellinek , Daimler at Bad-Cannstatt introduces the new ‘Mercedes’. Jellinek will both race these cars with great success and sell them to a personally selected clientele.
Ettore Bugatti wins the Milan Grand Prix in his Type 2 and exhibits it at the Milan International Motorcar Exhibition. He is approached by de-Dietrich of Niederbronn in the Alsace region and offered a licensing deal to design cars for them. Since he is still legally a minor, his father Carlo signs the contract.
The Olsmobile ‘Curved Dash’ model becomes the world’s first mass-produced petroleum (gas) powered car.
John Starley dies, without seeing a Rover car go into production.
Packard patents and introduces the "H" gearshift pattern so familiar today.
Dr E C Lehwess sets out on the first attempt to drive around the world in a specially adapted Panhard Levassor bus named "Passe Partout" ("Anything Goes"). With no time-limit his intended route runs from London, through Europe to Asia, from where the bus will be shipped to California to cross the USA and return to England by ship across the Atlantic Ocean. He gets as far as Nizhni Novgorod in Eastern Russia, where "Passe Partout" and the attempt, have to be abandoned in deep snow.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is founded by Frederick R. Simms.
The British Parliament passes the Motor Car Act, raising the speed limit from 12 to 20mph, introducing driving licences and establishing the registration and numbering of cars.
17,000 vehicles are now registered in Britain.
Henry Ford finally succeeds in raising $28,000.00 to found the Ford Motor Company and begin production and sales of his Model A runabout.
In Detroit, the Cadillac Motor Car Company is founded by precision engineer Henry Martyn Leland.
In London, The Vauxhall Iron Works builds its first car.
Marcel Renault is one of 10 drivers killed in that year’s Paris-Madrid race.
Administration of George B. Selden’s ‘master patent for the automobile’ is taken over by the newly formed Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers, with the intention of pursuing numerous manufacturers for infringement, to gain compensation and future royalties.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders hosts its first motor show at the Crystal Palace, in South London.
The first completely new Benz, the front engined ‘Parsifal 12/18’, is designed by Marius Barbarou and introduced to compete with the very successful Mercedes Simplex.
A six cylinder, four wheel drive racing car is introduced by Dutch manufacturer Spyker.
The first six cylinder production car is introduced by Napier.
James H. Whiting, co-founder of the Flint Wagon Works, persuades his partners to buy the Buick Motor Car Company, at that time a very small car manufacturer. Whiting becomes President and David Buick is General Manager.
Mary Anderson is granted a patent for a handle-operated windshield wiper, originally intended to help the streetcar drivers of New York.
On January 1st, The Motor Car Act becomes law in Great Britain.
Having built his first motor car Henry Royce meets Charles Stewart Rolls, already successful in the sales of quality cars in London and Royce agrees to manufacture a range of cars exclusively for sale by CS Rolls & Co. They are to be known by the name Rolls-Royce.
The Sturtevant brothers of Boston, Massachusetts invent the first automatic gearbox. With two forward speeds it is dependent on rotation by the engine, of centrifugal weights which, all too often disintegrate. The unit may not be a complete success but at least it points the way for future developments.
Ford begins to export cars to Britain.
Having invented the modern bicycle 18 years earlier, Rover embarks on the manufacture of cars.
De Launay Belleville is founded in Saint Denis sur Seine, central France, with Marius Barbarou as engineer.
William Crapo Durant, Co-owner of Durant-Dort Carriage Company, the USA’s largest carriage makers, is approached by James Whiting to promote his Buick automobiles. Durant becomes Buick’s General Manager.
Having refused to pay royalties to the Association of Licensed Automotive Manufacturers for infringement of George B Selden’s master patent, Henry Ford is taken to court. Key to Ford’s defence is that Selden has never even built a car and the validity of the patent is therefore questionable. The judge orders Selden to build a car in accordance with his patent.
Herbert Austin, resigns as general manager of Wolseley to set up his own company at Longbridge, Birmingham.
