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Cars for the Middle Classes

The 1920s saw huge changes in the driving world, as high-volume production pushed down prices, and it became the norm for the middle classes in Europe and the United States to own cars. An Atlantic divide emerged, with European mainstream cars mostly being powered by four-cylinder engines of around 1500 cc, whereas U.S. cars were substantially larger, housing six- or eight-cylinder engines of around 4,000 cc.

Essex A, 1919


Engine2,930 cc, straight-four
Top speed65 mph (105 km/h)

Linked with Hudson, the moderately priced Essex marque was an immediate success. More than 1.13 million Essex cars were sold up to 1932, after which the name was changed to Terraplane.

Dodge 4, 1914


Engine3,479 cc, straight-four
Top speed50 mph (80 km/h)

In the 1920s, Dodge was the second best-selling U.S. marque thanks largely to this rugged car, which had an all-steel body, sliding-gear transmission, and 12-volt electrics.

Citroen Type A, 1919


Engine1,327 cc, straight-four
Top speed40 mph (64 km/h)

Andre Citroen’s first car was also Europe’s first mass-produced model, with up to 100 being made a day. In all, 24,093 Type As were sold before production ceased in 1921.

Riley Nine Monaco, 1926


Engine1,087 cc, straight-four
Top speed60 mph (97 km/h)

Percy and Stanley Riley designed an outstanding sporting car in 1926, which entered series production in 1928. The twin side-camshafts gave it exceptional performance.

Chrysler G70, 1924


Engine3,200 cc, straight-six
Top speed70 mph (113 km/h)

Walter Chrysler’s first car was a revelation, boasting impressive performance and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. It quickly took a significant slice of the U.S. Market.

Morris Oxford, 1919


Engine1,548 cc, straight-four
Top speed60 mph (97 km/h)

Part of the Morris “Bullnose” range, named after the rounded radiator, the Oxford’s clean lines and consistent performance won it many fans among UK motorists.

Morris Cowley, 1927


Engine1,548 cc, straight-four
Top speed60 mph (97 km/h)

The Cowley, another Morris “Bullnose,” was a cheaper version of the Oxford. The Bullnoses seemed dated by the late 1920s, but they continued to sell on their reputation for reliability.

Willys-Knight Model 66, 1927


Engine4,179 cc, straight-six
Top speed70 mph (113 km/h)

Willys-Knight built 50,000 cars a year during the 1920s, all with sleeve-valve engines. Its top-of-the-range 66 offered high comfort, good looks, and quality engineering-albeit at a high price.

Hupmobile Touring Series R, 1921


Engine2,990 cc, straight-four
Top speed60 mph (97 km/h)

The strong sales of this simple, spacious, four-cylinder car made Hupmobile one of the success stories of the early 1920s. However, the company did not survive the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Buick Model 24, 1924


Engine2,786 cc, straight-four
Top speed55 mph (89 km/h)

Buick produced its last four-cylinder cars in 1924, after which its smallest engine was a straight-six. The Buick Model 24 was sturdy and adequate, although a little underpowered.

Ford Model A Tourer, 1927


Engine3,294 cc, straight-four
Top speed65 mph (105 km/h)

This was the first Ford with conventional controls: clutch and brake pedals, throttle, and gearshift. Almost 5 million Model As took to the world’s roads from 1927 to 1931.

Opel 4/14, 1924


Engine1,018 cc, straight-four
Top speed50 mph (80 km/h)

The Opel 4PS (4HP) series cars were the first German vehicles to be built on an assembly line: 119,484 of the 4/12, 4/14, 4/16, and 4/18 models were built in seven years.

Standard SL04, 1922


Engine1,944 cc, straight-four
Top speed52 mph (84 km/h)

A series of spacious, four-cylinder cars like the SL04 led to Standard selling 10,000 a year in the 1920s, when “Standard” implied “of a high standard”-not “ordinary,” as now.

Fiat 509A, 1926


Engine990 cc, straight-four
Top speed48 mph (77 km/h)

The 509’s lively but economical overhead-cam engine and the option to pay in installments made it a popular car, leading to 90,000 sales from 1925 to 1929.

Austin Twelve, 1927


Engine1,861 cc, straight-four
Top speed53 mph (85 km/h)

A wide range of competent, dependable cars, such as the Twelve, helped Herbert Austin’s company become the UK’s most successful car maker of the 1920s.

MG 18/80, 1928


Engine2,468 cc, straight-six
Top speed78 mph (126 km/h)

In 1922, supported by the Morris company, Cecil Kimber began making sporting cars based on Morris components. Later badged as MGs, his cars had attractively styled bodies and gave good performance.


It is a quote. The Definitive Visual History Of The Automobile 2011

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