Luxury and power

Car makers saved their finest work for their richest customers. Such customers would not tolerate unreliability, and demanded cars that gave far greater performance than traditional horse-drawn carriages. They also demanded comfort-an important factor on the rough roads of the early 20th century-and luxuries such as preselect gearboxes and power steering.

As cars became cheaper and more popular, so the rich wanted more and more exclusive automobiles. The luxury cars of the pre-World War I years were made with the best technology and the best craftsmanship. No expense was spared, and these luxury autos - Hispano-Suizas, Benzes, Delauney-Belvilles, and Rolls-Royces - were built to standards rarely seen again in carmaking. Interiors were furnished with velvet and brocade, fine leather and thick pile carpets. Bodies were made precisely to the customers' requirements by the finest coachbuilders. The engines were large, powerful, and smoothrunning. But they were cars not for the rich to drive, but to be driven in, by professional chauffeurs or drivers.