1920s Car History
1920’s cars saw many technical advances that improved the functions of the automobile. Many of the automobile innovations that we assume of as being modern were in fact introduced in the 1920’s. For example, front wheel drive, four wheel drive, electric powered cars, and even hybrid fuel/electric cars.
The braking system of the cars improved as cars became more powerful and traffic increased. Early cars had mechanical brakes only on the rear wheels requiring a great deal of force from the driver to stop the car. In the cars of the 1920’s, cars for the first time had mechanical brakes on all four wheels.
Safety glass that did not shatter when broken was introduced in these automobiles and helped prevent serious injury from even minor accidents.
At the start of the decade, cars were very basic but still a vast improvement over horse and buggy. Most of the early cars were open tourers but it didn’t take long before they were enclosed and fitted with heaters to improve passenger comfort. By the end of the 1920’s however, cars had advanced enough in terms of style, speed and beauty with high levels of comfort and safety. By 1923, closed sedans became more common than open cars making these 1920’s cars more comfortable.
These 1920’s cars competed with the very expensive cars below, a Rolls Royce, a fine Europe-built car.
These European 1920’s cars were bought by the rich and famous, in Europe and in the Americas. They complemented each other by their beauty and class.
The 1920’s cars rolling off Detroit’s assembly lines faced an increasingly annoying obstacle: mud. The majority of roads in the U.S. had been designed for uses by horses, thoroughly unsuitable for car traffic. Most of the country’s two million miles of roads were only covered by gravel. So people in various communities insisted on better roads as they acquired cars.
In 1921 the first Federal Highway Act was passed. The act sped up the building of roads as well as improvements in navigating them. For example, East-west routes were assigned even numbers; north-south routes were assigned odd numbers.
Better highways, the moving assembly line, and the closed car caused the 1920’s cars to contribute to the “car culture” of the 1920s.
Companies that had formerly produced horse drawn vehicles became car manufacturers or built bodies on chassis produced by others. Many of the expensive 1920s cars were custom built for their wealthy owners.
Meanwhile, Americans fell in love with their cars. The 1920’s cars brought people to different places, touring towns all over the country. Autocamping became a national fad and pastime. 1922 saw 15 million auto campers on the road, a relatively safe and inexpensive way for families to go out and have fun, as well as see the countrysides.
Young people, who before were restricted to meet in their porches, now found themselves in the privacy of their cars, which scared most parents.
The rapidly growing automobile industry led by Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company produced new and better models every year. Increased wages and lower cost vehicles through mass production made cars increasingly affordable, although 3 out of 4 cars were bought on installment plans which is basically how people today finance their cars.
Henry Ford, had a lot of profits from his Model T Ford, became complacent. He was unwilling to acknowledge the changing nature of the marketplace and it almost proved to be his undoing.
People wanted a different car than the Model T. America in the 1920s was a rich and ambitious place. Its consumers wanted more than functional cars – they wanted their cars to reflect on their status, they wanted to feel rich.
Although the 1920s was a difficult time for many small, independent car makers, it was a great time for some of the larger independents: Packard, Willy-Overland, Hudson, Nash, and Studebaker.
The most successful of the independents were Errett L. Cord and Walter P. Chrysler
Cord, a former race car driver and salesman, joined the Auburn Automobile Company in 1924 which was sagging at that time. He turned the company around. He understood what the consumers wanted, therefore he built 1920’s automobiles which were sturdy, sleek, reliable, and more expensive than the rest. But they were popular.
He soon joined forces with the Duesenberg brothers, Fred and Augie, to produce a line of passenger cars that would be the envy of the entire industry, including the modest Model A Duesenberg and later in the 1920s, the lavish Model J.
One of the biggest motoring events of 1927 was the release of the “new Ford”, the Model A, which replaced the long-standing Model T after 18 years of production.