The American the market for cars is enlarged by the introduction of installment finance plans.
The Automobile Association is set up to represent the interests of British motorists finding themselves easy targets for Police officers keen to gain promotion based on the numbers of speeding motorists caught and convicted!
The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) introduce a horsepower formula, largely based on the Cylinder bore of an engine.
The successful commercial collaboration between Henry Royce and C S Rolls results in the formation of the Rolls-Royce company and the launch of the 40/50hp six-cylinder ‘Silver Ghost’, soon to be hailed as ‘the best car in the world’.
Ford introduces the Model N at the New York Auto Show. Selling initially at $500,
The American car industry produces 33,500 cars.
Former Fiat test-driver Vincenzo Lancia sets up his own company in Turin with his friend and colleague Claudio Fogolin.
Britain exports a total of two cars per month to France while importing a total of 400 cars per month from France.
Otto Zachow and William Besserdich of Clintonville, Wisconsin, built the first successful 4-wheel-drive car.
A year after its announcement, the price of Ford’s Model N had already risen to $600.
King Edward VII awards the Automobile Club the Royal accolade.
Willys-Overland is formed following the purchase of the Overland Company of Indianapilolis by John Willys.
Over 60,000 Cars are now registered in Britain.
A Rolls-Royce ‘Silver Ghost’ completes a 15000 miles test under supervision of the RAC, with just one enforced stop.
Also completing a 15,000 mile test is a 45hp Hotchkiss, wearing out 46 tyres in the process.
Otto Zachow and William Besserdich begin a company called the Four Wheel Drive Auto Co.
Ford build the first Model T. This year’s production totals 8000.
Based on a previous, failed attempt to bring together America’s top four car manufacturers William Crapo Durant incorporates General Motors of New Jersey (GM) with a capital of $2,000. Within 12 days the company has raised $12,000,000 cash, enough to buy Buick and Oldsmobile in quick succession.
In London The Royal Automobile Club awards Cadillac the Dewar Trophy following the dismantling, mixing and re-assembly of components from three ‘Model K’ runabouts.
The General Motors Company acquires Cadillac and Oakland.
William Durant fails to raise the $9.5 million needed to buy Ford.
Louis Chevrolet drives a Buick to victory in the fifth "Indy car" race at Crown Point, Indianapolis.
Fernand Renault is dies after a long illness. Now alone at the helm, Louis Renault changes the company’s name to Les Automobiles Renault.
While still engaged by de Deutz, Ettore Bugatti and good friend Felix Kortz build the ‘Type 10’ in the cellar of his house, probably as an expression of his imminent intention to establish his own production.
Joseph Sankey & Sons of Bilston, near Woverhampton, specialists in steel pressings, commence production of stamped body panels for Arrol-Johnston cars.
Joseph Sankey & Sons develop the first detachable pressed-steel artillery wheel, a considerable improvement over the wooden carriage wheels which most vehicles had used previously.
Louis Coatalen is appointed as chief engineer at Sunbeam and starts to design cars capable of achieving records at Brooklands race track in Surrey.
H.F.S. Morgan builds his first car, a three-wheeler with a twin cylinder 8hp engine, seating for one, tiller steering and patented ‘sliding pillar’ independent front suspension.
Charles Franklin Kettering, having already invented, designed and developed the electric cash register, bank accounting machines and a superior ignition system for cars while working for NCR, sets up Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (Delco). 8000 ignition systems are supplied to Cadillac in his first year of production.
De Dion-Bouton introduces the first "mass-produced" V8 engine in the world.
Automobile production in the Untied States reaches 181,000.
The proposal to place a tax on petrol is rejected by the British Parliament.
Charles Stewart Rolls is killed at the age of 33, when his biplane crashes during a flying competition in Bournemouth.
The RAC devises the horsepower ratings by which cars in Britain are taxed.
Wireless radio is installed in a car with considerable effect although the equipment is very bulky.
