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A car we can drive

Whether you drive a Ferrari or a Ford, today’s cars will allow you to get out of one and be able to drive the other. However, it was not always this way…

In the early days of the car, methods of transferring power to a drive shaft, using gears, braking and steering came in many shapes and sizes. Even starting procedures could vary massively. This meant that you had to learn how to drive every car you used, with each one using a different combinations of wheels, leavers, gauges and pedals. This was not unexpected as the motorcar was still going through its painful early development stages.

However, in 1916 Cadillac launched the Type 53. It had its gear leaver and handbrake between the front two seats, a key-operated ignition start and three pedals, set out in the clutch, brake, accelerator layout. This was the first car to use the layout that we all recognise in today’s modern manual cars.

1923 Austin SevenAt the time however, this car was not recognised for what it was. The world did not realise that this car was setting the pattern for all future cars. In fact, it was only in production for one year.

What made the difference was the Austin Motor Company, who saw the Type 53 and loved what they saw. They decided that the layout was perfect for their new Austin 7 and so copied it.

The Austin 7 was a much more affordable car being produced on a massive scale compared to the Cadillac. It became an international success, outselling all competitors. Its brilliant simple design also made it desirable for a number of other companies wanting to use its platform. This led to it being copied or built by numerous manufacturers including BMW, Nissan and Lotus.

This huge spread across the automotive world ensured that the layout of the Austin 7 became the commonly recognised layout, which all manufacturers would then follow.

Classic Car History

 



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