Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the pedal car, 'Flintstone'. It's 30 minute mission: to go to the diner for Brontosaurus ribs, to go to the drive in for the weekly double feature, to boldly go home so the cat can lock you out.
Hey, I could have used a picture of 'My Mother, the Car'. (yeah...that was a real tv show...)
Actually, I could have used any car picture to start off this post, because the post is about a car. What car? Well, the first car.
For some reason, when a lot of people think about the inventor of the car, and the first automobiles, they think of Henry Ford. While Ford was an early innovator in the automotive industry, he neither invented the car, nor was his the first to be mass produced. Attribution to Ford is due to the US educational system which doesn't always concern it's self with facts.
What Ford did do, however, was come up with the moving assembly line. This greatly increased the speed at which cars, and other items, could be produced. But that's a story for later.
Almost 20 years before Ford came out with his Model A, in 1885, Karl Benz built his first automobile. And he started production in 1888.
But even Herr Benz wasn't the inventor. In 1870, Siegfreid Marcus attached an internal combustion engine to a cart, making him the first person to power a vehicle with a gasoline motor.
But, Herr Marcus wasn't the inventor either. In 1860, Etienne Lenoir attached a hydrogen gas powered combustion engine to his Hippomobile, and drove it 9 kilometers in 3 hours. This engine had first been used in 1826 in England by Samuel Brown to propel a cart.
But guess what. M. Lenoir, nor Mr. Brown were the inventors either.
That honor goes to the Frenchman, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot.
Cugnot was an engineer for the French military. He was tasked with creating an improved system of transporting artillery. He tinkered with steam power, and by 1769 had a working model of his fardier a vapeur. He had a full sized version built by 1770.
It was a three wheeled vehicle, and the steam boiler was located in the front. Cugnot claimed it could pull 4,000 pounds at a speed of 4.8 mph. (it never met these numbers. With 4 passengers, it could go 2.3 mph)
Not only was this the first automobile, it was the first automobile to be in an automobile accident. In 1771, Cugnot lost control and crashed into a brick wall.
The French government was interested in the invention, but before anything could come of that interest, the French Revolution started. This put the kibosh on any further development.
But, what Cugot had done was, he demonstrated how to convert the reciprocating motion of a piston into rotary motion by means of a ratcheting device. The impact of this discovery allowed for giant leaps in steam power.
Not that I've told you about Cugnot, I should add the disclaimer that he might not be the inventor either. His is regarded as the first to be able to transport humans, though.
Ferdinand Verbiest was a Jesuit missionary working in China. In 1672 he created, as a toy for the Chinese Emperor, the worlds first steam powered vehicle. This vehicle was too small to carry anyone, but it could move under it's own power.
So, fully 200 years before the first vehicles started production, people were already trying to come up with a mode of land transportation that didn't rely on horses.
But who knows? Maybe Neanderthals or Homo Erectus had a foot powered car like the Flintstones. If it was made from wood, it probably wouldn't have survived to be found. Someone get that Ancient Aliens guy on it...