The car has long, interesting history. The first vehicle that resembled a car was built in France in 1769 and weighed 8,000 pounds. Powered by a steam engine, it ran at about 2 mph and was used to haul canons around the city of Paris. However, other self-propelled designs with wheels may have existed as early as the mid-1600s.
Many other designs appeared in the 1700-1800s, most of which were powered by steam engines. But these designs were too heavy for most terrain and needed a flat surface, such as iron rails, to run efficiently. Consequently, this is where the railroad engine in the eyes of inventors began to take shape. In France, Etienne Lenoir, patented the first practical gas engine in 1862 by heating coal in a boiler. The large, heavy car produced 100 rpm from one-half hp. In 1868, Siegfried Marcus of Austria built a car with a clutch, which would later become standard for all cars running under their own power. None of these designs, however, were practical enough to be manufactured en mass.
Then in 1881, the Daimler Motor Company began building petrol-powered cars for trams, fire trucks and carriages in Hartford, Ct. under the ownership of Steinway & Sons. The stage was now set for modern manufactures of cars and allowed Henry Ford to build his first car in 1896. Then in 1899, came the Olds Motor Company, which was the first mass producer of gasoline-powered cars in America. Ford followed and his success is legendary.
Later, many car and truck manufactures from the U.S. and Europe appeared producing a variety of styles with increasing power changing the patters of American life, which resulted in greater freedom to travel long distances without having to follow railroad tracks. In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s cars became luxurious and even more practical. More companies emerged such as Dodge, which eventually became Chrysler and Pontiac, Cadillac, Chevrolet and Oldsmobile, which eventually combined to make General Motors.
In the 1970s Japanese cars made it to the U.S. Nissan was one of the first flowed by Toyota, Mitsubishi, and others, which changed the market in terms of competition. At first these cars were not terribly reliable. But today Japanese cars are recognized as some of the finest made. Japanese competition has helped American car makers continue to produce high quality cars.
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