The First Automobile?

Today – September 25 – is the birthday of a man that has somehow evaporated from the spotlight within the automotive industry.  Back in 1725, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot was born.  The behemoth that can be seen in the photo below is Cugnot’s steam-powered…automobile?  It ‘hit the road’ in 1769 for service as a military tractor.  More specifically, it hauled artillery.  It was far from a speeding bullet – with a top speed of 2.5 mph - but it can be argued that it pulled the trigger on the timeline that led to the automobile we know today.

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Is Cugnot the inventor of the automobile?  Many think of Henry Ford.  Others think Benz and Daimler.  The first made the gas-powered automobile popular in the U.S. in the early 20th century.  The other names filed the first patents on gas-powered automobiles in completely separate ventures - and coincidentally on the same day - back in 1886.  Well, Cugnot’s invention is the first self-propelled vehicle.  Let’s call it the first automobile.  Mr. Cugnot, bon anniversaire!  


Speaking of starting points, my automotive passions were – at the very least – accelerated after hearing my uncle’s ’65 Buick Skylark rumbling down the blockIt’s noteworthy to say that listening to my parents’ music collection – which included ‘[She’s real fine my] 409’ from the Beach Boys - could have set the tone.  I’ll always credit the early-and-often viewings of MotorWeek for developing my knowledge base and fueling my automotive enthusiasm.  This Saturday, you’re welcome to MotorWeek’s CARnival Car Show and Collector Car Auction.  Maybe you’ll have a chance to bring the family and set a new generation on the road to a life of automotive enthusiasm.  For more information on the event, check  See you down the road!

Richard Williams