New makes of 1920’s cars proliferated – from the low cost Model T Ford through to the even more expensive Rolls Royce.Most of the carmakers no longer exist or have been amalgamated but many of the old car names like Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet – (GM Motors), Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Lincoln , and Oldsmobile live on today. Others like the Auburn, Cole, Crow, Davis, Dixie, Durant, Elcar, Grant, King, Kline, Lafayette, Kurtz, Marmon, Mercer, Overland, Peerless, Pilot, Roamer, Saxon, Stearns, Velie, Wescott and Winton are only seen in vintage car shows today.
Another large name in automobile history appeared during this time. His name – Walter P. Chrysler. His rise in the 1920s was meteoric, brought on by his enormous capacity for work, equaled only by his tremendous zest for life. His first car, a Locomobile which cost him $5,000, fascinated him. He wanted to be a part of automobile’s production and development. He worked for GM before retiring in 1920, a man financially set for life. But he was restless.
He went back to work, unsuccessfully trying to revive the ailing Willys-Overland company. He then went to revitalize the ailing Maxwell Motor Company with three young engineers. He then went on to develop one of the most popular of the 1920 cars, his Chrysler Six, a car equipped with a new high-compression engine. By 1925, Maxwell Motor Company evolved to become the last three of the Big Three – the Chrysler Corporation.
Later, he realized that for his 1920’s cars to be able to compete in a marketplace dominated by GM and Ford, he had to do something different. He had that opportunity when an offer to purchase Dodge came in 1928. The Dodge brothers had died of influenza. With the purchase, he acquired the Dodge name, its factories, and perhaps most important of all, its nationwide network of dealers.
A year later, Chrysler introduced two more marquees, De Soto and Plymouth, both of which established Chrysler as one of the era’s greatest makers of 1920’s cars.
1920’s Cars’ advertisements became more sophisticated as psychology was employed by copywriters to sell 1920’s cars. Before this, ads had focused on specifications, engine horsepower, and features but the late 1920’s brought in the style of advertising that appeals to people’s emotions rather than intellect (pretty much like the modern type of advertisement). Automobile manufacturers also targeted women drivers by advertising in women’s magazines and by manufacturing cars whose appeal had emphasis to women. They accomplished this by varying the range of colors, making improvements in the interior of the car, and by overall improvements in how the cars handle.
The influence of the old English horse-drawn coach livery, were obvious as color and design of the new cars borrowed from horse-drawn coaches. Color and design were prime selling point. Features like heaters, balloon tires, and improved suspensions including better shock-absorbers made the life of motorists better, even with many roads still unpaved.
The wealthy purchased expensive ($15,000-$50,000) European cars like Mercedes and Hispano-Suiza which they imported into America. But America had its luxury cars too like the Cadillac and Packard that were favored by the big name movie stars.
By the late 1920s, the automobile had firmly established itself as the newest and most popular method of road transport. The 1920’s cars ushered a new automotive age.
1929 Ford Model A Deluxe Roadster
1920 Rolls Royce Phantom Limousine
1928 Falcon Knight Roadster
1926 Packard Twin 6 Roadster
1927 Willys Overland Whippet 93A
1929 Hudson7 Roadster
1920 Nash Touring
1929 Studebaker Roadster
1929 Cord L29
1923 Duesenberg Model A Touring Car
1929 Duesenberg Model J
1928 Rolls Royce Sport Phantom
1920s Rolls Royce
1920s Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Torpedo
1928 Cadillac Convertible Coupe
1921 Dodge Roadster
1929 Lincoln Model-L Dual Cowl Phaeton
1921 Oldsmobile 43A Series Touring
1926 Durant Star Speedster
1927 Elcar Roadster
1922 LaFayette-134 Touring
1922 Marmon Pace Car Speedster
1927 Peerless Six-90 Sedan
1920 Roamer Roadster
1928 Stearns Knight
1929 DeSoto Roadster
1927 Mercedes Supercharged Type-S
1928 Hispano-Suiza H6C Transformable Torpedo
Don’t forget to check out our otherGreatest Ever Supercars and Sports Cars posts.
