Car History 4U

History of Motor Car / Automobile Manufacturers

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7.1 Early Steam Powered Car Manufacturers

    • 1851 - United States: The American Steam Carriage Co. was founded; possibly the first steam driven carriage manufacturer in the USA.
    • 1897 to 1924 - United States: The “Stanley Steamer” was manufactured by Francis and Freeland Stanley.
    • It was the best selling steam car ever produced.
    • In 1902 Francis and Freeland established the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, selling their  interests to Prescott Warren in 1917.
    • 1899 to about 1904 - United States: The Locomobile Company manufactured several thousand steam powered “Runabout” models.

7.2 Early Electric Powered Car Manufacturers

    • 1894 - United States: America's first car factory was opened by Henry G. Morris and Pedro Salom. It started by building “Electrobat” electric cars.
    • 1896 - United States: The Woods Motor Vehicle Company started to manufacture electric powered cars.
    • 1898 - Spain: Emilio de la Cuadra started to produce electric powered cars in Barcelona under the name “La Cuadra”.
    • 1900 to 1903 - Canada: Canadian Motors Limited produced a small two-seater electric powered car called the "Motette".
    • 1901 - France: The French car manufacturer De Dion-Bouton produced a small number of electric cars.
    • 1902 - United States: Henry and Clem Studebaker produced their first electric powered car. Note: By 1908-1909 they had switched to fitting internal combustion engines to their vehicles.

7.3 Early Petrol Powered Car Manufacturers

    • 1888 - Germany: Benz went into production and built about twenty-five vehicles up to 1892.

    • In 1894 he began mass production of the “Viktoria” and “Velo” cars. By 1895 his company, Benz & Cie., which he founded in 1871, had sold 1,132 vehicles.

      Benz Velo - 1894

      Velo - 1894

      Benz Velo - 1898

      Velo presentation in London - 1898

    • 1890 - Germany: Gottlieb Daimler formed “Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft” (Daimler Motors Company), with the original purpose of building engines.

    • Daimler sold his first car in 1892 and by 1895 some 30 vehicles had been produced.

    • During the 1890s he sold licenses for design, use of the Daimler name and patents in a number of countries.

    • To overcome certain legal problems selling Daimler cars in France, Emil Jellinek, a Daimler distributer, offered to place a large order if Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft made a car for him bearing his daughter's name “Mercedes”.

    • These cars proved enormously popular and in 1902 Daimler (Germany), to avoid any further confusion and licensing troubles, adopted the name Mercedes for their cars.

    • In 1926 Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft merged with Karl Benz’s “Benz & Cie” to form the Daimler-Benz car company which built Mercedes-Benz cars (and trucks).

    • 1890 - France: The French “Panhard et Levassor” car manufacturing company, which was founded the previous year, produced their first car which was fitted with a Daimler engine.

      Panard et Levassor - 1890-95

    • The four-wheeled “Systeme” Panhard model they produced in 1895 was possibly the first car fitted with a sliding gear transmission.

    • It was also the first car with a front-mounted engine and a rear-wheel drive – an installation that became known as the “FR Layout”.  

    • 1890 - France: Armand Peugeot started manufacturing four-wheeled cars that were powered by a Daimler petrol fuelled engine, producing 4 cars in that year.  In 1891 he produced sixty-five Type 3 & 4 models.

    • The first Peugeot designed engine was produced in 1896. The 8 hp (6 kW) engine was fitted at the rear of the 1897 Type 15 model.

    • In the 1890s Peugeot produced 24 different models; Types 2 to 29 (Types 13, 20, 22, & 23 were not cars).

    • Note: In 1889 one Serpollet-Peugeot car was made, which probably explains why the first Peugeot Type was  #2.

    • Annual production volume varied from three Type 10 (1894), two Type 12 (1895) and two Type 25 (1898) to 419 Type 26 (1899 to 1902) and several hundred Type 15 4-seater Phaeton models (1897 to 1901).

    • Around this time Peugeot became the first manufacturer to fit (solid) rubber tires to a petrol powered car. What model, what year?

    • The first Peugeot car to be fitted with a steering wheel was the 1901 Type 36 model.

    • In 1902 the company moved the engine to the front of the Type 48 model.

    • By 1903 half of all the cars built in France were produced by Armand Peugeot’s “S.S. des Automobiles Peugeot” company.

    • For further information see Part 2, The Last 100 Years, Section 8.5.3.

    • 1893 - Britain: The UK patent rights to the Gottlieb Daimler's engine were purchased by Frederick Simms, who formed a new company, the "Daimler Motor Syndicate".

    • In 1896 Simms and Harry Lawson moved into car production under the name "Daimler Motor Company".

    • The licence granted to the Daimler Motor Company included the right to use the Daimler name in Great Britain.

    • Daimler became the official mode of transportation of British royalty in 1898.

      Daimler - 1898

    • In 1908 the company acquired a licence to build and fit engines designed by J H Knight into its motor cars.

    • 1895 - Britain: Frederick, Frank and George Lanchester formed the “Lanchester Motor Company”.

    • In the same year the company built the first British four-wheeled motor car powered by a petrol fuelled internal combustion engine.

      Lanchester - 1895

    • 1896 – United States: The Duryea Motor Wagon Company produced the United States first production car. All 13 cars produced by the company were produced in 1896.

    • In about 1898 the brothers sold the original company. Frank went on to produce the Stevens-Duryea car and Charles produced Duryea vehicles up to 1917.

    • 1896 to about 1899 - France: Leon Bollee sold several hundred of his three-wheeled “Voiturette” cars. In 1899 he introduced a four-wheeled car that had independent suspension.


    • By 1911 he was making 600 cars a year.

    • 1897 - Austria: A company called Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft produced a car called the the Präsident. The company later became better known as Tatra.

