Automobile Industry Celebrates 100 Years Continued.
The Who What, you say? The Duryea earns the distinction of inaugurating the centennial because it was the first model for which more than one car was built from one set of blueprints. The Duryea brothers, J. Frank and Charles, produced thirteen of their horseless carriages in their company's first year.

Henry Ford produced his Quadracycle the same year, but it was only a prototype. Not until 1908 did his company began churning out Model T's, and his revolutionary assembly line didn't appear until 1913. Even the Henry Ford Museum acknowledges that the Duryeas, and not Ford, launched the era of the automobile.

Below are more landmarks in automotive history:

  • The first American self-propelled vehicle, the Orukter Amphibolos, was built by Oliver Evans in 1805.
  • The pneumatic tire, invented by J. B. Dunlop in 1888, was adopted by Henry Ford and the Duryea brothers in 1896.
  • The 1910 Cadillac featured the first enclosed car body.
  • In 1912, Cadillac was the first car manufacturer to use the first electric starter, invented by Charles Kettering, eliminating the need for the hand crank.
  • Hydraulic brakes were first used in 1920 on Duesenberg automobiles.
  • The United Auto Workers Union was founded in 1935.
  • In 1940, the Oldsmobile offered the first fully automatic transmission.
  • Packard introduced air conditioning in 1940. The system was so bulky that it was installed in the car's trunk. Under-the-hood units did not appear until the 1950s.
  • Production of the U.S. Army's workhorse Jeep began in 1941.
  • Ford became the first major automaker to offer seat belts and other safety features.
  • Chevrolet and Pontiac offered the first fuel-injection systems in 1957.
  • The Ford Mustang, the most popular of America's sporty 1960s road machines, first rolled off the assembly line in 1964.
  • Environmental gadfly Ralph Nader wrote the auto-safety exposť Unsafe at Any Speed in 1965, prompting reforms in the auto industry.
  • In 1966, the first federal auto safety standards were instituted.
  • Shoulder harnesses on seat belts were introduced in 1968.
  • Fuel economy became a high priority with the energy crisis of 1973, eventually prompting car buyers to embrace small, fuel-efficient foreign cars.
  • The catalytic converter, designed to remove hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide (and later nitrogen oxides) from automotive exhaust, first appeared on American cars in 1975.
  • The minivan began its ascendance over the station wagon, the traditional family car, in 1984.
The 1990s has seen the emergence of the sport utility vehicle as the hot new body type of choice, the standardization of dual airbags, the car's increasing computerization, and the increasing prevalence of anti-theft systems. Meanwhile, development of alternative fuel technologies continues to lag, and such safety features as side-impact airbags and stronger construction elements to minimize collision damage are rare.

The automobile's place in American society is so pervasive that it is difficult to imagine life without cars. Much more than a mode of transportation, the car is an icon of modern civilization, and the auto industry has pulled out all the stops to organize a yearlong extravaganza of auto shows, museum exhibits, and other car-centered events throughout the country. Happy 100th to the horseless carriage!

Related Sites:

The Car Place As the name suggests, this is the place to find out about everything automotive,
The Auto Channel Drive in, tune in, to the autochannel. This slick looking site is sponsored an oil company.
Art Cars in Cyberspace An excellent assortment of art cars. There are cars that look like sharks, painted cars, even a car the looks like a Sphinx. This site is well worth the visit.

Click on the icon to view a QuickTime VR movie of the inside of a Dodge Swinger parked in front of the Exploratorium. If you need the QuickTime VR player or plug-in visit Apple QuickTime VR home.

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