Seven Wonders of the Automotive World

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
With more than a century of automotive history behind us, the thought came to mind to look back.

Of all the breakthroughs, gadgets, and gizmos that have been developed over the years, which do you think is the most important or influential with regard to the vehicles we drive today and why?

You can make your case for anything. Might be plastics, safety glass, power steering... anything.

And if the mood strikes you, you can bring up candidates for the least of these as well.


  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 53,204
    Maybe fuel injection
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
    What is it about fuel injection that makes it more influential or important than say, automatic transmissions, or power steering/brakes?
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 53,204
    Makes it so I don't have to go into a rage about a malfunctioning carb.

    I can deal with shifting for myself and using a little more effort to steer and stop. But I loathe working on carbs, and I loathe how a car with poorly tuned carbs runs. I guess all are about convenience, but I look at FI as more of one than power assistance.

    My first car, a 66 Galaxie, had neverending carb problems. It left a mark.

    I guess crumple zones and safety cells are a big innovation too.
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    The advent of the automatic transmission made it possible for any moron to drive if he/she can push down with one foot while moving one hand up and the other down at the same time.

    Much easier than patting your head while rubbing your tummy, and much much easier than understanding the conceptual relationship between engine speed, car speed, and what gear you're (supposed to be) in.

    The automatic transmission set free on our highways an entire class of people who you couldn't trust with an electric pencil sharpener.

    They're slogging along at 50 mph in the left lane, even as I write.

    It's also made it possible for members of a more gifted but still not fully capable group to fix his/her makeup, talk on a cell-phone, or chow down a Big MacR while driving. These people wouldn't have gotten 25 miles in a manual-transmission car before the attempt to multi-task in this manner dropped their cars into a ditch.

    So, in summary, the automatic transmission has sold more cars than any other single invention since the self-starter. :cry: or :P as you choose.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
    Does that also give the automatic a place on the "what were they thinking??" list too? :P
  • bumpybumpy Member Posts: 4,435
    The windshield. Without it we'd still be wearing goggles and eating bugs at 20 miles per hour.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
    Ah yes...that IS a good one. And the safety glass improvement would rank as well since being able to go faster lead to more ...err... interaction with the windshield!
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,306
    ...I'd say the greatest automotive innovation has to be the electric starter. Could you imagine having to hand crank your 2007 car and risk a broken arm? The automatic transmission is the second greatest as it made driving a less cumbersome chore.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHMember Posts: 21,904
    I'd have to go with the ICE. We are now beginning to enter an age when alternatives are considered possible even preferable but it's hard to imagine the first 100 years of the automobile without the Internal Combustion Engine.

    Automatic transmissions, interval wipers and power seats are small potatoes by comparison. ;)

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
    Could be. We'd all be driving steamers or electrics otherwise ;)
  • larsblarsb Member Posts: 8,204
    This is really cool.....Don't miss this link:
    MIT at it again
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Alamogordo, NMMember Posts: 7,615
    cellphone being used in my Electric Blue 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer. There you have it. Done deal!

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • redmaxxredmaxx Member Posts: 627
    Seat belts, since they have saved more lives than any other innovation.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
    Stuff that we don't even think about now were HUGE innovations when first introduced. Windshields for example. There's an interesting variation on a windshield on a car in the museum at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Basically it looks like a badminton racket stuck up in front of the driver. I suppose it stopped the bigger bugs from slapping you in the face. ;)
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,491
    great for makin' babies. :P
  • boomchekboomchek Vancouver, BC, CanadaMember Posts: 5,440
    apparently introduced many innovations as well. Padded dashboard, pop out windshield, and the centre headlight that swiveled with the steering to see around the corners, similar to what Mb and BMW started offering just recently.

