Automobile History



also see
1770: Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot built a three wheeled steam powered wagon. An example is preserved at the Musee des Arts et Metiers, Paris.
1801: Richard Trevithick built a steam powered coach. (His later 1803 carriage had a road accident.)
1861, UK: Speed limits of 10mph (16km/h) in the country and 5mph (8km/h) in town were imposed on powered vehicles.
1865, UK: Speed limits were lowered to 4mph (country) and 2mph (town) and a man on foot and carrying a red flag had to precede each vehicle by 60 yards, esp. to warn those with horses. (After 1878 the man on foot no longer needed to carry a flag.)
1884: Starley and Sutton invent the Rover Safety Cycle (bicycle); the company later developed into Rover cars.
(An 1884 De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout, claimed to be the world's oldest running car, sold for us$4,620,000 at RM Auctions Oct. 2011 Hershey sale.)
1885: Karl Benz (1844-1929) built a motorised tricycle driven by an oil-spirit internal combustion engine in 1885. This is widely held to be the first successful motor vehicle.
1885: Gottlieb Daimler (1834-1900) built a motorised bicycle in 1885 and a 4-wheel motor carriage in 1886.
1892 August 26: Rudolf Diesel filed a patent application for 'a method of apparatus for converting heat into work,' US letters patent #542,846, 16 July 1895, and, filed 15 July 1895, 'internal combustion engine' #608,845, 9 August 1898 – the compression-ignition, "diesel" engine.
1894: The first car race, Paris - Rouen, was organized by the Petit Journal. (-- Paris Motor Show '12)
1896, UK: Speed limits on light [road-] locomotives were raised from 4mph to 14mph and they no longer needed to be preceded by a man on foot. The first London to Brighton run was held in celebration.
1898: The Automobile Club de France (est.1895) organised the 'World Show for automobiles, cycling and sports'. 220 exhibitors took part in what became the Paris Motor Show. (-- Paris Motor Show '12)
1898: The World Land Speed Record was set at 63.15km/h (39.24mph) by Gaston the Comte de Chasseloup-Laubat driving a Jeantaud electric car [Geo00].
1898: The Renault Voiturette type A.
1898: Latil (France) made front wheel drive units and then 4x4.
1898: Tatra started manufacturing.
1899: Camille Jenatzy and de Chasseloup-Laubat traded Land Speed Records until Jenatzy raised it to 105.88km/h (65.75mph) driving the electric La Jamais Contente [Geo00]. The car survives at the Compiegne Musee de la Voiture (Automobile Museum).
1899: Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Fiat) was formed.
1899: August Horch began a car company carrying his own surname in 1899; it evolved into Auto-Union and eventually Audi.
1900: Ferdinand Porsche's La Toujours Contente (Semper Vivus, always alive), built for Lohner and Co., had battery-power with four electric motors, one at each wheel. He later patented the Mixte transmission in which a petrol engine drove a dynamo and electric motors drove the wheels, i.e., a series-hybrid. It was too expensive for the day. Porsche, the company, built a replica in 2011.
1900: Puch's first car.
1901: Volume imports of cars began into Australia starting with De Dion Boutons.
1902: Leon Serpollet raised the Land Speed Record to 120.8km/h (75.06mph) in the Easter Egg Gardner-Serpollet steam car [Geo00].
1902: Mercedes registered as a trademark. March 1, 1902, the first 40hp Mercedes Simplex ever built was supplied to Emil Jellinek in Nice. It was named after Jellinek's daughter.
1902: Charles Stewart Rolls starts up C.S. Rolls and Co., later Rolls Royce.
1902: Spyker featured a 6-cylinder engine and four wheel drive!
1902: Minerva started making cars.
1903: Ford, Model A.
1904: The organisation that would become the Federation International de l'Automobile (FIA) in 1946 was founded.
1904: Rover 8hp.
1906: Societa Italinana Automobili Darracq (SIAD) founded; it later became Alfa Romeo (about 1921).
1906: Vincenzo Lancia released his first car.
1906, June 26 & 27: The first Grand Prix (GP) on a closed circuit (103km) was held at Le Mans. It was won by Ferenc Szisz in a Renault.
1906: Fred Marriott, driving a Stanley steam car, at Daytona, raised the World Land Speed record to 121.57mph [NT98] over 1km; his speed of 127.66mph over one mile was not recognised internationally. (Also see Aug. 2009.)
1907: Felix and Norman Caldwell of South Australia applied for a patent for four wheel drive with four wheel steering; they went on to build Caldwell Vale 4x4 trucks with Henry Vale.