Having spent the past 9 years designing cars for deDeutz and Mathis-Hermès, Ettore Bugatti sets up his own factory at Molsheim in the Alsace region (German territory until 1919, French thereafter) and starts production of his ‘Type 11’.
Crossley, Arrol Johnston, Argyll and Isotta Fraschini offer four wheel braking.
Burley Swiss racing driver and talented engineer Louis Chevrolet drives a Buick for Willam Durant in the first Indianapolis 500. A broken camshaft forces early retirement. Louis’s brothers, Arthur and Gaston, are also keen racing drivers.
Having been ousted from General Motors William Durrant hires Louis Chevrolet as a consultant to develop a high quality car and forms the Chevrolet Motor Company.
Ford opens its first factory outside the USA at Trafford Park, Manchester, UK. With an annual output of 3000 Model Ts, Ford soon becomes Britain’s biggest car maker.
Cadillac 20/30hp model comes with ignition, electric lighting and electric self-starting developed by Charles F. Kettering’s Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (Delco).
The Selden Patent Case finally ends in victory for Henry Ford when the car built to Selden’s patent is a technical failure. The patent is found to be ‘valid but not infringed’ releasing Americas car manufacturers to sell their products without further interference from Selden.
Prominent figure S. F. Edge resigns from the Napier company following a dispute. He agrees to stay out of the motor industry for 7 years in exchange for a £160,000.00 pay-off. Instead he turns to pig farming, cattle breeding and film production, all with considerable success.
Delco electric self-starters and electric lighting come as standard on all Cadillac models.
The first Chevrolet, the big, powerful and very expensive Classic Six, reaches production but its price places it well out of reach of the mass market which Durant needs to attract to build his new business.
Sunbeam causes a sensation by simultaneously entering two team of 3 litre cars in French races running at the same time. They come in 1st, 2nd and 3rd in Coupe de l’Auto for touring cars at Dieppe and 3rd, 4th, and 5th in the French Grand Prix against cars with engines of vastly greater cubic capacity. As a result, the virtually identical touring models sell very well.
Brothers W O and H M Bentley buy the London agency for French DFP cars from their employers and call their new business Bentley and Bentley.
Packard achieves a significant step in the development of the differential by introducing the spiral-bevel ring and pinion set. This cuts noise levels dramatically.
Henry Ford trials moving conveyor belt techniques for magneto production.
Ford’s sales rise to 182,809 vehicles.
The Royal Automobile Club awards the Dewar Trophy to Cadillac for a second time, in recognition of the introduction of the electric self-starter and electric lighting.
William Morris introduces his I0hp Morris Oxford light car.
Congress is lobbied by the Lincoln Highway Association who want a transcontinental highway to be constructed across America.
Mechanical direction indicators begin to appear on some models.
Fiat builds 3251cars.
Renault build 9338 cars.
Louis Chevrolet falls out with William Durant, wanting his name to be associated with prestigious cars and resigns. By selling his stock Chevrolet has thrown away the opportunity to become a multi millionaire. Durant continues to grow Chevrolet sales by moving the range downmarket.
W O Bentley develops the aluminium-alloy piston for use in automotive engines and achieves a class record at Brooklands in an alloy-pistoned DFP.
De Dion-Bouton’s V8 engine is now available in 3.5 litre, 4.6 litre and 7.8 litre capacities.
Ford introduces conveyor assembly line techniques to chassis production reducing unit production times from 12½ to 1½ hours.
Ford raises the daily pay of its production workers to an industry record of $5.
Ettore Bugatti designs and manufactures the world’s first series-produced 16-valve 4 cylinder engine.
British buyers can now choose between 200 makes of car.
The German Army’s advance on Paris is repulsed by troops ferried to the front line in Renault taxis.
W O Bentley is commissioned into the navy to develop aero-engines for the Royal Naval Air Service. The BR1 and BR2 radial engines, built at the Humber factory, prove extremely effective and Bentley passes his knowledge of alloy piston technology on to Ernest Hives who is also developing aero-engines at Rolls-Royce.
Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford set up a small sports-car manufacturing business in West London. Bamford’s early departure leaves Martin with the need for a new name. Success achieved at the Aston-Clinton Hill Climb course in the prototype car provides the ideal name. Aston-Martin is born!
British Chancellor of the Exchequer Reginald McKenna introduces a ‘temporary’ 33.33 % levy on luxury imports to contribute to the cost of the war. Commercial vehicles are excluded, as they are needed for the war effort. This levy becomes known as the "McKenna Duties".
Catillac introduces the first successful V8 engine in the United States.
Inspired by Sunbeam aero-engine designs, Packard introduce the Vl2 Twin Six.
Banker Nicola Romeo takes over Anonima Lombardo Fabbrica Automobili of Milan to create Alfa Romeo.
Ford give a $50.00 refund to every Model T customer in recognition of annual sales exceeding their target.
The British Admiralty Landships Committee, charged with development of an armoured fighting vehicle capable of crossing trenches and barbed wire to attack an enemy, appoint a Lincoln agricultural machinery manufacturers William Foster & Co. Ltd, to design and develop it. For the sake of secrecy the factory workers are told to refer to the project as ‘a water carrier for Mesopotamia’. Their nick-name for the project is still with us today – ‘The tank’.
Windscreen wipers powered by vacuum from the engine’s inlet manifold begin to replace the manual version originally patented by Mary Anderson in 1903. Because inlet manifold vacuum varies with engine speed so does wiper speed.
C F Kettering’s Delco is sold to United Motors Corporation for $9,000,000.00.
Herbert Austin receives a knighthood.
Having founded Cadillac and stayed at the helm since the 1909 sale to General Motors, Henry Martyn Leland resigns and leaves with his son Wilfred C Leland, to found the Lincoln Motor Company and build Liberty aero-engines for use in WW1 fighter planes.
Engineer William Rootes is demobilised from the British Armed to set up a new plant at Maidstone, Kent to repair aeroplane engines instead of scrapping them. The war ends before the plant is fully operational.
Emil Jellinek dies.
Car registrations in America exceed five million for the first time.
The Thomas B Jeffery Company is bought by Charles Nash and renamed Nash Motors.
United Motors Corporation is acquired by General Motors. As a result, C F Kettering is invited to organise direct General Motors Research Corporation and insists that its headquarters are established in Dayton.
Andre Citroen, having decided the future lies in simple reliable cars for the mass market, begins production of his Model A.
Henry Ford pays out $l00 million to buy-out all the other stockholders in the Ford Motor Company.
S. F. Edge returns to the British motor industry by taking over AC cars.
The first straight eight production engine is introduced by Isotta Fraschini.
Walter P. Chrysler resigns his position as vice president of General Motors.
New aero influenced post war models introduced by Hispano Suiza, Guy, Enfield Allday.
WO Bentley, awarded an £8,000 gratuity for his wartime work on the design of aero-engines, uses it to establish Bentley Motors Ltd and develop his first sports-car.
Charles F Kettering’s Dayton Metal Products Co. is absorbed into General Motors, forming the core of GM’s new research division.
William and Reginal Rootes re-establish the family car sales business, Rootes Ltd. in Maidstone Kent.
Enzo Ferrari finishes ninth at the Targa Florio bringing him to the notice of Alfa Romeo.
Half of all the motor vehicles in the world are Model T Fords.
The American car industry is hit hard by a sudden post-war sales slump – Most companies struggle, many go out of business and some are absorbed into the larger corporate conglomerates.
The merger of Sunbeam and Talbot-Darracq creates the STD group. The new organisation will fail to rationalise development programmes and share components, missing out on financial opportunities, building cars which compete with each other for market share.
William Durant is ousted from his position at the head of General Motors for a second and final time, when DuPont/Morgan banking interests gain a controlling interest. Alfred P. Sloan is placed in charge of the group’s affairs.
Duesenberg introduce the first production car with a straight eight engine and four-wheel hydraulic brakes.
