All across America, in urban environments, rural environments, and on every road in between, automobiles are the main sight to see. People rely on them to get to and from work, shuttle the kids between school, friends, and other various activities. They can be used as work vehicles, hauling various loads, or as rare collector’s items that each owner cherishes. Without the invention of the automobile, not only would our economy suffer from the lack of transportation opportunities, but this great country would not be as interconnected as it is today.
Cars linked together our nation, and gave Americans the freedom to be able to travel wherever, and whenever they pleased. Originally, they were quite expensive items, only suited for the wealthy. However, technological advances in manufacturing and resource obtaining made it possible for Henry Ford to sell the Model T at a price that the average American could, and did, afford. This created many jobs, stimulated the economy, and helped to spark the American auto industry into full throttle. Not only was the auto industry stimulated, but the oil industry was also stimulated from that silly by-product from kerosene production, gasoline, which was finally able to be used in mass scale.
The auto industry also helped with the war in the 40’s, due to their knowledge of mass-production. Auto manufactures helped tremendously to create the machines that helped to drive the war to a victory. In return, on many vehicles that were produced for the war, soldiers saw brands such as Cadillac, Chrysler, Ford, Chevrolet, and other great American brands. As soldiers returned home from the war, they all wanted new cars. Many remembered the brands that they saw from the war, so of course they purchased cars from these brands, because these were the brands that saved their lives during the war. Americans wanted new cars, and the auto companies were more than ready to fulfill their dreams.
As time went on into the late 50’s and 60’s, automotive technology was exponentially improving. Cars were becoming much more powerful, larger, more comfortable, and luxuries that we take for granted today, such as air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, power steering and power brakes, were starting to be developed. It was truly part of the American dream to have a 1965 Chrysler 300 or a 1963 Ford Galaxie with a 427 V8 under the hood sitting in the driveway. Large sedans and station wagons covered the suburban streets of America.
Late in the 60’s and early 70’s, the auto industry became even more competitive than it already was with the introduction of the horsepower wars. Remember those soldiers that came back from the Second World War, ready to buy new cars? Well they were not only buying new cars, they were also modifying older ones to race their friends, and see who had the faster ride. The auto companies realized what was going on, so they started to produce street legal drag cars by shoving the largest engine possible into the smallest car they could fit it in. Believe it or not, the auto companies were able to sell quite a few of these cars, because everyone wanted to be first on race day. Once the horsepower wars were in full swing, the competition was not only with the owners of the cars, but also between the car companies themselves. They had one recipe for speed: larger displacement engines. And it worked, until the oil embargo of 1973.
The 426 Chryslers, 427 Fords, and 454 Chevys were not at all kind when it came to fuel economy. For the first time, Americans became conscious of how their cars were interacting with the environment. In the 70’s and 80’s, small economy cars were becoming ever more popular, while American companies struggled to get their current cars to meet the strict environmental standards that were employed by the government. But why? If the American car companies were so great, then why did they struggle to create eco-friendly cars? Imported cars became very popular, having quite the effect on the American car companies.
So who do we owe for the great invention of the automobile? What made American cars so great, and are they still as good as they were “back in the day?” Was it Henry Ford that created the auto industry? How do the Dodge brothers fit into all this? And how in the world does any of this fit into the environment? Drive on over in the future for the answers to these questions, as well as more stories, tales, and truths associated with the cars that drive America.