Most Ford Model T's were black. You can make biofuel from garbage. And, automobile emissions are the No. 1 cause of air pollution in the United States today. Who knew? If you're the parent of a young car enthusiast who has many questions, you probably did.
The First Cars Were Powered by Steam
The first cars invented were powered by steam. They were similar to small locomotives in this respect, and many did not really work very well. Inventors were making steam-powered cars as early as the 1770s, more than 100 years before Henry Ford invented his Model-T, according to the Smithsonian website. Most historians credit an ironmonger named Thomas Newcomen with inventing the first engine to run on fire and steam. He introduced his design in 1712. It was a large and complicated affair that was initially used to draw water out of mines, according to a web page on the University of Dayton website.
The Ford Model T Made Cars Affordable
The Ford Model T was manufactured from 1908 to 1927. It originally sold for $850, but because of advancements in assembly-line production, it had dropped in price to $300 by 1925, and -- for the first time ever -- average Americans could afford it. The Ford Model T was also called the Tin Lizzie and the Flivver. It was mass-produced mostly in black because, at the time, black paint dried faster than any other color, making the production of black cars quicker and more efficient, according to History.com. The Smithsonian Institution has a 1913 Ford Model T on display in its National Museum of American History (americanhistory.si.edu).
Today's Car Engines Pollute the Atmosphere
Today, most cars are powered by gasoline engines. This enables them to travel farther than electric cars or cars of old, but it also contributes to pollutants in the Earth's atmosphere. Emissions from transportation are the top source of air pollution in the United States today. When car and truck engines burn gasoline, they emit by-products such as carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons -- toxins that contribute to smog and global warming. Some scientists think that inventing engines that run on cellulosic biofuels -- fuels derived from grasses, garbage and waste products from forests and farms -- is the answer to transportation pollution in the United States.
Car-Collecting Could Become a Passion of the Past
Cars have a long history of instilling loyalty in the hobbyists who love them. According to Jill Bookman, CEO of American Collector's Insurance Company, as of 2007, car-collecting was a $3.5 billion industry in the United States. But it might not remain so, says Chris Woodyard, auto writer for "USA Today." In 2010 article, Woodyard identified three major concerns worrying collectors of vintage autos: increasingly strict environmental regulations, lack of competent mechanics with the know-how to repair older models and a generation of tech-savvy kids growing up more enthralled with gaming consoles than with muscle cars. So, the moral of the story is: if you have a young car enthusiast at home, encourage him. It could one day save the life of an old Dodge Charger.
- Smithsonian: Early Cars: Fact Sheet for Children
- University of Dayton: The Steam Engine
- History.com: Model T
- Union of Concerned Scientists: Cars, Trucks and Air Pollution
- American Collector's Insurance: Fact vs. Fiction: Collector Car Insurance Myths Debunked
- USA Today: Vintage Car Collectors and Auctioneers Face Challenges
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images