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A Brief History of Car Evolution

A Brief History of Car Evolution
Have you ever wondered how cars developed over the years? Wonder no more because has packed the whole history of the car evolution in this article!

1. Introduction

With different vehicle models, looks, designs, trims, engines, and builds, one would often wonder where, when, and how the evolution of cars all started? In other words, how did the evolution of cars come about? When was the first one produced, how did it look like, did it run on petrol? What technology was used to build it then? Which set of people could afford it? One of these questions must have popped up in your mind whenever you think of how cars evolved over the years.


An early car like this still took people from point A to B

1.1. Animals as transport and power

Looking at modern cars, you would not believe they didn’t just appear like magic. Truth is even flashy cars like the popular Bugatti car evolved through the years to arrive at its present state. Still, evolutions of transportation in Nigeria and the world have been nothing short of magical.

Before machines came into existence, animals have done us the honor of being our means of transportation. First, these were used as beasts of burden that physically carried goods and passengers around. Later, they began to act as the power that drew constructions that could carry more people and cargo.

Carts and carriages were built and attached to beasts such as horses and donkeys and elephants. These animals while effective in their own way, were also fraught with challenges. For instance, being living beings, they could grow tired, grow old, get sick, or die. They also littered the environment a storm!

Also, they were not as comfortable to ride on as travelers desired, and of course, there was the issue of speed also. A change was desired and imminent.


Horse-drawn carriages had a drawback: Horses were living things that didn’t last long enough

1.2. The earliest vehicles

Evolutions of land vehicles in Nigeria and the world would not have happened but for the actions of some remarkable persons. Though there had been designs and models of transport vehicles that could move on their own since the 15th century, they were more like novelties and experiments. Leonardo Da Vinci was one of those inventors who came up with such designs. The earliest vehicles were built as early as the 1700s. These vehicles ran on steam and later electricity.

In 1769, Nicholas Cugnot, a French military engineer built a three-wheeled carriage called Cugnot carriage. It was this vehicle that had the first recorded auto accident in history. But like every other thing on earth when they start, these steam engines were not as efficient in that they took a long time before they could start and couldn’t travel the long miles necessary for travelers to use them widely.

Also in 1860, Etienne Lenoir built an internal combustion engine that used coal gas; this vehicle traveled seven miles in just three hours which was a remarkable feat of engineering for the time.


One of the first electric cars in the 1920s

1.3. The first modern car manufacturers

Nikolaus Augustus Otto built an internal combustion engine in 1876 that became a prototype for today’s’ car engine, using a four-stroke piston cycle. Two German engineers, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz made improvements to Nikolous’s engine and used it on other vehicles they made.

With this significant breakthrough in car engines, the two engineers merged and gave birth to the first car production company, Daimler-Benz, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz today.

Nothing has been left unchanged in the design and care of cars. Such as:

  • Car dealership evolution
  • Car wash evolution
  • Car kit evolution
  • Car industry evolutions
  • Car evolution online
  • Car leasing evolution
  • Car insurance evolution
  • Car tuning evolution
  • Car rental evolution/Car hire evolution
  • Car finance evolution
  • Evolutions of car buying and selling
  • Car care evolution/Car repair evolution
  • Car detailing evolutions
  • Car transmission evolution

2. Evolution of car exteriors

The part of a car that influenced car design evolution was mostly external then and even now.

Although innovations in car engines are still ongoing to enhance efficiency and improve vehicular power and performance, car designs are based on research on aesthetics. The use of computers has allowed for simulations that have drastically reduced the dependence on sketches and tedious calculations by hand that is time-consuming.

The earliest vehicles were, more or less, tricycles, with no roof, doors, round steering wheels, or windshields. These were roadsters. Further, they could carry one person or, at most, two persons per time. Henry Ford’s 1908 model T gave a facelift to automobiles and gave them the beginning of the look we see today. This was also the first car to be massed produced for commercial purposes.


A 1930’s vehicle; It is still very trendy today


The Lexus LC500 is a modern car ahead of its time

2.1. Car body types

In the automobile industry, there has not been as eye-catching or significant a process of evolution in any part of the vehicle more than in the car body design. It does seem like with every passing generation of cars comes a befitting car body design to follow.

Look at the change over the decades below in the body types of cars.

2.1.1. Roadster body type

The earliest vehicles can be referred to as roadsters (they didn’t have roofs, or windows or windshields and even doors.) Cars like the Model T bore this body type and were all the rage then.

2.1.2. Boxy body type

The banner 1910 Cadillac changed that narrative with fully boxed cars and thus the trend continued giving birth by the process of Car body evolution to car body types such as the touring car, tour sedan, cabriolet, wagon, coupe, limousine, SUVs, and the likes. These evolutions of car body types continue even today.

2.1.3. Sleeker modern styles

Increasingly, there has been a trend towards flowing sleek lines in cars. Though these attempt to maintain some resemblance to the boxy design of yore, there is a decided shift away to more curvy designs that can’t truly be labeled “boxy” anymore. For instance, in headlamps and even the evolution of car bumpers, there has been a trend towards the futuristic.


