Motoring had been demonstrated as a practical possibility as early as 1890, but not until 1900 was the motor car a serious challenger in the world of mechanical transport. The period of experiment then gave place to the period of improvement
DARRACQ CAR built in 1898. This car had a tubular chassis frame which resembled, in shape, the chassis of many modern cars. The driver and passenger sat facing each other, only the driver’s seat being sprung. Several of the engine controls were grouped at the top of the steering column, thus foreshadowing another feature of the modern car.
EUROPEAN tradition almost invariably credits Benz, Daimler and Maybach with being the real inventors of the motor car, and extends a proportion of gratitude to Butler for his experiments of 1888-
This came from an American inventor, George Selden. He held a patent for a motor car, which he had taken out in 1895. This patent had first been applied, for as far back as 1879. There was no doubt about the early application. Being an astute business man, Selden had deliberately and successfully delayed the filing of the patent for sixteen years, waiting until a real demand for motor cars justified it.
Selden’s design of 1879 contained most of the basic features thought out independently by Benz and Daimler. His engine incorporated the essential features of their engines, his transmission was by gears, and his car was fully equipped with clutch and differential. If the original patent had been taken out at the end of the 1870s, it would have expired too soon to benefit Selden’s pocket. As it was, motoring was beginning to boom when Selden went into action.
Selden found an able ally in George Day, President of the Electrical Vehicle Company, who acquired a controlling interest in the patents on terms exceedingly satisfactory to Selden. Day then enforced the rights of royalties on all cars manufactured in the United States, and good business was done. Although Selden is hailed as the original inventor of the motor car by many Americans, he has probably not received nearly the amount of credit he deserved.
Another American, George Brayton, is said to have produced an engine in 1852 and to have used it on a tramway car in Providence, R.I., in 1872. Samuel Morey, also of America, is reported to have experimented with a form of petrol engine in 1826 and to have driven a boat with it. In 1829 he intended to fit it to a carriage.
All details of these early inventors, however, are extremely vague, whereas the clear-
By 1890 Benz and Daimler, between them, had shown the world that motoring was a practical possibility, but the cars were still exceedingly crude. By 1900, however, the motor car was a serious challenger in the world of mechanical transport. An 1898 Daimler may look crude and antique at first glance, but when it is compared with an 1890 Daimler it is obvious that the later model provides a direct line of descent to the modern car. The four-
Designers during the 1890s produced many different arrangements before that of the Daimler became general, and some weird and wonderful cars appeared on the roads of France, Germany and Great Britain. Moreover, some of them put up astonishingly good performances, considering their period and peculiarities. In 1890 the car was still an experiment; by 1900 there was no doubt that the car had come to stay. The period of experiment had at last given place to the period of improvement. The eighteen-
Highway Act Repealed
By 1895 the provisions of the Highway Act were obviously out of date. The pioneer motorist plodded patiently along at a walking pace, with his enforced standard bearer trudging along in front with the red flag. Sometimes the pioneer was not so obedient. T. R. B. Elliot, in Scotland during 1895, used his car in a perfectly normal fashion, and, as he recorded, “the Roxburghshire police undertook not to prosecute — unless a complaint was received from any of the public”. Another pioneer owner-
Among the early motoring engineers who made history between 1890 and 1900 were many who were destined to become famous in after years. There was F. W. Lanchester, who built his first car in 1896. There were the Count de Dion and M. Charles Bouton, who made a spectacular changeover from steam to petrol propulsion. There were Henry (later Sir Henry) Royce and the Hon. C. S. Rolls, who was fated to become an early martyr to the cause of aviation.
Leon Bollee had begun to build steam cars as far back as 1873, and in the late 1880s de Dion, Bouton and Serpollet also built steam cars. All these men turned their attention to the petrol car in after years. French ingenuity was well to the fore after the initial experiments in Germany.
BOLLEE MOTOR TRICYCLE, built in 1896. The rear wheel was mounted on swinging bearings and was driven by a flat belt. The singlecylinder engine was mounted on the left side of the frame and the crankshaft carried three spur wheels of different diameters. In front of this was the shaft which carried the belt pulley, and on this shaft was a sliding sleeve with three more spur wheels. The sleeve was moved laterally to engage one of the three gears.
Daimler’s patents were taken up in France by MM. Panhard and Levassor, and a Daimler car was built by them in 1894. It was driven by a two-
The engine was placed in front, on the car’s centre line, as in modern practice, and it engaged with a longitudinal driving shaft through a friction clutch. Above this shaft was another, and this upper shaft operated, through bevel gears, the sprocket wheels, whence motion was imparted to the rear wheels through chains. The rear wheels ran loose on their axle, the chain sprockets being bolted to their spokes. On the countershaft was a band brake, pedal-
The wheels of this Panhard and Levassor car were of wood, and the body was built up of wood and iron, the engine and transmission being supported by an auxiliary iron frame, the whole bolted firmly together. Underneath the frame was a silencer through which the exhaust fumes were discharged into the atmosphere. Though the general arrangement was that of the modern car, the vehicle preserved much of the appearance of Daimler’s first effort. The wheels were those of a small victoria or chaise. It was acquired by the Hon. Evelyn Ellis, one of the keenest British motor pioneers, and was used by him for some time in France. In June 1895 he introduced it to the English roads.
It was in the momentous year of 1894, when Panhard and Levassor built this car (which is now at the Science Museum, South Kensington), that the Count de Dion called a famous conference at his house in France. All the great French motoring pioneers were there, and they decided that in the following year a great road race was to take place between Paris and Bordeaux, in both directions. The distance was 732 miles; so this was indeed an ambitious beginning.
First Great Road Race
The race began at midday on June 11, 1895, the starting point being at Versailles. De Dion-
This race demonstrated two things. It showed that long-
ONE OF THE EARLIEST DAIMLERS, made in the works at Cannstatt, Germany, in 1895. The engine was mounted vertically at the rear, and the body was mounted on the chassis through helical springs. Metal wheels with solid rubber tyres were provided and the final drive was applied to the rear wheels by a countershaft which engaged with gear wheels bolted to the spokes.
Out of the committee convened by de Dion grew the French Automobile Club, the membership of which increased in its first three and a half years from fifty to nearly 2,000. On September 4, 1896, the Club organized a race from Paris to Marseilles and back, the course being 1,077 miles in length. Twenty-
The winner of the Paris-
Enterprise in Great Britain
About this time, Roots and Venables set to work in England to produce a car which could run on heavier oil such as paraffin. Roots had patented a suitable engine in 1891 and 1892, and the car appeared in 1895. It was a three-
The single wheel was in front and served to guide the car, steering being accomplished by means of the old-
The efforts of the Hon. Evelyn Ellis, Sir David Salomons, the Hon. C. S. Rolls and others, all of whom defied the obsolete law by driving without red flags before 1896, did much to further the cause of motoring in England, and T. R. B. Elliot did similar work in Scotland. Though French and German cars still predominated, well-
F. W. Lanchester designed and built his first car during 1895 and 1896, and two-
An excellent example of a really modern car, judged by the standards prevailing at the end of the 1890s, is the 1898 Daimler mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. It was the first car to be built by the still famous British Daimler Company at Coventry. Its four water-
1,377 Miles at 30.8 Miles an Hour
Both axles in the 1898 Daimler were equipped with semi-
MODERN IN APPEARANCE, by comparison with its predecessors, the 1898 British Daimler included many features that were years ahead of their time. Both axles were equipped with semi-