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Pioneer Vehicles

The 19th century saw tremendous advances in engineering, as mechanization transformed production in factories. Inventors turned their attention to replacing the horse with something that could go faster and farther. Steam, electricity, and gas were all tried, and in this early period it was hard to say which would win; speed records went first to electric, then to steam.

Daimler Cannstatt 4HP, 1898


Engine1,525 cc, V2
Top speed16 mph (26 km/h)

In June 1887, Daimler equipped a workshop for 23 employees in Cannstatt, Stuttgart, to build his engines. The engines were still fitted to modified stagecoaches

Grenville Steam Carriage, c.1880


Enginevertical steam boiler
Top speed20 mph (32 km/h)

Railway engineer Robert Neville Grenville from Glastonbury, UK, was one of dozens of Victorian inventors to build a steam-powered road carriage. Grenville’s vehicle has survived.

Daimler, 1886


Engine462 cc, one-cylinder
Top speed10 mph (16 km/h)

Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach fitted their engine into a stagecoach in 1886, creating the first four-wheeled, gas-engined vehicle to reach 10 mph.

Stanley Runabout, 1898


Engine1,692 cc, straight-two steam
Top speed35 mph (56 km/h)

Twins Francis and Freelan Stanley built over 200 of these inexpensive and reliable steam cars in 1898-99. In 1906 a more powerful model reached 127 mph (204 km/h).

Franklin Model A, 1902


Engine1,760 cc, straight-four
Top speed25 mph (40 km/h)

John Wilkinson designed the first four-cylinder car in the United States for Herbert Franklin. The air-cooled engine had overhead valves and was mounted across the wooden chassis.

Benz (replica), 1885


Engine954 cc, single-cylinder
Top speed6 mph (10 km/h)

Built in 1885 and patented in 1886, Karl Benz’s Motorwagen had many clever features: It was lightweight and had a four-stroke gas engine, rack steering, and steel spoke wheels.

Lanchester, 1897


Engine3,459 cc, straight-two
Top speed20 mph (32 km/h)

Brothers Frederick, George, and Frank Lanchester ran their first car in 1896 with a single-cylinder engine. The following year they built this car with a two-cylinder engine.

Columbia Electric, 1899


Enginesingle electric motor
Top speed15 mph (24 km/h)

At the start of the 20th century, when most gas-car makers were producing a handful of models a year, Columbia was building hundreds of smooth, silent electric cars

Sunbeam-Mabley, 1901


Engine230 cc, one-cylinder
Top speed20 mph (32 km/h)

John Marston’s Sunbeam bicycle factory, along with Maxwell Maberley-Smith, developed this unusual vehicle with a seat either side of a central belt drive.

Clément-Gladiator Voiturette, 1899


Engine402 cc, one-cylinder
Top speed20 mph (32 km/h)

Bicycle magnate Adolphe Clément saw the potential of the motor industry and promoted several marques. This simple voiturette had a 2.5 hp De Dion-type engine under the seat.

Panhard et Levassor Phaeton, 1891


Engine1,060 cc, straight-two
Top speed12 mph (19 km/h)

Rene Panhard and Émile Levassor offered their first car in 1890, building a Daimler engine under license. They pioneered sliding gear transmission and front engine with rear drive among other modern features.

Duryea Motor Wagon, 1893


Engine1,302 cc, one-cylinder
Top speed12 mph (19 km/h)

In 1893, bicycle makers Frank and Charles Duryea made the first successful gas-powered automobile in the United States. They also won the first U.S. motor race in 1895.

Goddu Tandem, 1897


Enginecc unknown, two-cylinder
Top speed30 mph (48 km/h)

Inventor Louis Goddu made only a handful of cars, but pioneered features such as the overhead camshaft in a car that was exceptionally rapid for its time.

Arnold Benz, 1897


Engine1,190 cc, single-cylinder
Top speed16 mph (26 km/h)

William Arnold & Sons built Benz-like cars with their own 1.5 hp engines. One was fitted with the first electric self-start dynamotor, which also assisted the engine on hills.

Bikkers Steam Car, 1907


Enginesteam boiler
Top speed10 mph (16 km/h)

Better known for its steam-driven fire engines, Bikkers also made steam vehicles, such as this one, for cleaning cesspits. This is the oldest commercial vehicle in the Netherlands.


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

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