Pioneer vehicles

The 19th century saw tremendous advances in engineering, as mechanization transformed production in factories. Inventors turned their attention to replacing the horse with something that could go faster and farther. Steam, electricity, and gas were all tried, and in this early period it was hard to say which would win; speed records went first to electric, then to steam.

By 1900, cars were looking more like car sand less like horse carriages. The pioneering cars were difficult to start, and even more difficult to drive. But each year new ideas made the car a more practical and useful machine. In France, carmakers such as Panhard Levassor, De Dion Bouton, and Renault were especially inventive. It was Panhard who thought of putting the engine at the front and who, in 1895, built the first sedan. Renault championed the idea of a shaft, rather than a chain, to drive the rear wheels. In the early 1900s, the French roadsters were by far the most popular cars in Europe. Everywhere, though, the car was making progress. In the United States, where the Duryea brothers had made the first successful American car in 1893, cars such as the famous Oldsmobile Curved Dash were selling by the thousand. In Britain in 1900, 23 cars completed a 1,000-mile (1,600-km) run from London to Scotland and back.