The invention of the petrol engine was truly a great moment in history for most of mankind, barring the environmentalists, since it heralded a new era of personal freedom when we each can have our own little tin box to get us from place to place, even if that second place is quite a long way away. It meant that for some people, although perhaps only the wealthiest to begin with, would no longer have to wait on windswept railway platforms for trains or be banged up in buses with the hoi poloi, but could travel around in their own private bubble. The use of metal which could be easily manipulated into different shapes, plus improving technology in engine design and mass production has made the motor car ever more affordable in real terms and nowadays it is rare for any family in the developed world to be without at least one car, whilst most have at least two.
The best type of all-round car nowadays is a fairly compact one which can still seat four people, is peppy enough to run around town and keep up with the general traffic flow, and is reasonably economical. The Eastern countries like Japan make some of the best modern small cars and if you have a look at www.twwhiteandsons.co.uk for example, you will see what I mean, with cars such as the Suzuki Swift and Mazda 3 which do everything you need at a reasonable price.
The first motor cars were of course much larger, with bigger but much less efficient engines than we are used to now. The typical design for an early motor car such as the Panhard featured an engine up front and radiator, and a ladder chassis originally made from wood. (more...)