Work starts on Britain’s first bypass roads, The Great West Road from Chiswick, West London and The Purley Way near Croydon.
350 French companies manufacture cars.
Louis Chevrolet’s Monroe racer wins the Indianapolis 500 with his brother Gaston at the wheel.
Gaston Chevrolet is killed in a racing accident on a boardwalk raceway in Beverly Hills, California.
C F Kettering, inventor and outstanding engineer and head of General Motors Research Corporation becomes a vice-president and GM board member.
Driving a modified Alfa Romeo production car in the Targa Florio, Enzo Ferrari finishes in second place.
Ferodo introduces a dry-plate clutch using asbestos friction materials that do not burn out every few hundred miles.
The Motor Car Act taxes cars in Britain at £I per RAC horsepower. Because of the RAC formula this favours small-bore, long stroke engines used by British manufacturers. Sales of cheaper American imports which tend to use large-bore, short stroke engines are crippled. A Morris Cowley, rated at 11.9hp costs just £12 to tax, whereas a Model T is rated at 22.5hp and costs £23 per year. One variation is that pre 1914 cars pay only half the horsepower. One oddity is a complete exemption for cars used solely for taking servants to church or voters to the polling station!
Bentley Motors Ltd start production of the new Bentley 3 litre sports car at a factory in Cricklewood, London and the three racing Bentleys entered in the Tourist Trophy Race win the team prize.
Lincoln introduce theirV8.
To counteract a drop in sales Morris cuts prices by up to £I00. The ploy works effectively, with sales increasing from 1932 cars in 1920 to 3077 cars this year.
William Durant establishes Durant Motors, having raised $7 million in loans.
Tommy Milton drives a straight-eight Frontenac, designed and built by Louis Chevrolet, to victory at Indianapolis. Two different Louis Chevrolet-developed machines have now won at Indianapolis in consecutive years.
Ford buys financially troubled Lincoln.
In Britain Herbert Austin introduces the Seven.
Clyno begin car production in Wolverhampton.
Marconi begin experiments with wireless receivers in Daimler cars.
Ford produce over one million Model Ts.
Inspired by the strength of a ship’s hull in a storm Vincenzo Lancia devises the first car to feature a sheet metal unitary body structure. The Lancia Lambda also featured a V4 engine with twin overhead camshafts, independent front suspension and brakes on all four wheels.
Trico (USA) introduce electric windscreen wipers as a more speed-consistent alternative to vacuum-driven wipers.
Leslie Hounsfield’s Trojan Ltd of Croydon Licence production of his low-cost 2 stroke, four cylinder car to Leyland Motors.
Charles F. Kettering, (previously responsible for the electric starter) and his assistant T. H. Midgley develop tetraethyl leaded petrol to improve the quality of fuels available in the USA. This alone encourages the development of more powerful and efficient high-compression engines.
21 year old Motor Cycle enthusiast William Lyons meets motorcycle sidecar maker William Walmsley in Blackpool, England. Together they set up the Swallow Sidecar Company.
De Dion-Bouton cease production of their V8 engine range.
Cecil Kimber builds his first MG, a Morris Cowley with flattened springs, a sports body and a rebuilt engine.
Coventry bicycle manufacturer Triumph, builds their first car, the 10/20hp.
Over 2,000,000 Model Ts leave Ford’s production lines.
Sunbeams came 1st, 2nd and 4th in the French Grand Prix.
While racing at the Circuit of Sivocci at Ravenna Enzo Ferrari is approached by Count Enrico and Countess Paolina Baracca, parents of deceased national hero Francesco Baracca. They give Ferrari Francesco’s squadron badge, a prancing horse on a yellow shield.
Former General Motors Vice President, Walter P Chrysler, begins production of his own cars.
Car production times are cut dramatically when DuPont develop quick-drying enamels.
Napier give up the production of cars and concentrate on aero-engines.
The "McKenna Duties" on luxury imports are removed.
