The interesting history behind cars

■ RICHARD PERRY / Contributed

Greetings from the Hemet Car Guy,

When I was a kid in school History was my favorite subject, which is probably why I like vintage cars so much.
VIP Autos is fortunate enough to have a 1926 Oldsmobile on the showroom floor; a true survivor from an era long gone and as authentic as the day is long. This got me thinking that 91 years ago while the country was in the midst of the roaring 20’s and President Calvin Coolidge was in the White House, this Oldsmobile rolled off the assembly line in Lansing, Michigan as one of 53,015 automobiles built that year by Oldsmobile – the company’s largest as of that date.
Known as a Model 30-E four-door DeLuxe sedan, it was a well-built and well-engineered automobile; reliable, durable and affordable. Oldsmobile’s slogan, “Beauty. Performance. Price. Not one, but all three,” targeted those redeeming qualities, promoting everything that was special about these handsome, conservatively styled automobiles.
The original brochure that we have a copy of says: “The ease with which the Oldsmobile Six absorbs road punishment is directly traceable to the exacting standards and precision of Oldsmobile’s manufacture. Soundly designed, accurately constructed, superbly capable of meeting every driving condition, here is a car, high in quality, low in price. Big, beautiful, staunch – powered by a motor of extraordinary performance capacity – it asks no favors and fears no road!”
The engine is a straight-six flathead displacing 185 cubic inches. The cast-iron engine has a single-barrel carburetor with 40 horsepower, a three-speed sliding gear manual gearbox that’s equipped with a dry clutch disc and a reversing gear that was typical in that day. The differential has a relatively low 5.1:1 gear ratio, which climbs up hills great! This was just fine for the roads back then. However, the most difficult daily challenge for drivers back then was stopping because only the rear wheels had brakes.

The Fisher-built all-steel body had a boxy shape that was similar to many cars in that era. Besides the front hood ornament with the thermometer, the wheels are also made of wood. When people visit the showroom floor, that’s one of the things they point out with a smile.
I was told by an automobile historian that the exterior body paintwork was an intense, highly laborious task due to the use of hand-applied nitrocellulose lacquer. Best known as Duco, the original color of this car is a dark blue.
According to my Automobile encyclopedia, the Oldsmobile first offered two-tone painted bodies, in addition to black fenders, running boards, headlamp housings and upper body and roof. The DeLuxe models were decorated with two pinstripes, both on the main body and on the solid wheels; gold was the primary color used for the pinstriping just like ours. You can stop by VIP Autos to check it out.

Who made the first car?
Karl Benz was the inventor of the automobile. He and his wife owned the factory, where he worked on a reliable gasoline powered two-stroke engine. Benz created his two-stroke engine on December 31, 1878, New Year’s Eve.
Benz was a real genius and soon invented the ignition using sparks with battery, the spark plug, the carburetor, the clutch, the gear shift, and the water radiator. He began selling his vehicle (advertised as “Benz Patent Motorwagen”) in the late summer of 1888, making it the first commercially available automobile in history.
After 10 years, Karl Benz grew his factory in Mannheim from 50 employees in 1889 to 430 employees in 1899. In 1899, Benz was the largest automobile company in the world.

Now for a quiz…

How many cars did Benz produce in 1899?

A. 1,342
B. 572
C. 837
I’ll give you the answer next week.

Happy driving!


Richard Perry is the owner of VIP Autos in Hemet and is known to his readers as the Hemet Car Guy in the Chronicle.

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