History of the Automobile, Part 5

By Audrey Robinson

NECCM Education Committee

The week of Nov. 12-18 is National Education Week. The Northeast Classic Car Museum is a great medium to cultivate a student’s interest in history, literature, science, math and technology. The fifth part of this five part series will show how automobile technology has progressed through the years.

A carriage making firm made a prototype in the 1800s of a classic design: engine in front, supplying power to a gearbox behind it; with the gearbox connected by a chain drive to the rear drive wheels. It had four forward speeds and a reverse. The first popular car was a roadster that sold for around $650.00 and had two seats and a one-cylinder, three-horsepower engine.

Tires, until the 1920s, were of narrow cross-section and ran at relatively high air pressures. As technology improved tires, they were made wider and operated at lower pressures. The tubeless tire was introduced by the Goodrich Company in 1948. Through the 1940s the main components of the car were well designed and efficient, and a variety of accessories were introduced, such as reversing lights, radios, automatic chokes, windshield wipers, and chrome-plated trim. Power brakes were gradually introduced and shock absorbers became hydraulic and telescopic, consisting of a piston inside a sealed cylinder, one attached to the chassis and the other to the axle. Many new models had powerful high compression engines, along with independent front suspension. In styling, they became much longer, lower and more elaborate. Lightweight chassis—less bodies were adopted, and the use of curved glass for the windshields and rear windows improved visibility a great deal.

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