1907: The Peking to Paris car race was won by an Itala [Bar72].
A 1908 Itala.
1908: "General Motors (GM) was formed in the USA in 1908 when William C. (Billy) Durant brought Oldsmobile and Buick together to form General Motors Company. A year later, Cadillac and Oakland (which became Pontiac in 1932) marques joined General Motors." —nbsp;GM.
1908: Ford Model-T production began.
1908: Harry Dutton and Murray Aunger drove from Adelaide to Darwin in a 25hp Talbot.
1909: Bugatti built his first car.
1911: FWD sold its first 4x4.
1911: First Indianapolis 500 race.
1912: The Manchester Wireless Telegraphy Institute demonstrated "compact wireless telegraphy" from a car, as reported in the Manchester Guardian, 18 April 1912, reprinted 18 April 2012.
1913: Jeffrey Quad 4x4 truck went into production.
1913: Bamford and Martin Ltd founded; later became Aston Martin.
1914: The Society Anonima Officine Alfieri Maserati, Bologna, was created by the Maserati brothers.
1915: Big Lizzie road train (.au).
1917: First Oshkosh four wheel drive truck.
1919: Bentley founded.
1921: DKW - scooters first.
1921 December: General Motors chemists discovered that adding tetraethyl lead, (CH3CH2)4Pb, to petrol boosted its octane rating and reduced engine knocking. Leaded petrol was born. Also see 2021 below.
1922: Citroen half-tracks crossed the Sahara, leaving from Touggourt in Algeria.
1922: Baby Austin 7.
1922: Swallow Sidecar Company founded; later became Jaguar cars in 1945.
1923, May 26-27: First 24 hour race at Le Mans, won by Andre Lagache and Rene Leonard in a Chenard & Walcker at 92.06 km/h.
1924: Ernest Eldridge (GB), driving the Fiat special Mephistopheles (below) fitted with a 21.7-litre Fiat airship engine, set a Land Speed Record of 234.98km/h (146.01mph).
M at speed, more recently
1924: The first MG car was built - on a modified Morris Oxford chassis.
1924, December 28: Citroen half-tracks left to traverse Africa.
1925: Chrysler founded.
1926, August 7: The first British Grand Prix was held at Brooklands.
1927: Henry Segrave driving the "1000hp" Sunbeam raised the World Land Speed Record to over 200mph — FIA.
1927: Model-T production ended; 15 million Model Ts had been built from 1908 to 1927.
1927-1928: Francis Birtles drove a Bean car from England to Melbourne taking 10 months.
1928: Malcolm Campbell, driving Bluebird with a 950hp Napier engine, raised the World Land Speed Record to 206.96mph.
1929: AEC started to build AWD trucks in conjunction with FWD (UK).
1929: Henry Segrave driving the Golden Arrow raised the World Land Speed Record to 231.36mph (327.34km/h) — FIA.
1929: First Monaco Grand Prix was won by Williams in a Bugatti — FIA.
1931: Bentley taken over by Rolls Royce.
1931: The Cummins Diesel Special finished 13th in the Indianapolis 500.
1931-1932: Citroen-Haardt expedition, using Citroen half-tracks, followed part of Marco-Polo's route from Beirut to Beijing.
1932: Malcolm Campbell, driving the 1450hp Napier powered Bluebird, raised the World Land Speed Record to 251mph (404km/h) — FIA.
1932: Audi became part of Auto-Union, with DKW, Horch and Wanderer.
1932: Miller 4x4 racing cars at Indianapolis.
1934: AEC road train (one of three built) was brought to Australia. It consisted of an 8×8 prime-mover and two 8-wheel self-tracking trailers.
1934: Dodge started building 4WD trucks (-George Miles).
1934: Prototype PX-33 four wheel drive car built for the Japanese government; the car did not go into production (Mitsubishi). Thanks to Balazs Toth.
1935: Malcolm Campbell, in the Rolls-Royce powered Bluebird, raised the World Land Speed Record to 301.129mph (484.620km/h) — FIA.
1936: Toyota's first production car, the AA.
1937: Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget, aircraft factory founded, later became Saab.
1937: ‘Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des deutschen Volkswagens mbH’, Company for the Development of the German People's Car (VW), was registered [Hop71].
1938: GAZ 61 - Russian 4x4.
1940: The Jeep specifications were issued. 1940-1941: Bantam built 2700 light 4x4s, early "Jeeps".
1941-1945: Ford and Willys-Overland built 700,000 General Purpose vehicles for WWII. GP became Jeep.