For most of the 1920s, Henry Ford's Model T dominated the sales charts. From 1920 through 1926, the Model T accounted for 47 percent of new-car sales. In 1921, an astounding 61 percent of the cars sold were Model T's.What were the big 3 of automobile Makers 1920s? ›
Henry Ford innovated mass-production techniques that became standard, and Ford, General Motors and Chrysler emerged as the “Big Three” auto companies by the 1920s.What was the fastest car in 1920? ›
1920s Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo
Manufactured from 1928, the Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo was way ahead of its time, and was the fastest production car of the 1920s. It had a top speed of 110mph, courtesy of a 6.8-litre inline-6 supercharged dual-carburettor engine with a total 180 horsepower.
The Ford Model T quickly became one of the most popular cars in the 1920s and by the early years of the decade, over half the registered cars in the world were Fords.What kind of car did Gatsby drive? ›
Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 film adaptation of the book starred Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby, but more importantly, it featured an incredible vehicle as the millionaire's daily driver — a 1928 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Phantom I Ascot Dual Cowl Sport Phaeton.What was the fastest car in 1922? ›
In 1922 Kenelm Lee Guinness raised the LSR to 133.75mph at Brooklands in the aero-engined 350hp Sunbeam.What was the biggest car company in 1920? ›
Rolls-Royce was probably the most well-known car manufacturer during the 1920 decade. Offering some of the most expensive cars on the market at the time, this is what made them one of the world's most popular car brands during the first half of the interwar period.What was the first car to go 100 mph? ›
The first car to break 100mph was a 90hp Napier owned by a chap called S.E. Edge. In the early 20th century, rich petrolheads would race their cars on Ormond Beach in Florida. Edge's Napier was driven by a British man named Arthur MacDonald, who managed 104.65mph over the measured mile in 1905.How fast can a 1920s car go? ›
Not only was the 1920s a decade of firsts, but it also produced some memorable classic rides that certainly would fulfil the needs of a speed-lover at the time. Top speeds were shy of 120 mph in this decade, but those speeds were only achievable by some cars.What was the first car to hit 200 mph? ›
This 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona Was the First Car to Top 200 MPH. Now It's Heading to Auction.
In 1922, the best-selling vehicle in America was the iconic Ford Model T. Fast forward almost a hundred years and Ford topped the 2021 sales charts with the Ford F-Series.Why were cars so cheap in the 1920s? ›
For many middle-class Americans, the 1920s was a decade of unprecedented prosperity. Rising earnings generated more disposable income for the purchase of consumer goods. Henry Ford's advances in assembly-line efficiency created a truly affordable automobile, making car ownership a possibility for many Americans.What was a car called in the 1920s? ›
"Machine" as a 1920s American term for "car"What is the greatest car of all time? ›
- VW Beetle. ...
- Cord L-29. ...
- Ford 150 Pickup Truck. ...
- Oldsmobile F-88. ...
- BMC Mini. ...
- Ford Mustang. ...
- Porsche 911. The Porsche 911 has been beloved on the racetrack and streets alike ever since it was first introduced in 1964 and is now one of the longest-standing sports cars ever. ...
- Stay. Gateway Canyons Resort.
- Mercedes 300SL Gullwing 1954. ...
- Ferrari 250 GTO 1962. ...
- Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 1965. ...
- Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic 1938. ...
- FIAT 124 Spider 1968. ...
- Volkswagen Beetle 1938. ...
- Land Rover 1948. ...
- Ford Model T 1908.
