When exactly was it that we became sick and tired of our cars? Was it when the environmentalists blamed greenhouse gas and global warming on vehicle emissions? Was it when fuel prices soared to the point of engulfing large percentages of our monthly budgets? Perhaps it was during the early 80s when designers forgot to include curves and sex appeal in their vehicle designs? Let me hear it! No, it is not true! Americans do still love their cars.
I sure hope that some of you are riled up about this. Americans love their cars and it really does not matter how much gas costs or how many emissions components are installed – those hunks of metal, gears and wheels inspire passion in drivers, both young and old. From extreme paint jobs to custom wheels, integrated sound systems and performance upgrades our excitement over vehicles is alive and well.
It all started with the early inventors whose passion for technology drove them to invent the automobile. The first patent was issued to Karl Benz in 1886. Many think it was Henry Ford and his model T, but that took another 20 years. Henry was not even the first American to produce a car. For about 3 years in the late 1800’s Charles and Frank Duryea of Chicopee, Massachusetts went into the car business. Like most of the early auto builders they did not have great success, but did manage to produce 13 cars during their three years in business. Ransom E. Olds beat Henry to the punch by stepping up American production with an assembly line that turned out 2500 of the curved dash Oldsmobile in 1902. Our infatuation with the automobile is fueled by these early inventors; they built the go-carts of our childhood dreams.
Back to Henry, because he is really important in how we came to love our cars so much. He set new standards in production and made the first affordable vehicle – he made it possible for the average American to own a car! Ford Motor Company rolled out 10,000 Model T’s in the first year of production during 1906 and helped to put a car in every garage in America. During the early 1900’s there were more Model T’s on the road than any other car in the world.
So . . . show me the love!
All this innovation is a huge part of why we love our cars. For decades cars were the leading form of new technology in the United States. This was back when technology in vehicles had more to do with going faster than with saving gas. Horsepower ruled – and still does in my book! Inventions ranging from electric starters that eliminated hand cranking to radios and windshield wipers have made the automobile’s evolution a technological dream. Today’s cars have complicated computing power and get more horsepower out of less metal and fuel than ever before.
Your car is more than a cup holder, and while you may NEED your car more than you LOVE it these days, our innate desire to drive is evidenced by every teenager’s push to get behind the wheel. It appears in our excitement to load the trunk and head out to nowhere and anywhere on a road trip. You can see it in the Honda that a young inventor has customized and in the massive four-wheel drive truck whose tires are taller than your driver’s door.
In just over a hundred years of history the automobile has taken us from covering less than 20 miles a day on horseback to being able to drive all the way across the country in less than 24 hours. So, you Nay Sayers who tout that the car is just transportation – I challenge you! After all why else would we have more cars in America than we have drivers.
Lynn Beckwith, That Car Lady