    I liked the movie, and the cars, too bad it went belly up.

    boomchek: driven 10,000+ cars, sold 1000+ cars, owned 50+ cars

  • thegraduatethegraduate Member Posts: 9,731
    Not the most important feature maybe (the safety belt is more important), but certainly would save a lot of repair costs on people that slide into trees, guardrails, and other cars in slick or panic-stop conditions.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    Actually the starter motor was a major deal since not only
    did people break arms, some were killed by the crank throw

    The ICE has been in personal transport since the beginning,
    I think, along with steam and electric which are now
    Hydrogen and electric so things haven't changed much.

    As much good as seat belts have done, and it's major, it is
    still a passive system, it helps after the problem has
    taken it course. Electronic Stability Control is an
    active system to save you from yourself or from outside
    potentials that you can't handle on your own before you get
    into an accident. In the long run I'm betting on ESC!

    Then again, like the automatic it has made more than the
    usual 80% who consider themselves above average drivers
    think they know what they are doing ...
  • dificadifica Member Posts: 9
    Well, yeah, the ICE and all the safety and fuel saving technology has been important over the years, but i can't see cars (or almost any form of transport) being what it is without the wheel. Ok, the wheel is a lot older than the automobile, but it's been used for similar form of transport powered by different things (steam, horses, bulls, camels, whatever).

    Let's face it, without the wheel there would be no car in the first place.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
    How about the pneumatic tire since the wheel predates the car?
  • dificadifica Member Posts: 9
    Allright, let's make it pneumatic tires. That's actually better, because i don't think cars would be so popular if wheels were wood disks ;) . Could be a little uncomfortable and hugely noisy.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I'm going to take a flyer here and suggest The All Steel Body.

    Prior to the steel industry (actually the railroad car industry) figuring out how to make large one-piece stamping, cars had to use wood and fabric to build bodies...or build them entirely by hand out of aluminum. This made car bodies rickety, full of rattles and prone to leakage through their rubberized roof-holes (they couldn't figure out how to stamp out an entire roof panel with A, B and C pillars.

    You'll notice this change in cars right around 1935 or so. These large steel stamping techniques allowed cars to accept stronger motors, and it made them much safer, warmer, quieter, smoother and far more capable of high speeds.

    it also allowed real styling to appear in ordinary production cars. You'll notice right away that 1935 cars look smoother and curvier than the "boxy" cars of the late 1920s and early 30s.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    No references but I think the rubber tire pre-dates the car
    as well. There were bicycles for personal transport before
    there were cars and it is one reason there was a lobby that
    wanted paved roads in the US like Europe already had before
    the car. I'm willing to be proved wrong ...
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    "That's actually better, because i don't think cars would be so popular if wheels were wood disks" No. No. Stone. Just ask Fred Flintstone.

    Speaking of starter motors and cranks, my mom lost a friend in childhood because of a crank. She was sledding down a hill, lost some control on a curve and went head first into someone's starter crank.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    The "story" goes that Mr. Kettering was inspired to invent the starter motor after hearing about the death of a friend who was killed while trying to crank over a car. Apparently, his friend (also a car guy, can't recall his name at the moment--might have been Carter of the Carter car) had his jaw broken by the backfire of the crank handle, and later developed an infection and died indirectly from the injury. The story has never been documented properly but it's got the touch of legend and myth to it that is appropriate to great discoveries.

    Others say he "merely" looked at the electric motors that drove cash registers and wondered why such a motor couldn't crank an engine. The experts of the time insisted that such a motor would be too large and heavy to install, but Kettering figured out, quite rightly of course, that the starter motor didn't have to drive the engine ALL the time, just for short bursts of high-torque.

    Just as a perk, he also invented the breaker point /coil ignition system at the same time.
  • bhill2bhill2 Member Posts: 2,214
    but I am going to throw out automotive A/C. Certainly cars went for a long time without it, but as someone who was a child in the Sacramento Valley of California during the years before A/C was common in cars, I know that its incorporation certainly expanded their useability. There were portions of the summer when you went WAY out of your way to avoid being in an automobile. My first summer ride in a car with A/C is a frozen (pun intended) moment in my memory.

