Illustration for article titled Im Going To Talk To A Bunch Of Engineers About My Crackpot Car History Theories

I have a lot of respect for automotive engineers. I always have. While I’m not exactly certain that respect is reciprocated in any way, somehow I’ve managed to con the Society of Automotive Engineer’s Mobility History Committee into letting me give a talk at the SAE World Congress. Tomorrow! I better practice.


My talk will be about a subject I’m sort of obsessed with, the century of automotive development between the very first machine to be considered a true car, Cugnot’s 1769 Steam Drag, and Karl Benz’ Patent Motorwagen in 1886. Most people learn that Benz ‘invented’ the automobile, and Cugnot is treated as some odd, premature experiment.

The truth is, there were many cars that were experimented with, built, sold, repo’d, abandoned, raced, and used during this over a century-long period when we normally don’t even think of cars as existing. I want to help make people aware of these amazing machines.


Also, I’ll be pushing my pet theory that car and train development should really all fall under the same, broader taxonomy of ‘automobile.’ Expect some rioting.

So, if you’re attending the SAE conference, tomorrow, at 2:05, in conference room 331A, come see me! The History Committee even arranged a steam car to be at the event, so even if you can’t even with me, there’ll be a fascinating car to look at.

Also, one of my favorite automotive authors, Karl Ludvigsen, is talking in the same room at 10 AM, so at least come to see him.

If you show up, say hello to me after the talk, and just try to be convincing when you tell me that it didn’t go that badly, and you’re pretty sure those people left in tears of rage for some other reason.


For those of you not in the Detroit area, staying the night in David’s trashed house, I’ll try to Facebook Live the talk. Sound good?

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)

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