1946: The Association Internationale des Automobiles Clubs Reconnus (AIACR) became the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) — FIA.
1946, October 10: Unimog introduced (- H. J. Feil); also see 1951.
1948: Series-1 Land-Rover released.
1948: Porsche's first car had a 1086cc 30kW VW engine.
1948: Jaguar XK120 launched.
1948: Holden 48-215.
1948: Ford released the 1st of the F-Series vehicles.
1950: The Ford GPA, or amphibious Jeep, Half Safe was "driven" across the Atlantic ocean by Ben and Elinore Carlin. This is true!
1950: Rover built the gas-turbine car Jet 1.
1950: VW Transporter lays down the foundations of the hippy era.
1950: The first round of the inaugural FIA Formula One (F1) World Championship was held at Silverstone on 13 May; the seven-race season included Monaco, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Italy and the Indianapolis 500. "Nino" Farina, driving an Alfa Romeo 158, won the first race, and the championship.
1951: First Toyota Landcruiser was built under the BJ Jeep name. The LandCruiser name came in 1954.
1951: Daimler Benz ("Mercedes") took over Unimog; also see 1948.
1952: Suzuki's first motorcycle.
1952 March 12: Launch of the racing sports car version of the Mercedes Benz 300SL (of the gullwing doors).
1953: The first Redex Reliability Trial was held. Competitors had two weeks to cover 11,000km taking them around Australia. Ken Tubman and John Marshall won in a Peugeot 203.
1954-1956: The amphibious Jeep La Tortuga "drove" from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.
1955-1956: London to Singapore Overland (except for the Channel!) in 2×Land-Rovers.
1955: Suzuki's first car.
1955: The wonderful Goggomobil.
1955 December 5: The 8 mile Preston by-pass (part of the M6) opened – the UK's first stretch of motorway. The first stretch of the M1 opened on 2 November 1959 — AA.
1956: The Suez crisis; the canal was blocked until 1957.
1958: The first Formula 1 (F1) Constructors' Cup was won by Vanwall (uk).
1958: First Toyota LandCruisers imported into Australia.
1959: BMC Mini went on sale.
1959: Haflinger by Steyr-Daimler-Puch.
1960: A Jeep and a Land-Rover traversed the Darien Gap.
1960: Ford Falcon XK.
1960: The first British traffic wardens took up duty in September.
1961: Jaguar E-type unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show.
1961: Stirling Moss drove a Ferguson Project 99 (P99) with the Ferguson 4WD system to victory in the Oulton Park Gold-Cup race.
1963: A Rover-BRM gas-turbine car competed in the 1963 Le Mans 24-hour race.
1963:Chrysler built "50 identical [experimental] 1963 'Turbine Cars' – two-door Chrysler coupes painted in 'Turbine Bronze' livery. They were demonstrated to the public at the 1964 World's Fair." — SAE 3/2019.
1964, 17 July: Donald Campbell in Bluebird (4WD) raised the World Land Speed Record to 403mph at Lake Eyre, Australia.
1964: Porsche 911, it went on to become a classic.
1964: Mini Moke went on sale.
1965: VW bought Audi.
1965: Craig Breedlove in the jet car Spirit of America set a World Land Speed Record of 600.601mph (966.574km/h) — FIA.
1966: Victoria (.au) introduced a blood alcolhol limit of 0.05. (NSW 0.08 two years later.)
1966: The Jensen FF road car had Formula Ferguson 4WD and Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock brakes (ABS).
1967, January 4: Donald Campbell (1921-1967) was killed while attempting to raise the world water speed record to over 300mph on Coniston Water, uk.
1969: Ferrari joined the Fiat group.
1969, 20 July: The lunar module, Eagle, from Apollo 11 landed on the moon carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
1970: Range Rover released - luxury full-time 4WD.
1970, 20 November: Legislation for mandatory seat belts was introduced into the Victorian Parliament and soon passed — RACV.
1971: Lunar rover "car" on the moon in the Apollo 15 mission.
1971: Ford Falcon XY ute 4WD (.au).
1971-1972: British Trans-Americas Range Rover expedition. The Darien Gap was the most difficult section.
1973: In October OAPEC declared an oil embargo and the price went from us$3 to us$12/barrel by early 1974 – the first "oil shock" or crisis.
1974: Subaru Leone 4x4 car.
petrol au$0.21/l
1978 August: The .au Gvmt introduced import parity pricing for local oil and petrol reached au$0.21/litre [the Age p.5 1/1/2009] – $0.95 per (imperial) gallon.