    2009 BMW 335i, 2003 Corvette cnv. (RIP 2001 Jaguar XK8 cnv and 1985 MB 380SE [the best of the lot])

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    There is a theory of history that AC changed the way America was governed. Before AC, Congress met far less frequently in Washington (it's a humid pit in summer, and way back, probably unhealthy and malarial)....but with AC, they could meet longer, create more legislation, scandal, thievery, good, bad and ugly.
  • bhill2bhill2 Member Posts: 2,214
    Aw Jeez. Up to now I had thought of AC as a good thing.

    2009 BMW 335i, 2003 Corvette cnv. (RIP 2001 Jaguar XK8 cnv and 1985 MB 380SE [the best of the lot])

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Every invention has good and bad consequences I'd wager--LOL!

    How about hydraulic brakes as a great invention? First appearing on production cars in the Chrsyler, around 1924 I think.

    For many many years, brakes on all 4 wheels was considered "dangerous" and hydraulic brakes on all 4 wheels----well, you're as good as dead. Henry Ford held on stubbornly to mechanical rod brakes until well into the 1930s!

    I don't know if you've ever driven a car with mechanical brakes, but it's a thrill. Even Bugatti used them for many years, perhaps even longer than Ford.

    They can be effective but require constant adjustment.
  • autoeduautoedu Member Posts: 47
    In 1959 Volvo introduced the three-point safety belt,
    invented by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin.

    Many countless lives have been saved as the result of this innovative safety invention. The most basic and effective safety feature for automobile

    Thank you Nils Bohlin, and thanks Volvo.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
    Just doing a little retitling to set this up as a related discussion for my blog entry in the morning on the Alternate Route

    You'll see more of an explanation when you read the blog entry, but the basic concept is this...
    They had a vote to choose a new seven wonders of the world, so guess what I think we should do? :P

    Just wait for the blog so you have something to vehemently disagree with though!
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
    I've gone first in In Search of..., so now it your turn.

    Who, what, or where are the seven wonders of the automotive world? :shades:
  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 41,707
    a few others: - The Pneumatic tire (OK, that is going back a ways!) - The seatbelt - Toyota Motor company, and that manufacturing system they perfected. - The interstate highway system

    2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD

  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
    It was hard to narrow the list down to 7. had a lot of things that came to mind right away.
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,306
    ...the Ford Rouge plant? That place is massive on a monumental scale.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
    Yea, I was going to make that a separate wonder, but went with Henry himself. Well the list isn't final yet. :P

    I figure I'll do a follow up blog later in the year and we can use this discussion to hash out our final selections.
  • texasestexases Member Posts: 9,541
    Recent, I know, but without computers FI (no 'E') would still be a curiosity, ABS non-existant, same for traction control, variable valve timing, cylinder deactivation, etc. Computers are what let us keep getting more HP and economy and pollution control at the same time, previously thought to be impossible. And they have revolutionized the design process.
  • texasestexases Member Posts: 9,541
    Didn't Cadillac pioneer mass production, at least the concept of fully interchangeable parts? I remember some story of them bringing several Cadillacs together, taking them apart, (edit: mixing up the parts, of course) reassembling them, and boasting because they all ran, an unlikely event for other makes.
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,306
    Yes, that's where the phrase "Standard of the World" come from - for standardized parts. Henry Leland, Cadillac's pioneering engineer, studied New England gunmakers and their techniques towards making standardized parts. The particular competition you're thinking of happened in 1910.
  • texasestexases Member Posts: 9,541
    Based on a lot of previous posts, here are the 7 inventions that I think allow the modern car to exist:
    1-Oil production and refining
    2-The ICE
    3-Pneumatic tire
    4-Transmission, manual and auto
    5-Mass production
    6-Edit: Electric start, kicking A/C off the list