      Tatra Prasident - 1897

    • The design was based on a Benz car and about twelve were made. In 1900 the company produced the 2,714 cc Type A model, a car with a top speed of 40 kph (25 mph). A total of 22 were made.

    • The Type A was followed by the Type B in 1902 and the 3,308 cc Type S in about 1905.

    • Note: In 1918, when the Austrian borders were redrawn after World War 1, the company found itself located in Czechoslovakia.

    • 1897 United States: The Olds Motor Vehicle Company was formed. In 1899 the name was changed to the Olds Motor Works and shortly afterwards, in about 1901, Olds started the world’s first car production line.

    • From 1901 to 1905 over 18,500 “Curved Dash” Oldsmobiles were produced: a car with a 1,565 cc engine and a top speed of 32 kph (20 mph).

      Oldsmobile Curved Dash - 1904

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    • 1898 - Japan: A Panhard-Levassor is thought to have been the first car to be introduced into Japan.

      Panhard Velassor, Japan - 1898

    • 1898Holland: Jacobus and Hendrik-Jan Spijker started building carriages in 1886 and in late 1898 produced a Benz car under licence called “Spijker-Benz.  

    • By 1900 they had produced two two-cylinder models, of 3 and 5 hp.

    • In 1903 the company introduced their first four and six-cylinder models, including the 8,821 cc 60/80 hp model.

    • The 60/80 hp model was the first car in the world fitted with a 6-cylinder engine and permanent all-wheel drive. Note: This car can be seen at the Nationaal Automobiel Museum. See Car Museums Section (Holland).

    • Spyker cars, with their characteristic circular radiators, became known as “the Rolls Royce of the continent”. In 1903 the company changed its name from Spijker to Spyker.

    • In 1907 a four-cylinder, 2,544 cc Spyker 14/18 hp tourer model came second of only 3 cars to finish in the demanding 10,000 mile (16,000 km) Peking to Paris race. See Part 2, The Last 100 Years, Section 8.8.1 (Spyker) for further information.

    • 1898 - France:  The Renault Type A Voiturette (“Little Car”) was launched on Louis Renault’s 21st birthday and remained in production until 1903. Is that 1903 date true?

      Renault Type D, Series B Voiturette - 1901

    • The early Type A’s had a 1 litre, 1 hp engine and a top speed of 35 kph (22 mph). Later Type A’s were fitted with a 270 cc De Dion, 1.75 hp engine and had a top speed of 45 kph (28 mph). 

    • In 1899 the Renault brothers, Louis, Marcel and Fernand, along with Thomas Evert, formed the “Société Renault Frères”.

    • Between 1899 and 1903 seven more Voiturette models were produced; Types B, C, D, E, G, H & J.

    • The 450 cc, 3 hp Type B (1899) had two doors and a roof. Was it the world’s first sedan car?

    • The Type C (1900) was Renault’s first 4-seater car.

    • The very first Renault engine was built in 1902. It was a 3,750 cc 4-cylinder engine of 20-30 hp and was fitted to the Type H/J models.

    • In 1903 and 1904 some 7 new models were introduced: Types L, M, N, R, S, T and U. See Part 2, The Last 100 Years, Section 8.5.4.

    • Late 1890s - Germany: By the end of the 19th century Benz & Cie. was the world's largest car manufacturer.

    • 1900 - Italy: Fiat opened their first factory in Turin and employed 150 people. In that first year they produced 24 cars. By 1910 Fiat was the largest car company in Italy.

    • 1900 - Italy: Cesare Isotta and Oreste Fraschini founded a company called “Società Milanese Automobili Isotta, Fraschini & C.”

    • The first car “Isotta-Fraschini” built was fitted with a four-cylinder, 24 hp petrol powered engine.

    • The company initially started out producing racing cars, fitting a 100 hp engine to one of its cars in 1905.

    • In the 1920s “Isotta-Fraschini” deluxe limousines were being purchased by the rich and famous.

      Isotta-Frashine Tipo 8 Sala Phaeton - circa 1920

      Tipo 8 Sala Phaeton - circa 1920

    • 1900 - Britain: The Lanchester Motor Company started production. In 1930 the company was acquired by the British Daimler Motor Company.

    • 1900 - France: The French car manufacturer De Dion-Bouton was the largest automobile manufacturer in the world, manufacturing 400 cars and 3,200 engines that year. In the same year the company opened a factory in America.

    • 1901 - Austria: Johann Puch started to produce car engines, followed by cars in 1904. In 1906 he produced a two-cylinder “Puch Voiturette”.

    • In 1909 one of his cars achieved a world speed record of 130 kph (82 mph).

    • 1903 - Holland: The Eysink cars were produced from 1903 to 1919.

    • The Eysink brothers built their first car in 1897, making about 10 cars prior to actually going into  production.

    • Just over 300 cars were manufactured, including 10/12 hp, 16/20 hp,  20/30 hp and the 30/40 hp models. A model called the “Bebe” was also produced from 1912 to 1919.

    • Other early Dutch cars include the “Aarts” (1899), which was then advertised as “Neerlandia, the first Dutch Car”, the “Van Gink“ (1899 to about 1903), the “Altena” (1900-06) of which 40-50 were  produced,  and the “Bij 't Vuur” (1901-06).

    • 1903 - United States: Henry Ford formed the Ford Motor Company .

    • In 1908 he started production of the famous “Model T” (the “Tin Lizzie”).

      1923 Model T Ford   

      Model T - 1923

    • For Information on the history of the Model T Ford, see Part 2, The Last 100 Years, Section 9.3.

    • 1903 to 1905 - United States: Oldsmobile was the largest motor car manufacturer in the world.

    • 1904: The USA started to produce more cars than France.
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