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A Skelding Summary

One permanent feature of life in Covent Garden is the motorcar in many shapes and sizes from the stretch limo which curiously resembles a dachshund on wheels to flash motors which also function as mobile discos.
Indeed if you wish to hear the latest hit record - forget about going into a pub and putting money in the juke box, just go outside and listen to the traffic instead.

The automobile (literally a vehicle that moves under its own power) is older than you would think. Indeed wind powered vehicles were designed as early as the 1400s - and steam powered vehicles were developed in the eighteenth century. The first example of this was the automobile made by the Frenchman Nicholas Cugnot in 1769 especially as a gun carriage for the French Army. Unfortunately the vehicle's propensity to overheat and explode made it more of a threat to his own side than the enemy.

Petrol driven engines were first introduced in 1876 by the German Niklaus Otto - yet really didn't catch on until the turn of the twentieth century when Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz came to prominence in the 1890s . These two companies ultimately merged in 1926 and began trade as Mercedes. The luxury car market was arguably born in 1904 with the creation of Rolls Royce. Only four years later
car production was revolutionised by Henry Ford's assembly lines - and with it the Model T which was mass produced, cheap and a world beater. It also came in an exciting colour range such as black, black or black - but that's by the by.

The 1920s saw the foundation of many motor companies which became household names such as Fiat, Citroen, Austin and Morris.

Their size (particularly in America) has tended to get smaller since the Oil Crisis of the early 1970s - and reflected a shift away from the noisy and dirty "gas guzzlers" beloved of the 1950s and 1960s - though it is fair to say that in the depression of the 1930s and the immediate post war years smaller cars were favoured being cheaper to buy and run.

One urban feature brought about by the car - has been the motorway which was meant to improve comfort and shorten holiday journey times. Naturally with the motorways in Britain - they got it wrong. Strangely enough those constructed in America and Italy from the 1920s and the Autobahnen in Germany from the 1930s were designed for the military to use. That way, the Wehrmacht could rapidly get access to any adventure playground that took its fancy such as Chessington, Poland and France.

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Index of things

Histories of Things
By Laurence Skelding

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