Not least among the objects d'art in Gatsby's cosmos are the cars: a brilliant yellow 1929 Duesenberg steals the show as Leonardo DiCaprio drives it recklessly through Long Island. A 1930 Buick, a 1933 Auburn, a couple Packards and a Ford Model A also appear as extras.What was the most expensive car in 1925? ›
Bugatti, based in Molsheim, France, is known today for making some of the fastest and most expensive cars in the world. It wasn't much different in 1925. This car would have cost around 70,000 Francs when it was brand new, an enormous sum for an automobile at that time.What was most popular in the 1920s? ›
Jazz was the music of popular choice and some of the best known musicians were jazz musicians including Duke Ellington and Al Jolson.Why is Gatsby's car yellow? ›
Gatsby's yellow Rolls Royce represents corruption and deceit. Gatsby buys this car to promote his wealthy facade to others, while this very car is also used by Daisy to run over and kill Myrtle.How much is Gatsby's car worth? ›
Sitting down behind many layers of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory, we started to town," narrator Nick Carraway said. The car was last auctioned in 2009 for $238,000, according to Hagerty, but it has since received an extensive restoration that took eight years to complete at a cost of $800,000.
Since it didn't match the color combination that Fitzgerald described in his novel, it was repainted in creamy yellow, and its leather interior was dyed green. Leonard owned the car for the next 36 years.What was the first car to go 400 mph? ›
The first land speed record was documented as early as 1935 when Sir Malcolm Campbell hit a whopping 301 mph (484 kph) in the iconic Blue Bird. It's the place that saw Craig Breedlove become the first American to break the 400 mph (644 kph) barrier in 1963 and exceed 600 mph (966 kph) in 1965.What was the fastest car in 1926? ›
Parry-Thomas rechristened the car Babs and rebuilt it with four Zenith carburettors and his own design of pistons. In April 1926, Parry-Thomas used the car to break the land speed record at 171.02 mph (273.6 km/h). Babs used exposed chains (covered by a fairing) to take power to the drive wheels.What car has 325 mph on the dashboard? ›
The Chiron accelerates effortlessly, the speedometer needle whizzing past the previous run's speed. The digital reading below the needle jumps in moderate increments all the way up to 325 kph (202 mph) before the driver lets off the gas and slows the Chiron. Gallery: 2016 - Bugatti Chiron.How much did a car cost in 1920? ›
A fresh set of wheels varies depending on the make and model, but a Chevrolet in the 1920s cost $525–which is about $6,790.30 today. Wouldn't it be nice to own a new car for that price in 2020? "Fill 'er up!" A gallon of gas cost 30 cents in 1920. That would be equivalent to $3.87 per gallon now.What was the most popular car in 1926? ›
More than 15 million Model T's were sold during its years of production (1908–1927), making it the most popular automobile of the time.Who made cars more affordable in the 1920s? ›
Henry Ford set his cars at an affordable price for the middle classes in North America and Europe, and he paid his workers relatively well for the time period. This influenced production in other industries, including in appliances. Soon, the average household had one car, refrigerator, stove, and washing machine.Has a car ever gone 1000 mph? ›
|Class||Land speed record vehicle|
|Engine||Rolls-Royce Eurojet EJ200 afterburning turbofan|
Not only that, but the Chiron Super Sport 300+ also became the first car to break 300 miles per hour on the track. The final record was 304.773 mph with racing driver Andy Wallace at the wheel on Volkswagen's Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany.Has a car ever hit 1000 mph? ›
For sale: a rocket-powered car named Bloodhound built specifically to break the land speed record. Theoretical top speed of 1,000 miles per hour. Seats one.
1894 Benz Velo - 12mph
The Velo was the first true production car, which made it the fastest by default.