Sunbeam win the Spanish Grand Prix. No other British car will win a Grand Prix in the first half of the 20th century. Twin cam OHV engines become standard on the 3 litre Super Sports models.
Malcolm Campbell achieves an official Land Speed Record d 146mph in an 18 litre 12 cyl Sunbeam developing 350hp.
A Bentley Sport, driven by Sammy Davis and John Benjafield, wins the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race for the first time.
The "McKenna Duties" on luxury imports are reinstated and extended to include commercial vehicles.
Morris production of ‘Bullnose’ Oxfords and Cowleys hits 54,131.
Vauxhall Motors at Luton becomes a part of General Motors.
The 250,000th Ford Model T rolls out of Ford’s British factory and begins a celebratory tour.
Rolls Royce introduce the Phantom 1, their first new model since the introduction of the 1906 Silver Ghost.
The Triumph 13/30 becomes Britain’s first family car with hydraulic braking on all four wheels.
Malcolm Campbell raises the official Land Speed Record to 150mph, again in a Sunbeam car.
Sunbeam enters their new 3 litre Super Sports car for the Grand Prix d’Endurance (24 hours) at Le Mans. It is the only British car to finish, winning 2nd place overall and coming first in the 3 litre class. The parent company (The STD Group) takes out a large loan.
General Motors Research Corporation and its boss C F Kettering, move to Detroit.
Cadillac introduce shatter-resistant glass.
Long retired from racing, Louis Chevrolet drives the official pace car for his last laps of Indianapolis Speedway. As a driver he has achieved 10 career Indy car wins and won over 27 major events, making him the most successful of the three racing Chevrolet brothers.
Following a trip to America William Morris is convinced that the future of the car revolves around all-steel construction and works with Edward G Budd to set up the Pressed Steel Company.
In Germany, Daimler Benz AG is formed by the long-planned (since 1911) merger between Benz and Daimler companies.
A 7136cc V12 sleeve valve engine is the main feature of the Coventry Daimler Company’s new Double Six model.
In London, the General Strike and resultant marches bring traffic to a halt.
London’s motorists see electric traffic lights for the first time.
Production of 300 cars a week makes Clyno of Wolverhampton Britain’s third largest car manufacturer.
Packard further refines the differential by introducing hypoid gears, virtually eliminating rear axle whine.
Major Henry Segrave sets a new Land Speed Record of 152mph in a 4 litre 12 cyl Sunbeam.
The Swallow Sidecar Company starts to build special bodies for the Austin Seven and changes its name to the Swallow Sidecar and Coachbuilding Company. Beyond the Austin seven it also offers coach-built bodies on chassis by Morris, Fiat, Standard, Swift and others.
William and Reginald Rootes move their business from Kent to offices and showrooms at Devonshire House, Picadilly, in the heart of London’s West End. Within a matter of months they have built a network of branches across the UK, in the process, becoming Europe’s largest motor distributing company.
Ford’s Model T comes to the end of the road after 19 years and fifteen million vehicles.
The first British all-steel body is produced by the Pressed Steel Company for the Morris Isis Six, a medium sized saloon.
William Morris acquires the failed Wolseley company.
Chevrolet becomes the top selling manufacturer in America as Ford reorganizes its production facilities for the Model A.
Chromium plating is pioneered by Studebaker and Oldsmobile.
Stanley brings production of its steam cars to an end.
Major Henry Segrave, sets a new World Land Speed Record of over 200mph driving a twin-engined 1000 hp Sunbeam.
By now Britain’s largest car distributors, William and Reginald Rootes begin to acquire manufacturers, starting with Humber, Hillman and Commer.
Dodge is acquired by Chrysler for $I75,000,000.
In the face of fierce price competition from William Moris, Clyno introduce a £I00 8hp model and ‘hits the rocks’.
Cadillac introduces the synchromesh gearbox.
Britain’s first front wheel drive production car is introduced by Alvis.
A Bentley wins the Le Mans 24 Hours driven by Woolf Barnato and Bernard Rubin.
