Automobile wonders of the future (1903)

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The San Francisco call November 01 1903

Automobile wonders of the future

by EP Brinegar

Secretary of the Automobile Club of California

The automobile of today is a beautiful reality, but the automobile of the future? — ah, what may it not be?

Wonderful as is the machine of today, its possibilities are by no means exhausted. Indeed, the industry has only just begun. The machine of the future will be truly amazing. A mile in less than a minute is the record now. Two miles a minute – who shall say that may not be the record of tomorrow – or next day?

It is, perhaps, not a matter of common knowledge, but nevertheless is a fact, that the most noted progress of any particular branch during the last three years has been made in the automobile industry. While automobile building on a limited scale can be traced back to the year 1890, and even a great deal further back for the initial advent of the first automobile, the general manufacture of motor vehicles began to claim the attention of the public most notably in the year 1896 or thereabout.

Since that time, with but a few thriving factories existing, the industry has yearly progressed at a remarkable pace until now hundreds of plants engaged in the building of automobiles are flourishing throughout the entire country, and America today boasts of being the home of several of the largest automobile factories in the world, notwithstanding the fact that France is generally looked upon as being the home of the automobile.

At the present time there are three distinct powers employed generally for the propulsion of automobiles, viz: Electricity, steam and gasoline. The first power is electric energy stored in a storage battery carried in vehicle, while the second and third are respectively steam generated in small boiler in machine with gasoline used as fuel and power secured from the explosion of gases in firing chambers of a hydrocarbon or gasoline engine.


The future automobile will unquestionably be built pretty much after the adopted lines of the present cars. At first, all machines were built crude and entirely out of proportion, invariably much too heavy for the driving power of the motor within. Then it became evident that weight must be dispensed with, and for some time all vehicles were built along the order of our light runabouts of today, viz: A machine weighing somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 pounds.

Then, as people began to learn more about the automobile and saw its practicability, a keen demand sprang up for a larger and more capable vehicle, consequently the manufacturers endeavored to create something that would fill this want, and, as a result, a two seated machine of the surrey type was offered. It was soon found, however, that this type was not built strong enough to carry the motive power necessary to drive a machine of this kind on indifferent roads for long distances, and that it was lacking in comfort, and as a result, the tonneau type with heavy power as now in vogue soon followed. In automobile touring, the question of miles is a very important one, and to ride and enjoy a hundred or more miles in one day the machine must be roomy, luxurious and have weight enough to overcome the vibration experienced in driving over uneven and rough portions of the road surface.

Until the last year or two the ordinary motor car builders’ chief object was to supply the buying public with a pleasure carriage only, but since that time much attention has been paid to the matter of manufacturing commercial wagons to fill the wants of a rapidly increasing demand, and at the present time hundreds of automobile delivery wagons and motor trucks can be seen daily on the streets of New York and other Eastern cities doing the work which only a short time back necessitated the use of thousands of horses.

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This remarkable progress stands only to be surpassed a hundred times over during the next five years to come, and now where our newspaper wagons, trucks and delivery wagons of every description are drawn over the streets of San Francisco by animals, it is predicted on good authority that these will be propelled by a motive power generated within the vehicle itself.

Indeed, taking San Francisco alone as an illustration of the automobile progress, the writer can recall that only three years ago there were but a dozen motor vehicles on our streets, while one year later there were at least twelve times that number. Today we see the horseless carriages, both large and small, going in every direction. Ladies use them for pleasure, doctors for business and our fire department expects to employ one soon for the use of the Chief in going to and returning from fires.

Fanatical opposition to the automobile has been experienced more or less in the past, but, on the whole, is very rare in this country at the present time. The metropolitan dailies denouncing excessive speed and careless driving, but the whole press is unanimous in recognizing the auto as a legitimate pleasure vehicle and as destined to a great future in the commercial world.

It is, of course, unfortunate that horse drivers in districts little frequented by automobiles should be so much annoyed by the advent of the new vehicle, but all progress is accompanied by obstacles, and annoyances, and cursing progress will not halt its tide. The automobile has as much right to the road as the horse, and will continue to grow in popularity in spite of the fact that some horses shy at it. Farmers should bear this in mind and take advantage of every opportunity to educate their live stock to the machine, and country newspapers should advise them to grasp these opportunities rather than endeavor to excite their disregard and hatred toward the new vehicle and its driver. It is more than important and right that complete friendly relations exist between all users of the country roads.

As a reassurance of the complete success of the motor vehicle in the future, both as a pleasure and commercial wagon, I would call attention to the automobile reliability contest now being participated in by Eastern trade advocates between the cities of New York and Pittsburgh and return, about 1500 miles. Late advices apprise us of the fact that these automobiles are running day and night through rain and mud, while telephone and telegraph messages fail to reach their destination and railroad trains stand for hours on the sidetracks waiting for rails to be replaced so that they can journey onward. In these bad sections of the East automobiles are the only moving objects that carry passengers from town to town unhalted. This, together with other facts and examples of a like nature, proclaim most emphatically that it has come to stay and that the automobile of the future will be a wonder.

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