Most of us think of Henry Ford and the Model T when we think of the earliest automobile. But Henry Ford didn’t invent the first car. When was the first car made and who made it? The first car has European roots…Germany is, in fact, where the first car was born.
The year was 1886 and the inventor was Karl Benz, although the Library of Congress infers that credit to the first inventor might be up for debate. Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th century was drawing these types of vehicles, and he could technically be hailed as the inventor.
When we think of cars, though, we usually imagine the gas engine. This is where Benz comes into the picture. Although earlier models ran on electric or steam, Benz created the gas-powered engine, and he holds immortal influence on the automotive industry. Daimler Global lists Benz on its page “Founders & Pioneers” alongside other notable names like Wilhelm Maybach and Gottlieb Daimler. It should be noted, though, that Maybach and Daimler created the first four-wheeled gas-powered auto (Benz’s rode on three wheels!). Benz and Maybach also both have cars that bear their namesake–Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-Maybach.
When Was the First Car Made In the U.S.?
The first car that ran on a gas engine is credited to Benz. However, one major name is associated with the auto industry in the U.S.: Henry Ford. Why was Ford so significant? He created Model T, the assembly line method that became the standard in the industry and was the founder of the Ford Motor Company!
The Model T was the first affordable car (still expensive, though!); this was the car that really made the automobile mainstream. Everyone soon owned a car, and this made journeys so much easier! Of course, to accommodate all the new drivers (and cars), highways paved the way between towns and cities. History notes that the now popular car propelled the need for “the numbered highway system”.
When Were Cars Invented?
Yes, the gas-powered car was technically invented in the 19th century, but the idea of a car was conceived much earlier. Leonardo da Vinci actually created a car prototype of sorts. He conceived a flying machine, too!
Of course, da Vinci was most known for being the brush behind the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and other works of art. He was also a scientist, an architect, and an inventor and is the inspiration for the term “Renaissance Man”. Still, if the Library of Congress notes that a debate might exist regarding laying claim to “who invented the car”, then da Vinci cannot be left out of the conversation!
When Was the Car Made to Run on Electric?
If you assume that our sleek and expensive electric cars are something new, think again. Before there was the gas engine, cars were running on electricity. However, the electric car was in no way a street norm when it was first invented by Robert Anderson in the 1830s.
It’s amazing that the electric car was invented before the gas-powered car, and, yet, gas engines have dominated the market since the earliest days. Now electric cars are paving the way for a more sustainable automobile. Although the options for electric cars are vast now, most of us are still driving around in gas-powered engines. According to Edmunds, “The Ford F-150 has been the best-selling truck (and vehicle) in the United States for more than 40 years.”
When Was the First Car Made that Was Fueled by Steam?
After Leo’s prototype of the car and before the electric and gas cars were invented, a car was built to be powered by steam. Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot invented the steam car in 1769 France. According to the Linda Hall Library, the automobile was created to carry cannons and “could reputedly move at a little over 2 miles per hour, but it needed to be refueled with wood every 15 minutes, for which the fardier had to come to a complete stop.” Needless is to say that the cumbersome design was not a success.
While the idea for a steam car sounded promising, it wasn’t meant to be. However, the steam engine was a success on the railways…and factories, too! However, Cugnot was not the inventor of the steam engine; the earliest origins of the steam engine actually might date back to ancient Greece!
Cars in the 20th Century and the New Millennium!
The Model T paved the way (pretty much literally!) for the automobile industry in the U.S. and beyond. After Ford, though, what were some of the major milestones related to the growing industry? Really, there are so many milestones that it’s impossible to list them all. After the Model T and after Ford Motor Company, many other automobile manufacturers hit the scene. Americans and everyone in the world became inundated with automobiles.
Today, you can find a car in nearly any price range. From luxury to economy, there really is a car for everyone. Many car aficionados probably have a favorite make and model, and even for car novices, there are models that make us do a double-take. Who doesn’t glance back when a Lamborghini sweeps down the highway? Or a Ferrari?
There are also cars that hit the market that remain icons for other reasons. Some are cemented in pop culture history for their ties to movies or songs. The Delorean is now an iconic time machine. The Gremlin? That car hit the streets way before the crazy creatures hit the screen. Painted buses with an iconic logo are associated with the 60s, Woodstock, hippies, and peace. Beetles aren’t just bugs. And Tesla, while he never got the respect he deserved for his electrical genius, is now famous in another way.
Through the decades, the generations and, for nearly more than a century, cars have been a part of our daily lives. They adapted as technology changed; once offering cigarette lighters and ashtrays, tape decks and CD players, they now hold ports for smartphones and have cameras to help us park. While the car’s history is fueled by gas, electric and steam, we can only wonder what the future holds.