The Lada Raven 2015 vehicle is the very stuff of the future


This 1940’s sedan still compares favorably with the high concept Lada Raven above

2.2. Car body materials

Remember also that there has been a progression in materials used as well. The early cars were made from wood, which was heavy, not durable or safe enough, and required horrendous amounts of fuel to lug around. Also, the emissions were catastrophic. Then came the steel/aluminum era utilizing panels and body frames made from metal alloys, fiberglass, and up till the present carbon fiber epoch.

Since carbon fiber permits for lighter cars, there is less need for fuel and that makes it more environmentally safe. With the advancement in EVs or electric vehicles, this may soon be a non-issue.

2.3. Body on Frame or Unibody

Cars were not always the single structures we mostly have on our roads today. The first cars utilized a body on frame (chassis) design. This means the body, like horse-drawn buggies of old, was mounted on a separate frame which constituted the wheelbase or drivetrain and the chassis. Frameless or unibody styles came about as a response to increased safety awareness and fuel efficiency.

The first mass-produced one of these actually waited until 1928 before it made an appearance. It was made by DKW, which is now the Audi automobile company. Volkswagen advanced this with the platform frame, which basically allowed any body type on a base or platform.

Today, there is a mix of both with trucks, SUVs, vans, and such like, favoring the body on frame design and many sedans and crossovers sporting a frameless unibody structure. Of course safety, style, fuel economy, and technology have always been the main drivers in the evolution of body type.

2.4. Car logo evolution

A car’s logo has been something that distinctly sets a vehicle apart when seen from afar. These logos are uniquely designed as a signature of authority and distinction with some meanings that for some car brands, speak about the car’s history. Let’s look at the evolution of a few car logos

  • Mazda

The Asian car manufacturer’s original consisted of a stack of “Tripple M” with wings that stood for Mazda motor manufacturer. The wings were to suggest agility and speed then change in the ’50s to a stylized “m” to mean Mazda then to a funny circle to look like an eye. Recently they have settled for a suitable and catchy stylized M which looks like a wing.

  • Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes has always maintained the three-pointed star logo design with just little transformation over the years. This three-pointed star was said to represent the three areas the company purposed to build vehicles for, which are AIR – LAND – SEA.

  • Toyota

Originally called “Toyoda,” the company changed its name in 1936 when the car brand did a competition to create a new logo. The oval icon for some people is said to encapsulate every letter that spells TOYOTA.

  • Audi

The four Audi rings represent the unification or amalgamation of four car brands DKW, Wanderer, and Horch. There have been significant additions and subtractions of the name Audi, images and emblems to these rings.

  • BMW

The design of the BMW logo has remained unchanged for as long as the car brand has been in existence. The circle is divided into a quadrant comprising of blue and white colors. The only change to the logo is just the fonts used on the name BMW which is a part of the logo.

3. Evolution of car interiors

Car interiors have not remained unchanged over the decades. However, in one important respect, they have remained basically static. Car interiors have cabins geared towards the comfort of the passengers. So, the evolution over the years has been targeted at passenger comfort, safety, and ease of use.

3.1. Car seats

Car seat evolution, which is part of car cover evolution has been steady over the years. Fabric for seat cover has evolved from animal fur and skin to more synthetic materials that just try to look like the original, such as faux leather. Technology has really been a big change in car interiors. From early cars that didn’t have seat belts (1959), we have seen a progression through cruise control (1948) and onto GPS Navigation systems.

Also, the large, sometimes unwieldy knobs and buttons have now for the most part been replaced with touch screen functions and capacitive controls. Air conditioning has also played a key role in passenger comfort. Car radio evolution has also gone from analog to digital through the years and now are even Internet-based.


Interiors in the 1920s, compared with-


100 years later, interiors in the 2020s

3.2. Car fuel 

Car fuel has evolved through time beginning from 1769 where vehicles were powered by steam engines, then came Hayden Wischett in 1803 who designed the first car powered by hydrogen.  Then between 1832 and 1839 electric powered cars came into existence. We are not sure as to which was the first that was invented but in 1888, a German, Andreas Flocken’s, Electrowagen appeared and is regarded as the first true electric car.

1870 was the year the use of gasoline to power cars was introduced by Siegfried Marcus as there were several setbacks to using steam at the time.  This made him the first man to do so. But for Nazi propaganda during World War II that removed his name from history books due to his Jewish descent, he would have been the originator of modern cars but that title today goes to Karl Benz.

Although electric cars have been in existence years before petrol, they fell out of production due to the cost of managing such vehicles then as electricity and points of charging were a problem back then. The recent development in electric car technology has revamped this vehicle fuel model and they have come back into the market competing with petrol-driven cars.

The video below gives you better visuals about the epic journey of cars since 1880:

Evolution Of Cars 1880 – 2019


We wonder at how fast the early crude cars have developed to present states of vehicles. Even much later, this has continued. The evolution of the Toyota Camry, for instance, has been equally as dramatic. Names of cars in Nigeria bear testimony to the strong interest in cars in the country today.

Car dealers Nigeria wide may not have the wherewithal to stock all the brands that make up this unique auto history. However, online sales and the evolutions of car sites Nigeria wide make for wider choices today.

Thanks for reading our article on the Evolution of cars.




Writer:Joshua-Philip Okeafor
Published:December 9, 2020
Source: Naijauto
Photo Credit:shearcomfort


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