History of Cars

The first cars

It was in 1860 that the first draft of an explosion engine was created. Etienne Lenoir made a new engine initially powered by light gas. Sometime later he invented a carburetor to replace gas with oil. Wishing to experience his engine as quickly as possible, he installed it on a rudimentary car that traveled for the first time along the Paris route, Joinville-Le-Pont.

However, Lenoir abandoned its research for a lack of material and financial resources. The two German engineers, Daimler (1872) and Benz (1882) who each sought to sell their patents in France, developed the first “real” four-stroke engine, . In 1889, Panhard and Levassor installed the first four-stroke engine (Daimler’s) on a four-seater car.

From that date, the research and development of the automobile will increase dramatically in all countries. It is also on this date that the car’s troubles begin: at that time, the car remained a luxury object reserved for the wealthy, and roads without pavement or signage were very difficult to practice, the engine started when it was a tedious event, and the weather and dust remained feared as cars were not protected.

Racing cars

But not all of these difficulties were met by enthusiasts who wanted to introduce the “horse-free car” as it was known at the time to many. For this, they organized races such as the Paris-Rouen which was, for the first time organized in 1894. All these races had the effect of destroying the steam engine and highlighting the flexibility and endurance of the explosion engine, but also demonstrated, thanks to the Peugeot driven by André Michelin, that the car is worth a lot of “rolling on the air”.

It was in 1903, with the Paris-Madrid race and after several fatal accidents, that road racing stopped: they will now take place on a circuit. From the racing models to the huge engines, manufacturers are working to develop much more accessible models like the Ford Model A (see photo below). Consequently, it was from cars like above that the builders developed smaller and more accessible models for the greatest number of people.

The Golden Age:

The interwar period was the golden age of motorists. Indeed, manufacturers and pilots no longer knew most of the pre-war difficulties. Manufacturers can now specialize in the production of large-scale, low-cost models or in the production of small-scale luxury models.

At that time, drivers began to enjoy the pleasure of the automobile by driving on an open road network. But the Wall Street crash of 1928 (“Black Thursday”) plunged the automobile industry into crisis.

In order to get out of this slump, European and American manufacturers sought to attract financially reluctant customers by offering them lightweight, ever faster, and more economical models, which was possible by the progress of cars in many areas such as engine improvement and speed box synchronization.

The bodies that dressed these increasingly sophisticated mechanics abandoned the sharp corners and adopted a slightly more aerodynamic line by setting on the airplanes. But even during this period of crisis, prestigious builders continued to produce dream cars rivaling prestige and luxury.


After the end of the war, there was a tremendous upswing in automobile production, which rose to 30 million cars. Industrial concentration, technical progress, and increased productivity facilitated the emergence of small economic cars in Europe.

In 1946, Volkswagen built the first 10,000 ladybugs in Germany. Volkswagen had produced 15 million in 1972. In France, Renault launched the 4CV in 1946, reaching 500,000 units in 1954. In Italy, the small Fiats, launched before the war, had an unprecedented success after the war. A little later, it was England that began to make small cars with the famous Mini.

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