Cars have become one of the symbols of the contemporary world. This method of transportation makes a person’s journey to the workplace or the store shorter and more convenient. They seem inseparable from modern life. However, though it is a relatively new invention on a grand historical scale, the story of this type of transportation is filled with many memorable events and famous names.
The history of cars began with the early years of the age of steam. Their distant ancestors could be found in the late nineteenth century. Between 1765 and 1771, French inventor Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot developed the first steam-powered vehicle that was supposed to aid the French army in the transportation of heavy weaponry. Though the project was destined to be a short-lived one, Cugnot’s invention could be considered the ancestor of cars and self-propelled war machines. Another early pioneer was Richard Trevithick who built the first British steam car in 1801. Throughout the nineteenth century other inventors tried out their models on the roads of industrialising nations. In the eyes of a modern driver the cars of that period would look like contraptions taken out a work of steampunk fiction: from horseless carriages with attached boilers to road-traversing locomotives. The sources of fuel were also diverse: steam, hydrogen, electricity. Siegfried Marcus was the first to power a car with gasoline in 1870, which became the primary car fuel in early twentieth century.
Throughout most of the nineteenth century cars were mainly used by their own inventors and eccentrics. However, this changed in 1888 when Karl Benz, the creator of the petrol engine, and his new company began selling cars en masse. The period from last years of the nineteenth century to the First World War became central in car history. Many giants of the industry appeared in those years including Ford, Cadillac, and FIAT. Other companies, like Volkswagen and Toyota, arose in the 1930s after the bankruptcy of a number of earlier companies during the Great Depression.
Cars went through a design evolution throughout the last century. The carriage-resembling automobiles of the Victorian and Edwardian period were replaced by the vintage cars of the 1920s and 1930s; later came the time of station wagons. The 1960s saw the debut of the Chevrolet, Ford Mustang, and Toyota among others.
The exterior and interior of cars have evolved dramatically since the nineteenth century; new types of engines and other equipment have been invented. The cars of old have made their way to museums and now tell everybody the long story of vehicles.