Cars have come a long way since the days of ‘horseless carriages,’ but that period is one of the most fascinating parts of automotive history. Automobiles were new and exciting, with manufacturers wanting to leave their mark on the world. It was a time of steam power and brass fittings, which gave rise to the name Brass era in the US and Veteran/Edwardian era in the UK. We’re taking a look back at the technology of this era and how it created some memorable vehicles.
An automotive arms race
In the UK, the Veteran era is broken up into two periods, with pre-1905 vehicles being called veteran cars and machines between 1905 and 1918 being dubbed Edwardian. This stems from the reign of King Edward VII from 1901 to 1910. But the term can be extended all the way to the First World War to describe long-term trends.
Many cars of the era were characterised by a carriage wood and forged steel body and fitted with a steam or an electric engine. Automotive technology advanced rapidly, due to the amount of small manufacturers who were competing with each other. It was an automotive arms race to be the best.
Technology like safety glass was patented in England by John Wood, but it didn’t become standard equipment until 1926. Other important technology included independent suspension, transmission and throttle controls.
An example of a popular Edwardian era car for the mass market was the American Ford Model T, produced between 1908 and 1927. It was the first global car and had a strong connection with Manchester, as it was produced in the Ford factory in Trafford Park.
The standard is set
During the Veteran and Edwardian years there were a variety of ways to power a car. This changed when Panhard et Levassor licensed their Systeme Panhard and it became the standard design for cars.
1905 was a significant year for the car industry because the majority of sales shifted from motor enthusiasts to the average user. Another standard was set in 1912, when all-steel bodies took over from armoured wooden frames.
The Veteran and Edwardian years were certainly dynamic, as car technology advanced at a rapid rate. The vehicles that were designed laid the groundwork for future machines.