The Century Club – 100 Years of Motoring


I’m contemplating a sort of ‘Century Club’ designation for the pioneer motor cars. Every automobile made in 1911 and earlier is now eligible to join that historic milestone.

By this time, Peugeot was building DOHC engines; the V-8 was about to be successfully produced by Cadillac (1913) and the modern type, electric self-starter was one year away (also Cadillac).

Every engine block configuration had already been tried: radial, flat, vee, vertical… in one, two three, four, six, eight and even twelve cylinders.

The battery/coil ignition system was used, but being only moderately reliable, was often augmented (or replaced) by magneto ignition.

Some bodies were panelled in aluminium, though still over ash timber frames. Chassis were of pressed steel, and some were double-dropped to allow for a lower body. Metallurgy improved – chrome vanadium steel began widespread adoption for its strength. An iron chassis, so common barely ten years before, was now sooo nineteenth century!

Mass production was under way, introduced by Oldsmobile for their curved dash runabouts, and perfected by Henry Ford with his Model T, already in its third full year of production and with prices lowered and lowered again.

It was the middle of a bubble of automotive industrial expansion. Numerous fledgling car companies were formed and stormed the market with quality, innovation and mediocrity alike.

Highways were planned and upgraded. America, and later the rest of the world, was finding its wheels of personal movement and cultural change.

And it was a century ago.