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Automobile Information

The early roots of the modern automobile can be traced back to 1769 when the first self-propelled road vehicle was invented by Nicolas Joseph Cugnot of France. Later, in 1823, English engineer Samuel Brown invented a type of internal combustion engine that successfully powered a vehicle. In 1879, George Selden, an American lawyer, patented a "road locomotive" with "non-animal traction", although he never went on to actually invent such a machine. However, his patent effectively blocked inventors from later making the same claim, and they were forced to patent one piece of the automobile at a time. This overarching claim allowed Selden to receive royalties for all American-built vehicles until Henry Ford took him to court and had the patent declared worthless.

white car illustration
White Automobile

By 1900, automobile development was led by German engineering and the French company De Dion and Bouton, who was turning out more than 50 makes of cars with single-cylinder gas engines. Early drivers relied on dangerous oil lamps or acetylene gas lamps for night driving, but in 1908, a British company introduced the first complete electrical system including headlights, sidelights, and taillights.

Modern Sports Sedan - Blue Automobile

The turn of the century in America brought automobiles that were primarily powered by steam or electricity; Ransom Olds' Curved Dash was one of the first single-cylinder gas-powered automobiles to debut in the USA. In 1903, Cadillac began selling automobiles with fully interchangeable parts, and in 1908 the now-famous Model-T Ford debuted. Henry Ford constructed a conveyor belt in 1913 to ease mass production and the millionth Model-T Ford was produced just two years later!

Post World War II, the development of the automobile accelerated. Air conditioning was first used in 1939, and power-steering and automatic gear-changing technologies provided increased convenience for drivers. 1949 saw the production of more efficient fuels, and aluminum alloys in the 1950s reduced engine weight and increased durability. Eventually, environmental concerns prompted General Motors to develop a catalytic converter that treated emissions. The first seat belt was introduced by Volvo in 1963, and later became standard. Airbags were developed in the 1970s and became standard in certain makes and models as early as 1981. Computerized control systems started to take over and became increasingly advanced. Early in the 21st century, pollution and economic concerns regarding gasoline prices prompted many car manufacturers to begin shifting focus toward the development of hybrid vehicles and electric cars.

The automobile is an invention that most of us use every day to commute to work, school, the grocery store, or almost anywhere we need to go. No matter how many evolutions the automobile sees in our time, it is truly an invention that is indispensable in our modern society.

Automobile-related organizations include the Global Automakers Association, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the National Automobile Dealer Association, and the American Automobile Association, as well as other, more specialized or localized, automotive organizations.

The following links include page titles and summaries for reference articles and captioned images about automobiles and automotive themes.

  • Car Leasing
    Leasing a car is a popular alternative to taking out an auto loan. Learn about the pros and cons of leasing a car and find links to popular automobile manufacturers.
  • Auto Insurance Quotes
    Comparing auto insurance quotes can help you save money but can be a time-consuming process. Learn about how you can quickly and easily find reliable auto insurance quotes.
  • Automobile Manufacturing Plant (Photograph)
    The interior of a busy auto manufacturing plant highlights the many pieces of machinery that go into making an automobile. A worker wearing a hardhat sits at a welding station. To his left is the metal shell of an unfinished automobile.
  • Chrome Air Cleaner (Photograph)
    An auto air filter is visible in the chrome, red, and black interior of this V8 engine. When the engine roars to life, dirt and debris from the air are trapped in the air cleaner, improving the longevity and performance of the engine.
  • Automobile Taillights (Photograph)
    An online auto parts store is the perfect place to find accessories for your custom car, like this 1950's classic with fins. Online automotive stores often carry tail lights and other parts for vehicles of a very specific make, model and year.
  • Bicycle Roof Rack (Photograph)
    Car-mounted bicycle racks may be fastened to the trailer hitch, strapped to the rear of the car, or mounted to the roof. Roof-mounted racks may be used to transport bicycles as well as luggage, skies, kayaks, canoes, and other recreational equipment.
  • Car Rims (Photograph)
    Rims are a necessary component of any car, but they can also enhance the look of the vehicle. Many car owners choose to upgrade their stock car rims for a more customized style. The photo shows a simple polished seven spoke rim.
  • Garage Storage (Photograph)
    Many garages quickly become full of tools, bicycles, lawn equipment, and more. However, when proper garage storage is used, there will be space in the garage for one car or more! Many garages have attic space that can be used for further storage.
  • Restored Antique Car (Photograph)
    Creating custom hotrods is a popular hobby for many people. This custom red 1930's Ford hotrod has been restored and upgraded to showcase at custom car shows.

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