As a result of slumping sales many UK companies are become vulnerable
The Rootes brothers acquire a substantial interest in The Hillman Car Company and then take over Humber Ltd and it’s commercial vehicle brand, Commer.
Karl Benz dies, aged 85.
David Dunbar Buick dies.
US car production reaches 5,337,087, a record that will stand until the I950s.
26.5 million cars are now registered in the USA.
Clyno ceases trading and its assets liquidated.
Armstrong Siddeley offer a Wilson pre-selector gearbox as an option.
Sir Dennistoun Burney, the man behind the development of R100 airship, applies his aerodynamic expertise to car design and starts to make his Burney ‘Streamlines’ at his factory in Maidenhead. Each car features teardrop styling, space-frame construction, rear engine, all-round independent suspension and hydraulic brakes.
Bentley win the Le Mans 24 Hours for the second year in succession with a Speed Six driven by Woolf Barnato and Henry Birkin.
While continuing to work for Alfa Romeo, Enzo Ferrari forms the Scuderia Ferrari, a club/team for gentlemen-racers with the aim of organizing racing for members.
Daimler fit fluid flywheels in conjunction with pre-selector gearboxes to produce semi automatic transmission.
Cadillac introduces a 7.4 litre VI6.
Economic depression causes a fall in car sales.
Henry Royce receives a knighthood.
In the bar of the Old Ship Hotel in Brighton following the annual ‘London to Brighton Run’, three participants decide to form the Veteran Car Club to help its members preserve the veteran and Edwardian cars which form a record motoring’s early history.
The 20mph speed limit, which has been ignored by motorists and police alike for many years, is abolished by the British Parliament.
In Britain, third party insurance becomes compulsory.
Larger Morris cars come with hydraulic brakes.
Walter Wilson introduces the Wilson Preselector gearbox based on a planetary manual transmission system like that used in the Ford Model T.
Bentley wins the Le Mans 24 Hours for the fourth year in succession with a Speed Six driven by Woolf Barnato and Glen Kidston.
The Vauxhall Cadet 2 litre six, is the first car in Europe to feature a synchromesh gearbox.
Bentley Motors goes into liquidation. Napier are interested in buying, but are outbid by Rolls Royce who form Bentley Motors (1931) Limited.
Daimler acquire Lanchester Britain’s oldest motor manufacturer.
The Swallow Sidecar and Coachbuilding Company introduces its first cars, the SS1 and SS2. The larger SS1 is based on a modified Standard chassis and Standard six-cylinder engine. The smaller SS2 has a four-cylinder engine.
As the first fruit of the Rootes Group acquisition, Hillman introduces the Wizard with a choice of either 2.1 or 2.8 litre engines. It is not a great sales success.
After years of struggling to survive De Dion-Bouton goes out of business.
Oldsmobile and Packard models feature automatic chokes.
Ford of Britain moves it’s plant and machinery from Trafford Park, Manchester to its new factory at Dagenham on the Eastern outskirts of London over one weekend without losing any production.
Ford design their first car for the European market, the 8hp model Y, in Dearborn.
Ford facelift the Model A and offer it with a mass-produced V8 engine. Sales in the first year exceed 300,000.
Hillman introduces the Minx, small family saloon, which proves to be extremely popular.
William Lyons Changes the name of the Swallow Sidecar and Coachbuilding Company to SS Cars Limited, taking on the role of managing director.
Ford looses its grip on the American market, dropping to third place behind General Motors and the Chrysler Corporation.
REO introduce the Reo Self-Shifter, actually two transmissions connected in series. The first shifts automatically due to the engagement of a multi-disc centrifugal clutch mechanism. The second transmission is shifted manually to engage a lower gear.
Under both the Chrysler and DeSoto brands Chrysler introduces the revolutionary ‘Airflow’ ‘streamline’ family saloons with aerodynamic unitary sheet-steel body construction and an automatic overdrive.
