From Flintstones to Tesla: A Brief Lesson on The Evolution of Automobiles

From Flintstones to Tesla: A Brief Lesson on The Evolution of Automobiles
| By: Christian Brothers Automotive

When you think about the oldest car, what comes to mind? You’ll most likely think of The Flintmobile, Fred Flintstone’s car from the cartoon The Flintstones. This prehistoric car was powered by man’s original mode of transportation: two feet.  

While the Flintstone car isn’t really how our BC ancestors traveled to the bowling alley after work and obviously wasn’t the world’s first car as far as we know, what was?

Today, the automotive experts at Christian Brothers Automotive break down the evolution of the automobile, what inspired the first early creations, and how we went from horse-drawn carts to self-driving, battery-powered vehicles.

The World Before Powered Vehicles: Steam-Powered Dreams

Before the automobile and The Flintstones, people traveled mainly by foot, horses, horse-drawn carriages, carts, and the occasional bicycle. This was until Richard Trevithick changed the course of history forever.

In 1801, focusing the majority of his time on steam power machines, Trevithick found himself demonstrating his “Puffing Devil,” the first steam-powered passenger vehicle. This steam-powered, for lack of a better word, car used a high-pressure engine that could be adapted to virtually any type of situation, including mining, farming, and other vehicles. Only three years later, in 1804, Trevithick built the first-ever steam locomotive.

Word spread quickly. The train completely revolutionized how our country transported goods and supplies from one state to another. This helped secure our nation’s defenses at home and spread the industrial revolution across all parts of the world, motivating a whole generation to explore new ways to travel and power passenger vehicles. Sooner than later, people began talking about some folks working on a horseless carriage. Sound familiar?

Carl Benz’s Motorwagen

In Germany, Karl Benz worked on the world’s first passenger vehicle powered by a gasoline engine. While it only had three wheels, the Benz Patent Motorwagen was the first incarnation of the automobile we know today.  

After three different tweaked versions of the Motorwagen, Benz reached an underwhelming but impressive at the time, 10 miles per hour. It wasn’t made of much, but it served to be enough for Benz’s wife, Bertha, and sons taking it for a road trip to her hometown as a publicity stunt. As if the invention of the automobile wasn’t enough.

This invention inspired inventors to turn to the drawing board, looking to develop their version of the passenger vehicle powered by the next best thing. Some of the ideas at the time were diesel, wind, more steam, and even electricity.

Ford & His Model T

While Ransom Eli Olds, the creator of the famous Oldsmobile, Karl Benz, and a few other figures were influential in the creation of the automobile, no one is as famous and widely accepted as the king of cars: Henry Ford, the creator of the Model T. Competing with over 100 newly established automotive manufacturers, Henry helped the craze of automobiles reach all new heights with the T and his unique method of assembly.  

In 1908, the Model T was released and quickly gained popularity with Americans. By the end of the first week, the public placed more than 15,000 orders. This everyman car was affordable, durable, easy to maintain, and offered the ultimate convenience for the urban dweller.

Between 1908 and 1927 alone, Ford was able to crank out more than 15 million vehicles. How? The assembly line! Ford’s assembly line reduced the average production time of 12 hours to only one hour and 33 minutes. Since then, the Model T has been named the most influential car of the 20th century.

The Post Model T Era

As time went on, the Model T adjusted different parts of its make, such as moving the steering wheel to the left side. It continued production until 1927, when American’s decided they wanted more style in their ride. It turns out that the old-fashioned Tin Lizzie wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Cars were everywhere. This newfound popularity presented a challenge to manufacturers: Since transportation was no longer a luxury, what could be? The vehicle, of course! Thus, more artistically driven, stylized, and high-class cars were created, with early players like Cadillac, Duesenberg, and Bugatti. In the decades that followed, both manufacturers and consumers were mainly concerned with the look of the vehicle they were driving.

The 1970s & Beyond

After a few decades, the Volkswagen bug bypassed the Model T as the bestselling vehicle ever. While the Toyota Corolla has since beaten both of these records, this highlighted a shift in style and another big turning point of the evolution of the automobile.

The car became a staple of America’s pop culture and has shaped the world we live in today. And with the creation of muscle cars in the 70s, minivans in the 80s, SUVs in the 90s, and trucks in the early 2000s, the 2010s have seen fuel-efficient and battery-powered vehicles.

To Infinity & Beyond

While we’ve never seen the feet-powered car from The Flintstones or the flying cars from The Jetsons, the cars of the past are on their way out. The car of the future is here. Battery-powered vehicles and hybrids are the new normal. From the Tesla to the Prius, a lot has changed.

The Evolution of Auto Maintenance

With so many advancements, one constant has stayed the same since the beginning: A need for reliable and quality auto maintenance. Cars have hundreds, if not thousands, of moving parts that require regular inspections, maintenance, and repairs. The history of auto mechanics is a whole different story, but safe to say – auto maintenance has evolved to fit the needs of new vehicles as each decade enters our rearview mirror.

Regardless of the vehicle you drive, whether it’s a classic or a brand new model with the latest bells and whistles, having a local auto mechanic to turn to is critical. At Christian Brothers Automotive, our team is available for you to complete the routine service you need to keep your car safe and efficient and the repairs when it’s not.

Ready to get started? Locate your nearest CBA auto shop and schedule a visit now.

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