Revel In The Evolution Of The Automobile From Steam Powered Cars To The Cadillacs Of The 1970s

As with all technologies, the automobile has evolved through time to reflect the changing needs of its customers. When we needed to travel farther, the car changed to get us there. When we wanted to go faster, manufacturers figured out how. But how did folks understand that evolution back in the late 1970s? Sit back to find out.


This video from General Motors is a great example of both automotive design as well as film techniques of the era. It’s only 20 minutes long, but you can write this down as fulfilling your history requirement for the day.

I’ve always been fascinated by the first swaths of cars that came into existence, how it took a while for automakers to realize that a car didn’t just have to be a carriage without a horse, how drivers and passengers need not be exposed to the elements.

This film tracks the big stuff—safety evolution—alongside the small—the purpose of a fender’s curve. It’s a great way to just relax and enjoy the changes that brought us all the way up to 1977.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.


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I take exception to a couple of statements in the video.

1. That the elecric starter made it practial for a woman to own and drive an automobile.

The truth is, back around that time, anyone could avoid the difficulty and danger of the hand crank starter by simplying going with an electric car like a Baker Electric.

2. That the experimenting with the configuration of the automobile as it pertained to steam and electricity occurred mainly before WW1. While steam died off by the 1920s, electric cars could still be bought new into the 1930s from companies like Detriot electric.

And yeah, while listed as being from 1967, it’s definitely not from before 1977, given the Olds Delta 88 I saw.

And I love seeing those old computers.

And that video makes me think of this other video of San Francisco in 1905: