It’s almost 2016, which means, if my math is correct, 1916 will be exactly one century ago. There were plenty of cars in 1916, and, generally, they did the same thing that cars do today: get your ass from one place to another without some smug horse all up in your business. Car technology has evolved dramatically, which is why I want to compare the cheapest car now with the most expensive one then.
For the cheapest car, I’m basing that on the US market; I know there’s much, much cheaper cars like the Tata Nano out there, but for this chart, I used the least expensive new car you can get in America right now, a manual Nissan Versa sedan.
It’s a little tricky to find the most expensive car from 1916 (for one thing, the not-so-great Great War was going on and lots of companies were on hold, car-making-wise) but a pretty good guess would be to use a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, which was built from 1906-1926.
These cars are clearly from the opposite ends of the prestige/cost spectrum, separated by 100 years. I don’t think anyone will be all that surprised by the results of this chart, but it’s pretty telling about how much development has happened in a century of building cars that the cheapest shitbox you can get today soundly beats the finest chariot a millionaire plutocrat would have had a century ago, at least on any technical (and likely comfort/convenience) metric you can think of. Style and enjoyment-wise, well, that’s another story.
Anyway, here you go. Feel free to print this out and show it to anyone who tries to tell you that there’s some sort of conspiracy holding back automobile development.
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