MHMC News Bulletin
Pre World War I Cars
Life and Cars during Brass Era
The Brass Era is an American term for the early period of automotive manufacturing, named for the prominent brass fittings used during this time for such things as lights and radiators. It is generally considered to encompass 1896 through 1915, a time when these vehicles were often referred to as horseless carriages ( Wikipedia)
With the arrival of cars in late 1800s, cars were used not just for transport. It was a status symbol. The wealthier the person, the more luxurious was the car with brass fittings, leather upholstery, hand made carvings, woodwork, etc.
Road racing as a sport also began to popularise. This led to the invention of faster and better cars. The first race was in France from Paris to Bordeaux and back which was 73 miles. The first to finish was Emille Levassor driving the car he designed himself, the Panhard Levassor.
What were the cars manufactured before World War I ?
In Europe car makers included Daimler, Austin, Wolseley, Peugeot companies that built several model cars. Packard (1903) Model F, 1899 Winton Phaeton, 1909 Wolsey-Siddeley Tourer, 1901 Panhard et Lavasser were some cars built.
In the USA, during this period, The Oldsmobile produced cars and dominated the era followed by Ford, Winton and Cadillac.
However, in 1908 the Ford Model T was invented in the US. These were the world’s first mass produced car and they were compact, simple and economical enough for many more people to buy. They were incredibly popular.
The Model T came to Britain in 1911 and after WWI, it became one of the country’s best selling vehicles with over 150,000 cars made in Manchester in 1923.
Who were the prominent manufacturers of cars?
Most of the cars were made by the Ford, Rover, Wolseley, Morris and Humber car companies.
Who owned cars? What were the uses of cars?
The first cars were often beautifully hand made with leather seats and polished metalwork. They looked very exquisite but only people with a lot of money could own one.
Many of these cars were driven by chauffeurs and mainly seen in cities.
Cars were used mainly by the wealthy for transport as well as status symbol.
Common people could get a ride by taking a taxi.
There were no rules or licensing required to drive cars. Everyone had to be careful while driving it walking as there were no pedestrian walks either.
World War 1 & Automobile Industry
Cars between 1905 and 1918 are called ” Edwardian cars” it’s an English(UK) definition. Edwardian cars are also called Vintage cars. These cars looked like horseless carriages and had the hand made woodwork, carvings and luxury based on the cost of the car. There was a wide range of cars available in the market and the price of the car was dependent on the size, luxury and fittings they offered.
World War I paved the way to the invention of a Whole range of automobiles that were never thought of before. From ambulances to trucks to two wheelers for rugged terrains were built to substitute for horses killed during the war.
Cars that gained Prominence during WWI
The *Vauxhall D-Type, * or “25hp,” which first rolled off the production line in 1915, crossed battlefields on the Western Front (modern Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium), Egypt, and Russian Empire. It had a 4-cylinder 3,969cc engine that could take five passengers to just over 60 mph. At the insistence of the British war offices, Vauxhall produced up to seven of these vehicles a week. (Wikipedia).
France produced armoured cars that included: Peugeot 146,
Renault ED, Autocanon de 47 Renault, White TBC.
UK produced the following: Austin armoured car, Lanchester 4×2 armoured car and Rolls Royce armoured car.
Germany produced Ehrhardt E-V/4 and Büssing armoured cars.
More than fifty different types of tanks were produced by automakers of different countries!
The WWI paved way for RR to become a sturdy dependable motorised transport. Silver Ghost model was beefed up for the war. Rolls-Royce’s units ended up powering more than half of the aircraft used by the Allies during the war.
During the WWI, Renault taxis were used to transport French troops, to help counter the German offensive during the First Battle of the Marne.
WWI inadvertently gave Renault the tools it needed to create commercial vehicle off-shoots with. Its first tractor, for example, was heavily based on the FT tank. (Wikipedia)
Ford Model T became common in Western War front and Ford started producing ambulances. It’s tanks were however were a failure. After WWI Ford Model T was one of the most popular cars on the roads of London!
Citroen was only producing gears and managing munition factories during the war in France. The war made Citroen famous and led to them manufacturing cars. In 1919, they rolled out their first car.
Bavarian Motor Works focused on manufacturing aero engines for the war. The war led to the birth of BMW as a car maker was though only a decade after the war.
The Advent of Mass Production
The Ford Assembly Line Production was introduced in 1913, a few years after Ford introduced Ford Model T. The Assembly Line technique enabled mass production of cars using a conveyer system and focus of ‘each person one task’.
More than 15 million Ford Model T were built before it was discontinued in 1927. The mass production brought down the price of each car from $950 to $250 and made it affordable for more families to own.
Post World War I Automobiles
The 1920s saw the development of the great European producers—Austin, Morris, and Singer in England, Fiat in Italy, and Citroën in France. The concept of small cards became popular and new models such as Austin Seven and the Fiat Topolino, two of the descendants of Ettore Bugatti’s tiny Bébé Peugeot of 1911, were born.
Also known as the baby Austin was an economy car sold in UK and gained popularity like its competitor Ford Model T. The design was replicated by many other auto manufacturers such as BMW Dixie and American Austins. In France they were called Rosengarts and in Japan, Nissan copied it and sold in different name.
The Austin had 4 cylinder engine, a three speed gear with clutch assembly. The side valve engine with a capacity of 696 cc and 7.2 hp had a detachable head and was mounted on a aluminium crankcase.
Internationalisation of auto industry due to free trade
American auto industry became international and started exporting cars and manufacturing cars in Europe. Ford had already established its factory in U.K., General Motors Corp bought the British Vauxhall and German Opel companies.
Expansion of Extraordinary Cars
Apart from small cars, this period also produced some custom built, expensive large cars. One of the most expensive cars was the Type 41 Bugatti priced then at $ 20,000. Others were: Rolls Royce of UK, Hispano-Suiza of Spain and France; the Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye, Hotchkiss, Talbot (Darracq), and Voisin of France; the Duesenberg, Cadillac, Packard, and Pierce-Arrow of the United States; the Horch, Maybach, and Mercedes-Benz of Germany; the Belgian Minerva; and the Italian Isotta-Fraschini.