VictoriaCars - Automotive History 1908-1939 (Early Mass-Production Era)
1908 - The Ford Model T was introduced with a 4-cylinder, 20 hp air-cooled engine, with two forward speeds & a reverse, a pedal-controlled gearbox, a throttle on the steering column, and got about thirty miles to a gallon of gasoline. Extra-cost options included headlights, speedometer, and a spare tire. Initial buyers could cars in red, green, or baby blue but later only in black. The Fisher Body Company introduced closed auto bodies., Charles Frank Kettering of the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company invented the electric starter and ethyl gasoline. In 1908, England's Herbert Frood patented the asbestos brake linings which beter handled the heat generated by faster-moving cars. The coil & distributor ignition was introduced, where a battery, contact breaker, induction coil and spark plugs ignited the engine.
1909- Wisconsin's Badger Four Wheel Drive Auto Company (later shorted to "FWD Corporation ") built America's first successful four-wheel-drive motor car. Charles F. Kettering, a genius of the early automotive industry, founded Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (later known as "Delco").
1910 - The Fisher Body Company received a 150 unit order from Cadillac for first quality production of closed bodies. Curbside gas pumps began to appear, though were forbidden in many communities. Custom-made ambulances played a major role in World War I. From 1910 to 1917, B. F. Goodrich personnel erected thousands of guidepost signs along 110,000 miles of U.S. roads, providing the name of the next town, the next large city and the endpoint of that route.
1911 - The New York Stock Exchange began listing auto industry shares, William Crapo Durant formed the General Motors Company by merging the Buick Motor Company, the Olds Motor Works, the Cadillac Automobile Company and the Oakland Motor Car Company. When he lost control of the company, he started another building cars designed by and named for Louis Chevrolet, a French race driver. Another manufacturer-promoter, Benjamin Briscoe, had acquired 130 different companies into the United States Motor Car Corporation, but ran into financial difficulties in 1912. The Italian company of Isotta-Franchini introduced four-wheel braking. Other innovations in 1922 were an improved electric starter, the dynamo, and a car telephone.
1912 - Philadelphia engineer, Edward G. Budd, introduced the all-steel auto body, through the Oakland and Hupmobile companies, and the following year with Dodge. Charles F. Kettering & Delco introduced the electric self-starter, first included by Henry M. Leland in his 1912 Cadillac.
1913 - Dr. William M. Burton improved production of anti-knock additives for gasoline. Henry Ford`s began the first moving assembly line for auto production. The Gulf Oil Company was the first U.S. gasoline company to distribute free road maps.
1914 - Horace and John Dodge, who manufactured components for Olds Motor Works and Ford Motor Company, introduced their own automobile. Cleveland, Ohio, installed the nation's first traffic lights. International Harvester introduced the "Auto-Wagon," a high-wheeled, hard-tired pickup truck.
1916 - Studebaker sold automobiles on time payments, calling it "pay-as-you-ride."
1919 - The U.S. Army started its first transcontinental truck convoy. The second-in-command of the caravan was a Lieutenant Colonel, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
1920 Hydraulic braking was introduced. Mass production methods were well-established, providing a wide range of cheap, reliable and comfortable cars to affluent consumers.
1921 - The second Federal Highway Act defined the aid program to develop a gigantic national road system. The Kahn-Wadsworth Bill distributed 25,000 surplus army trucks to state highway departments for road-building purposes.
1923 - Tetraethyl lead was discovered.
1924 - Walter P. Chrysler, as head of the Maxwell Motor Corporation, introduces an auto bearing his name, which was so successful the company changed its name. A California innkeeper opened the first "motel." General Motors and Standard Oil Company of New Jersey jointly formed Ethyl Gasoline Corporation to make and sell the new additive, tetraethyl lead.
1929 - The first, but short-lived, front-wheel-drive luxury automobile, the Ruxton by New Era Motors of New York.
By the 1930s, cars had reversing lights, radios, automatic chokes, windshield wipers, and chrome-plated trim. Wider tires were inflated to lower pressures, combined with newer spring suspensions, made for a significantly more comfortable ride. American cars moved to greater power and luxury, while several European manufacturers were specializing in low price cars, including Austin's 7 and Fiat's 500. The Volkswagen KDF ("Kraft durch Freude," translated as "strength through joy").car, designed by Ferinand Porsche became the template for 12 million units sold over many decades.