In 1672 Ferdinand Verbiest developed what would later be known as something unique. It was a toy for a Chinese Emperor. It was powered by steam and although it couldn’t carry a person the design marked the start of something big. It was called the Automobile.
Today the automobile is everywhere. It permeates our lives both in play, work, science, and even politics. The vehicle we drive can even define who we are and identify with our friendships. Quite frankly it may be the most important thing we purchase in our lives.
For that reason we’ve given titles to our cars, like luxury, commuter, sedan, coupe, convertible, and the like. All convey something about those vehicles, but some vehicles are truly special and have created a title that quite frankly revolutionized how we see automobiles. They define something that permeates how we see our driving experience. Here are 5 awesome examples:
1.) Benz Patent-Motorwagen – The First Touring Car
The Benz Patent-Motorwagen has quite the history and it is widely regarded as the first automobile (that is, being powered by an internal combustion engine), but in reality there were many other vehicles that could take that title prior. The Patent-Motorwagen is no slouch on first in the industry on many things, but there is one thing that the Benz started that really identifies it as being still relevant today. The Touring Car.
I know it may seem hard to believe, but prior to the Benz Patent-Motorwagen the automobile, many powered by steam, were widely disregarded because they were only good for short range trips and required a great deal of upkeep. That is until Bertha Benz took the Number 3 vehicle out for a long range trip without her husband Karl’s knowledge. During the trip Bertha had to invent the brake lining to make it back, but after a it was done she had traveled 121 miles. This solidified the idea that the automobile could make the distance.
To this day touring vehicles are designed with drive in mind. The title may have now taken back seat to other titles, but the reality is that the many vehicles still adhere to the concept of driving long distances while providing a comfortable ride while some brands pride themselves on being touring vehicles first and foremost. These vehicles travel distances that would make even the ingenuitive Bertha blush. There is no doubt that the legacy that the Patent-Motorwagen brought to us was that the journey is just as important as the destination.
2.) Oldsmobile Rocket 88 – The First Muscle Car
It may seem hard to consider that the the Rocket 88, a vehicle with an unassuming top speed of 97 mph and a 0-60 in 13 seconds, being anything special, but this unassuming car was lightweight and small size combined with a new V8 overhead cam engine producing 135 horsepower started something that still gets hearts pumping and sells cars to this day; the muscle car.
The secret of its success was demand for a more powerful vehicle. So Oldsmobile took their 76 model and put the engine made for their bigger 98 vehicle in it. This combined a powerful engine with a smaller vehicle and the results were immediate. Back then vehicles used straight 8 engines so the new V8 engine was also a turning point. This unique combination in the automotive world started gaining attention immediately. The final nail in the coffin was when the car made its NASCAR appearance and suddenly became the car to beat. These cars would win over 50% of the races it attended in its first 4 years of competition. It would later get a namesake song the Rocket 88, which is even considered the first rock and roll album (bonus fact).
The 88 lasted almost as long as Oldsmobile as it was retired in 1999, but the legacy it left in its wake is still reverberating with auto enthusiasts to this day.
3.) Packard 180 – First Fully Loaded Vehicle
Today when you purchase a vehicle you expect it to be fully loaded with basic convenient items. You expect things like air conditioning, automatic windows, and a radio, but it probably won’t shock you that there was a time when these weren’t the norm. In fact, there was a time when these things didn’t even exist!
The Packard 180 changed all that in the 1940’s. It’s proper name was the Custom Super Eight One-Eighty and in addition to leather and carpeting it also had a woolen headliner. The vehicle, although catered as a limo, had a sedan feel that allowed for a single driver. It was the first car with power windows and was the first time air conditioning was an option on a stock automobile. It also had the usual radio and even a somewhat automatic transmission option. Even without a remote car start or door locks we’re pretty sure that’s pretty good for an option list.
Although the Packard didn’t drive future cars to have fully loaded options I’m sure it doesn’t mind being the first to be cutting edge and being part of the cutting edge of adding options like cruise control, navigation, computer controls, and systems like OnStar and on to self-driving, these options can now be the decision by which buyers determine if they will buy or not.
4.) Lamborghini Miura – The First Supercar
In 1966 a group of designers stayed after work and up late producing something that would take the automotive world to a new, unimaginable, level. When the Miura was introduced it defied definition. A transversely mounted V12 motor stored mid-ship behind the driver that produced a head-turning neck-snapping 345 horsepower and only seated 2 people, a driver and a white knuckled passenger sans a barf bag. Automotive writers scampered to find a term for this new monstrosity. They would finally settle on a name that would stick; the supercar.
The Miura could be considered the variation of opening Pandora’s Box. The lust for performance and speed over comfort and convenience continues to this day. As the Lamborghini Countach coated walls and haunted dreams other brands like Porsche and Ferrari got on board raising the bar until at one point even the title supercar wasn’t enough and the hypercar was born. This would harbor elite alumni of low produced brands like Koenigsegg, Pagani, and Bugatti with prices cresting two million dollars and creating a new buzz leaving questions of, does this ever stop. The answer is, if there is we don’t know when that will be. All of it we can thank the Miura for.
5.) Tesla Roadster – First Electric Car
I know what you’re going to say, Tesla wasn’t the first electric car. In fact the first electric cars started in the early 1900’s, but those electrics never really caught on. Tesla was the first brand to show the world that a fully electric car could work and they did it with a very unassuming roadster.
What set them apart was the same thing that defined the Benz Patent-Motorwagen; transport distance. Tesla had to show consumers that they could transport them to work and back home for the nightly charge and still have some charge to get them to a restaurant and back without still using the same old internal gas-driven combustion engine like hybrids. This has led to Tesla offering a sedan and even more. It’s made the world realize that the electric car can work and created something the electric car sorely needed; demand.
Every day we see new charging stations and new and bigger brands getting on board making an electric, or should we say environmentally friendly, options. In fact many brands have decided to go completely carbonless in the upcoming years. This drive will go into creating options like hydrogen vehicles as well.
So What’s Next?
We’re still looking for the next car to revolutionize the drive. We’re still waiting for a viable self-driving option that everyone can get on board with and we’re sure the options won’t end there. There will always be something new and enlightening that our commute will generate.
What do you think will be next? Leave your comments below!