    Note that none of these was really invented solely for the automobile, but all are pretty much needed today.
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,306
    If of were to have a pantheon of the Automotive Gods it would consist of:

    1. Karl Benz
    2. Henry Ford
    3. William Durant
    4. Walter P. Chrysler
    5. Alfred Sloan
    6. Harley Earl
    7. Enzo Ferrari
    8. Ferdinand Porsche
    9. Ransom E. Olds
    10. Henry Leland
    11. Charles Nash
    12. Louis Chevrolet
    13. John and Horace Dodge
    14. Sochiro Honda

    Then there would be separate temples for lesser dieties:

    Temple of General Motors:

    1. Charles Kettering
    2. William Mitchell
    3. Zora Arkus Duntov
    4. Edward N. Cole
    5. Bunkie Knudsen
    6. John DeLorean
    7. David Holls

    Temple of Ford:

    1. Henry Ford II
    2. Carroll Shelby
    3. Edsel Ford
    4. Lee Iacocca
    5. Elwood Engel

    Temple of Chrysler:

    1. Fred Zeder
    2. Owen Skelton
    3. Carl Breer
    4. Virgil Exner
    5. K.T. Keller

    Temple of AMC:

    1. George Mason
    2. George Romney
    3. Richard Teague

    Consequently, there should be an automotive Hades. The guys most deserving of this dishonor are:

    1. Roger Smith
    2. Jacques Nasser
    3. Wayne Cherry
    4. William Christopher
    5. Harry Bennett
  • bumpybumpy Member Posts: 4,435
    Temple of AMC? That's like a Church of the Divine Twinkie.

    You left off Ikuo Kajitani, patron saint of the Temple of VTEC.
  • volvomaxvolvomax Member Posts: 5,238
    How could you leave Wilhelm Maybach and Rudolf Diesel out of the Pantheon?

    I'd also add Robert McNamara to the automotive Hades.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
    I considered coming up with seven categories to compile lists for like that. How would you choose just ONE of those names?
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,306
    Well, some guys are obvious - like Karl Benz for pretty much inventing the automobile or Henry Ford for putting the masses on wheels. Other guys like Harley Earl or Enzo Ferrari are notable for great styling or being able to design and build one of the world's best sports cars.

    I was trying to think of others who belong in Auto Hades. I thought it was too harsh for Chris Bangle for messing up BMW design and having other idiots copy him. He only deserves Auto Purgatory. Ralph Nader was another candidate, but I didn't want to get too political.

    There are definately a lot of guys who belong in Auto Purgatory. There sins weren't bad enough for perdition, but either they were inept or mediocre managers who either caused their companies to decline or stagnate:

    For Auto Purgatory:

    GM Purgatory:
    Thomas Murphy
    Bill Stempel
    Jack Smith

    Ford Purgatory:
    Bill Ford
    Philip Caldwell

    Chrysler Purgatory:
    William C. Newberg
    Lynn Townsend
    John J. Riccardo

    AMC Purgatory:
    Roy Abernathy

    Import Purgatory:
    Ferdinand Piech
    Dieter Zetsche
    Jurgen Schrempp
  • gussguss Member Posts: 1,180
    Lee Iacocca should be on the Chrysler list of Gods also. Saved them from bankruptcy, invented the mini-van and plays golf with Snoop Dog.
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,306
    It was hard to place Iacocca as I had him on the Ford list of gods for the Mustang. I guess he could reside in both temples.
  • texasestexases Member Posts: 9,541
    If you have to pick, go with Ford. Which would you miss more: Mustangs/Camaros/Firebirds/etc., or Caravans/K-cars? :P
  • gussguss Member Posts: 1,180
    A world without minivans would be like a world without video games.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I really liked your list but Harley Earl? He's more like in the phone booth of the Gods, not the temple..."style over substance". And I really think you have to promote Kettering---after all, inventor of the self-starter and breaker point ignition. What did Earl invent? Two tone paint jobs? Not the same.
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