The Evolution of the Motor Car

Published on: 23 April 2015

Since the days of horse-drawn carriages and steam-powered vehicles, the motor car has certainly come a long way. With “self-drive” vehicles set to hit the market by the year 2020, it would seem that the motor car is continuously reaching new heights. Here is a brief breakdown of the evolution of the motor car.

The Very First Car

The world’s first motor car came into existence way back in 1769 when Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, a French inventor, put together a steam-powered vehicle. The design was very simple - the car basically consisted of a large metal frame and less-than-comfortable seats. A year later, in 1770, Cugnot went on to produce a larger version of the car. However, the vehicle was very unstable and did not achieve what it was supposed to (it was designed to be able to transport four tonnes across a span of 7.8km in an hour). Cugnot continued to attempt to improve on his design, but was, for the most part, unsuccessful.

Bye-Bye Steam Engines

For many years, steam engines were responsible for powering motor vehicles – until the development of the internal combustion engine in 1806. The man responsible for this was Isaac de Rivaz, a Franco-Swiss inventor and artillery officer. 1

1888-1898: Benz, Peugeot and Renault

The period of ten years between 1888 and 1898 saw the production of the very first vehicles by Benz, Peugeot and Renault respectively. Karl Benz released the very first series vehicle in Germany in 1888. In 1891, the very first petrol-powered Peugeot came into being, followed closely by the first Renault produced vehicle – the Renault Voiturette, otherwise known as ‘Renault Little Car – in 1898. Louis Renault was responsible for the design of this car. 2

The Dawn of the Mainstream Automobile Industry

While cars had been manufactured for a while before, the automobile industry really took off in the 1900s. This boom in the market went hand-in-hand with the birth of the electric engine. In America, there were approximately 2000 car producing firms by 1905.3 In Western Europe, France was already producing over 30 000 vehicles in 1900, which actually made up over 50% of the world’s vehicle production at that time.

The Lancia Lambda

In 1922, the Lancia Lambda came into being. This was the first vehicle with a unitary body and the first car to make use of independent suspension. When the first version was put together, 400 cars were built. By 1931, 9 versions had been completed. However, the final version sold only bare chassis.  4

The V6 Motor is Launched

The V6 Motor, otherwise known as an Aurelia engine, was produced by Lancia in 1950.

The Fastest Car in the World Hits the Market

Reaching almost 290 km/h and powered by a V8 engine, the Maserati Bora was launched in 1978. Other stand-out features of the car included a hydraulically-powered pedal cluster, a full size trunk in the front of the vehicle, as well as anti-roll bars. 5

The Production of Autonomous Vehicles

A variety of infamous car brands are now focusing on perfecting the art of the autonomous vehicle. The best known of these vehicles is that of the Google Driverless Car. Boasting an accident-free record and over 1.1 million km driven, these unique motor cars are getting people all over the globe incredibly excited. The great news? You can expect these types of vehicles to hit the market between 2017 and 2020. Start saving now!

As time has passed, vehicles have become invaluable - which is why car insurance is so very important. Protect your investment – contact MiWay for more information today!

For a Brief History and Overview of the Motor Car Industry in South Africa, click here.