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The History of Cars through the Decades, from Ford’s Model T to Musk’s Tesla

Saumya Jain

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[ot-caption title=”Cars today, like Teslas, are radically different from the cars of the early 20th century, but how did that change occur? (via Samantha Meade/senior)”]

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]Cars have, of course, revolutionized society. Their impact on the world is tremendous, and can even be seen at Pine Crest, with upperclassmen driving to and from school. Today, cars come with some of the most advanced technology, however they didn’t always start out this way.  

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]In 1885, Karl Benz invented the first car, which barely resembled the cars of today, with one of the big differences being wheels, instead of tires.  Although some of the first cars had a roof covering the seats, many were open, and all of them lacked windows. Compared to the sleek models nowadays, the first car’s interior looks similar to a horse-drawn carriage. Yet some similarities are still universal: Benz invented the accelerator, the clutch, the gear shift, the carburetor, the ignition, and the radiator between 1880 and 1881. Many Pine Crest kids don’t know much about the first cars ever invented, but those who do realize how Karl Benz changed our lives, like sophomore Jack Rizzo.

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]“The old design of cars makes it look uncomfortable, unsafe, and not meant for long distance travel; but it was extremely beneficial, and we wouldn’t have cars if it weren’t for Karl Benz, and I can’t imagine life without cars,” Rizzo said.

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]Compared to the those in the 1880s, the vehicles during the early 1900s were more advanced due to the greater variety of styles, windows, more stylish designs and colors. In 1901, Frederick William Lanchester came along with a huge change to the interior and function of the vehicle: the brake. Before this, not a single car had a brake and thus the car’s motion couldn’t be fully controlled. Additionally in the first decade of the 20th century, Henry Ford’s company unveiled the Model T automobile. This was a game changer because it became very affordable for most people since its prices were decreased due to the assembly lines and large manufacturing abilities. Sophomore Rosie Rothschild learned about Ford and the Model T in her AP U.S. History class

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]“It was a really durable car that was meant for practical uses and wasn’t that luxurious, but it was perfect for the time,” Rothschild said. 

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]Years later, around the time of the Great Depression and World War II, more advances, in terms of safety and comfort, came along that are still substantial today. In 1929, the car radio was invented, and although it was not part of the car, it was an item many would buy additionally in order to listen to audio while driving. A comfort addition to vehicles was air conditioning, which was first offered in cars in 1940. Although the air conditioning wasn’t as convenient as it is today, with a simple button for adjustments, it was still a crucial improvement that made the cars more useful and comfortable. As cars became more luxurious, they were also made more powerful. The 1930 Cadillac “V-16” offered a sixteen-cylinder engine, which was unheard of at the time. 

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]As cars started becoming more and more popular, ancillary safety features were applied, with the most important one added in 1956: the seat belt was added. Today, the rule is “click it or ticket,” but before, seat belts didn’t become compulsory until 1968. Kids at PC, who have grown up with this law, know about the significance of seat belts, as they save more than 15,000 lives a yearJunior Elaina Kokinakos shares her thoughts.

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]“I drive a lot, so I honestly can’t imagine not having a seat belt. They are one of the greatest safety precautions, and it seems ignorant not to wear one. The amount of lives seat belts save is crazy. Everyone should always wear one, knowing the impact it has in the case of an accident,” Kokinakos said.

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]One of the most popular cars around the 1950s was the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. In 1971, the airbag came along. This was essential because people had the risk of being injured from the car’s interior. The interior of the cars between the 1950s and 70s was relatively similar with many of the same features. A big difference was that back then, most of the cars had bench seats in the front and back row. In this time period, cars were used in most countries around the globe.

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]Today, cars have become the main form of transportation in suburban areas, especially. The interior of cars is magnificent and new designs are being made constantly. Nowadays, there are also multiple different sizes and types of vehicles such as SUVS, Sedans, Hatchbacks, MPVs, Luxury cars, and Limos. The interiors changed too, and now they are more sleek and come in a variety of colors. They have also changed the engines to make them less loud for the passengers in the vehicle. Some luxury cars offer Bose speakers in the car for quality music sound. Now sports cars are also popular, due to their ability to zoom down the road smoothly, allowing car enthusiasts to enjoy the full experience of driving. Cars also have bluetooth and microphones today and passengers’ electronic devices can be connected to the vehicle so they can play their own music, receive phone calls, use maps, and more.

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]Different automobiles use different forms of fuel as well, as some use diesel and some use gas. However there are also cars that don’t even have fuel tanks, thanks to the cars of the future like Tesla, which is meant to be more environmentally friendly. Junior Saagar Jain comments on today’s automobiles.

“Cars have become so much easier to use over time with advancements in technology and navigation. Today’s vehicles are also a lot safer with better airbags and other safety features,” Jain said.

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]The automotive industry has grown and expanded cars tremendously internally. Back in the day, there were only a few famous automotive brands, but now, there are more than thirty just in the USA, not including the brands from other countries, and they all have their own specialities. Vehicles are safer today and thus are used by most adults, and even teenagers. Multiple PC seniors, juniors, and even some sophomores drive to school instead of taking the bus. The car is a luxury that became extremely popular, and without it, there is no doubt that people’s lives would not be the same.     

The original car made by Karl Benz in the late 1800s (via Chris 73, Wikimedia Commons).

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]Sources: The New York Times, Nasdaq, Quora, Retrowaste, YOURS, Business Insider, Automotive Training Center, Anything About Cars, History, Skwirk, Jalopnik, Wikipedia

[spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]Photo Source: Chris 73 via Wikimedia Commons, LibertyGroup25 via Wikimedia Commons, Jack Snell via Flickr, Redsimon via Wikimedia Commons, Charlie via Flickr, Mariordo via Wikimedia Commons

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The History of Cars through the Decades, from Ford’s Model T to Musk’s Tesla