- Auto Industry
America on Wheels (or love of cars)
It was just 100 years ago or so, that America was being introduced to the car or automobile. Just think, a world without cars, is that even possible?
Electric cars are not new, in fact, the 1901 Columbia Victoria had a radius of 30 miles, perfect for the electric car. Gasoline engines were actually frowned on being far more dirtier and smelly. They broke down frequently. This was short lived for in Texas, oil was discovered then. Gasoline was produced and more Americans liked the freedom the gas engine provided, even though, few gas stations even existed outside of big cities. The first successful American car was not a Ford, but a 1896 Duryea, which had a 138 cubic inch two cylinder engine but cost $1500. Not many were made because the average wage then, per year, was $411. However, by 1903, Oldsmobile produced its first cars for $650. For an early production car, it sold well, selling 4000. Compare this number to the 900,000 horse carriages sold in 1903 and you see the "car" was still in its infancy and novelty stage.
By the 1920's, the whole equation basically reversed. America's love with the car was forever in their blood. The first six cylinder arrived in 1924 via Chrysler, it also had the first car with a oil pump, oil filter, and hydraulic brakes. Sold for $975 (about 8 mos. of wages). Things slowly evolved for it was not until 1937 LaSalle did the first bench seat appeared and the dash with a clock and ashtray and sun visor. By 1955, Chevy made tons of money with its $2100 Bel Air that came with power steering, 265 cu. in., 162 HP V-8 engine, and air conditioning.
It was the 50's that really set the standard features in cars that remain true today. Ironically, the first fuel injection was also a Chevy, the 1975 Cosworth as standard in production. Sure, certain cars had it in the 60's, as did cars with disc brakes, but only a few did. It was not until the mid to late 70's that most American cars would have fuel injection and disc brakes. The Vega Cosworth sold for $5600, which was almost the cost of a Corvette.