1. Porsche 911 turbo – 4.9 secs. Also known as the 930, the Porsche 911 turbo stood proud as the quickest car built in the 1970s. It posted a 0-60mph time of 5.5 secs when it made its debut in 1975 with a 3.0-litre engine, and the 3.3-litre flat-six introduced in 1978 slashed that time to 4.9 secs.What was the first car to go 250 mph? ›
This was almost 15 years after the Bugatti Veyron became the first to reach 250 mph. We explore why it took them so long to reach this benchmark and what automakers like Bugatti have been doing to chase it. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.Has any car hit 500 mph? ›
The Bloodhound supersonic car has reached a speed of over 500 miles per hour (mph)!How many mph is 1000hp? ›
That should be good for over 1000 peak horsepower, a 0-124 mph time of six seconds, and a top speed of 217 mph.What was the first cars to have 1000 horsepower? ›
The impressive 1,000hp Sunbeam was one of the first purpose-built Land Speed Record cars and the first to reach 200mph. The driver was Major Henry Segrave, a previous record holder at the wheel of a 4 Litre Sunbeam at Southport in March 1926.What is the most sought after car in America? ›
|Most Popular Used Vehicles in the United States- iSeeCars Study|
|Rank||Vehicle||% Share of Total Used Car Sales|
|2||Chevrolet Silverado 1500||2.6%|
|3||Ram Pickup 1500||2.4%|
|Year||Production||Price for Runabout|
Model T, automobile built by the Ford Motor Company from 1908 until 1927. Conceived by Henry Ford as practical, affordable transportation for the common man, it quickly became prized for its low cost, durability, versatility, and ease of maintenance.Why was Ford popular in the 1920s? ›
Ford became a symbol of America's entrepreneurial spirit. It was Ford's idea to build a car on an electric assembly line . This method had two main advantages: it was quick and did not require large numbers of highly-skilled workers.
Heaters became standard equipment on the more expensive cars and over time they were fitted to most cars. You could buy and fit after market car heaters to suit cheaper cars like the Fords and Chevrolets.What is car was a lemon? ›
A "lemon" is a term for a car with a significant defect or malfunction that makes it unsafe to drive, although the exact definition can vary from state to state. Examples include non-working or faulty brakes, engines, transmission, or lights.What do Gatsby cars represent? ›
What role do automobiles play in The Great Gatsby? For many of Fitzgerald's characters, the automobile represents American progress. Fitzgerald, however, remains unconvinced. Despite its superficial role as an emblem of man's ingenuity, Fitzgerald suggests that the automobile is actually a tool of destruction.Were cars widely used in the 1920s? ›
Whereas the car had been the plaything of the wealthy in the first two decades of the 20th century, in the 1920s it became widely available to the general population. More modest pricing and improved roads and highways systems launched the automobile into the daily lives of Americans.Why was the Model T the most popular car in the 1920s? ›
The Model T was actually affordable and it became so popular at one point that a majority of Americans owned one, directly helping rural Americans become more connected with the rest of the country and leading to the numbered highway system.What kind of car does Leonardo DiCaprio Drive in The Great Gatsby? ›
Not least among the objects d'art in Gatsby's cosmos are the cars: a brilliant yellow 1929 Duesenberg steals the show as Leonardo DiCaprio drives it recklessly through Long Island.What was cool in the 1920's? ›
- 1) The Decade of Women's Rights. ...
- 2) The Great Crash of 1929. ...
- 3) Jazz Was Born. ...
- 4) A Classic American Novel Was Published. ...
- 5) Advances in Aviation. ...
- 6) The Changing of the American Landscape. ...
- 7) A Lot of Household Brand Names Originated in This Era. ...
- 8) TV Was Invented.
The first, and best known fads were in the 1920's with flapper style, speakeasies, and flagpole sitting.What was the most popular item purchased in the 1920s? ›
But the most important consumer product of the 1920s was the automobile. Low prices (the Ford Model T cost just $260 in 1924) and generous credit made cars affordable luxuries at the beginning of the decade; by the end, they were practically necessities. By 1929 there was one car on the road for every five Americans.How fast did 1920s cars go? ›
Not only was the 1920s a decade of firsts, but it also produced some memorable classic rides that certainly would fulfil the needs of a speed-lover at the time. Top speeds were shy of 120 mph in this decade, but those speeds were only achievable by some cars.
So why was it named the Model T? Well, the story behind that is much simpler than you might think. Throughout the development process, Henry Ford named his first design the model A and simply worked his way through the alphabet with each new design. It really was as simple as that, making design number 20 the Model T.How much is a 1920 Model T worth? ›
It had a limited range, lasting about 20-40 miles before requiring a refueling.