In Britain a 30mph limit is imposed in built-up areas by Transport Minister Leslie Hore Belisha, pedestrian (Zebra) crossings are introduced, illuminated by a flashing orange (Belisha) beacon and new drivers are required to pass a test.
Morris Motors’ first conveyor assembly line is installed at Cowley and Sir William Morris becomes Baron Nuffield.
General Motors put the successful racecar designer and financial failure, Louis Chevrolet on their payroll in recognition of their use of his name.
Ferdinand Porshe approaches the German Reich government with proposals for a car for the German masses – a Volkswagen. Massive government investment follows.
Construction of the German Autobahn system commences, conceived by Adolph Hitler as a productive way of harnessing the unemployed masses.
British cars are now available with Metallic finishes.
Andre Citroen’s ambition gets the better of him as development of the ‘traction avant’ becomes so expensive that the company is virtually bankrupted. Michelin step in to prop up the business and Citroen looses control.
At SS Cars Limited, William Lyons boosts his company’s technical capabilities with the arrival of renowned engine specialist Harry Weslake. Soon after his arrival overhead valve cylinder heads become available.
The depression of the 1930s means STD Motors are unable to sustain repayments of the large loan taken out in 1925 and are forced into receivership. The Rootes brothers outbid the smaller SS Cars Limited and the proud Sunbeam and Talbot names are destined to become up-market badge-engineered versions of Hillmans.
Ford of Britain introduces a cut price version of the 8hp Model Y saloon to sell at £I00.00.
There are now 35 million motor vehicles on the world’s roads according to an international census.
Triumph offer a screen wash system.
William Heynes joins SS Cars Ltd as chief engineer and the SS Jaguar is announced.
Morgan, specialists in economical three-wheelers since 1909 introduce their first four wheeler, thanks to changes in tax and market readiness for ‘a fourth wheel’.
Fiat introduce the budget-priced 500A, featuring an aerodynamic shape, a ‘570cc engine and a full length sunroof. Its appearance earns it the nick-name ‘Topolino’ (Mickey Mouse) while a 55mph top speed and 55mpg economy makes it very popular, particularly in its home country.
Ferdinand Porsche begins development and construction of prototype ‘Volkswagens’ to demonstrate his concept to Adolf Hitler. The declared intention is that they will sell for £50.00 on a special finance plan.
At SS Cars Limited, William Lyons buys out William Walmsley and anounces the SS 100 and SS Jaguar models.
There are still 45 British car manufacturers.
Fifty-four percent of families in the United States now own a car.
The first London Motor Exhibition is held at Earls Court, rather than Olympia, where it has been since 1905.
Buick and Oldsmobile introduce the Automatic Safety Transmission, using a conventional clutch for engaging forward or reverse and shifting automatically once underway.
800 miles of autobahn have been built in Germany at a cost of £56,000 a mile.
Chrysler perfects the fluid coupling, a major advance towards the fully automatic gearbox, but does nothing with it for the moment.
The Volkswagen goes into production in Nazi Germany.
The British government raises the petrol tax from 8d to 9d per gallon and horsepower tax to £1.25d per hp.
The first small British saloon to feature independent front suspension is the Standard Flying Eight.
Riley is taken over by The Nuffield Group.
Morris launches the Series E 8hp Saloon at £128, the cheapest car in Britain.
As another War begins to look inevitable British car manufacturers are requested to set up Shadow Factories next to small-scale specialists who’s products, in much larger quantities, would be crucial to any war effort.
GM offer the Hydra-Matic hydraulically operated gearbox.
SS Cars Ltd, like many other British manufacturers turns production over to the war effort.
Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declare war on Germany on September 3rd.
The British Government introduces petrol rationing. Petrol is exchanged for coupons allowing each motorist about 200 miles of motoring per month.
There are now two million cars on Britain’s roads.
The customized Lincoln Continental and the lower priced Mercury are introduced by Ford.
Triumph has to cease trading and is put into receivership.
See Timeline 1940 – 2008
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