1979: Second oil shock or crisis as Iranian production fell following the Iranian revolution.
1979: AMC produced the Eagle 4x4 car.
1981: The specifications for the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) was issued; later known as the Humvee or Hummer.
1981: Audi revolutionized rallying with the Quattro 4WD rally car.
1981: Porsche showed the Porsche 911 AWD concept car at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
1983, January 31: The UK made the use of seat belts, in front seats, compulsory. (Seat belts had been fitted to cars for decades, and compulsorily so since 1968.)
1983: Land-Rover 110, coil-sprung, full-time 4WD.
1983: Richard Noble, driving the jet car Thrust2, raised the World Land Speed Record to 1019.47km/h (633.468mph), Black Rock Desert, 4/10/83 [NT98].
1984: A Porsche 911 AWD won the Paris Dakar rally.
1986: Porsche 959 AWDs finished 1, 2 and 6 in the Paris Dakar rally.
1986, October: The 117 mile M25 (London Orbital) was completed; the 1st section was opened in 1975.
1991: The Mazda 787B became the first, and only, rotary-engined (Wankel) car to win the Le Mans 24-hour race.
1992: McLaren F1 rewrote the super-car rule book.
1993: Maserati was bought by Fiat from de Tomaso.
1994: BMW bought Rover Group from BAe.
1996: Lotus was taken over by Proton.
1996: The new Jeep Wrangler got coil springs.
1997: Thrust SSC, driven by Andy Green, broke the sound barrier and raised the World Land Speed Record to 1227.985kph (763.035mph), Mach 1.0175 under the prevailing conditions [NT98].
1998: Bentley bought by VW. Is nothing sacred? BMW pulled a swifty and bought the Rolls Royce name (for cars).
1998: Bugatti name bought by VW.
1998: Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz merged to form DaimlerChrysler (splitting up again in 2007).
1999: Volvo cars sold to Ford.
2000: BMW sold LandRover to Ford, and MG - Rover to Phoenix (soon to crash and burn).
2001: BMW put the retro. new Mini on sale in Europe (.au in 2002).
2001 July: Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars announced details of the last Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph model to commemorate 97 years of Rolls-Royce cars; production ends with 2001. VW continued to build Bentleys but future Rolls Royces were to be built at BMW's new factory.
2002: Rolls-Royce became pure BMW, and Bentley pure Volkswagen.
ULP au$1.00 to $1.70/l
2008: Crude oil rose as high as us$147/barrel in July before falling to the us$30s at year's end as the global financial crisis (GFC) bit.
2008: Needing cash, Ford sold Jaguar and LandRover to Tata of India.
2009, January 29: The Skycar, a "buggy" fitted with a parafoil wing, flew the Straits of Gibraltar en route from Paris to Tombouctou (Timbuktu).
2009: General Motors (GM) and Chrysler passed into bankruptcy and were restructured, the latter forming an alliance with Fiat. VW and Porsche began a merger.
2009, August 25 & 26: The British Steam Car raised the Land Speed Record for a steam powered car to 139.843mph and 148.308mph over the measured mile and kilometer respectively. (See 1906.)
2010, August 24: The Venturi Buckeye Bullet 2.5 streamliner (Ohio State Univ., Venturi Automobile), driven by Roger Schroer, set a Land Speed Record for a battery powered electric vehicle of 495.526 km/h (307.905mph) for 1km, 495.140 km/h (307.666mph) for 1 mile — FIA (A.8.3).
2014: Formula 1 moved on from 2.4-litre V8 engines to 1.6-litre turbo-charged V6s.
2017, October 20: Mass production of cars in Australia ended when GM Holden closed its Elizabeth production line. Toyota had closed its Altona factory on 3 October 2017, and Ford on 7 October 2016.
2018, August: The population of Australia reached, and passed, 25,000,000.
2021: Algeria, the last country to do so, stopped selling leaded petrol; see 30 Aug. 2021.
2022: The UN estimated that the world's population passed 8 billion in mid-November.
2024, January: It was estimated that the population of Australia reached 27 million.
[Bar72] L. Barzini, Peking to Paris, Alcove Press, 1972, edited and reprinted from the 1907 original.
[Geo00] N. Georgano (ed), The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile (2 vols.), The Stationary Office, London, 2000.
[Hop71] K. B. Hopfinger, The Volkswagen Story, G.T.Foulis & co., 1971.
[NT98] R. Noble & D. Tremayne, THRUST Through the Sound Barrier, Partridge 1998.
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