History of Automobile chapter One -Invention of the Wheel

History of automobile

History of automobile, I was pondering over it how to put into words or where to start from. Maybe it should be credited to Karl benz, who invented the first modern automobile or one nobody who invented the wheel.  if there was no wheel then there would not have been any Rolls Royce, Ferrari or jaguars to whoosh around.  Ok I don’t want to get carried away. We will limit history of automobile to 6 chapters. We have tore down my car in lots of pieces. And kept only six parts and disposed rest to the crusher. These are the parts without which it would not have been possible to have a modern automobile.

So let’s start with chapter one – the wheel.

It all started here

The wheel has been used extensively and improved upon throughout history.  Early Homo sapiens realised that round objects could be easily moved by rolling them. Their descendants advanced this rolling technique into the transportation of large objects on cylindrical logs.

The invention of the wheel and axle allowed a rolling log to be placed through a hole in a wheel to create a cart. Chariot racing was influential in the evolution of the spoked wheel as they allowed chariots to move much faster. The invention of air filled rubber tyres allowed wheels to be much faster, sturdier and stronger, ultimately redefining transportation.

How It Started

transportation through logs

Early humans in the Paleolithic era (15,000 to 750,000 years ago) discovered that heavy, round objects could more easily be moved by rolling them than bulky, irregular ones. The realization was made that some heavy objects could be transported if a round object such as a fallen tree was placed underneath and the heavy object rolled over it.

The first wheel

The oldest wheel found in archaeological excavations was discovered in what was Mesopotamia and is believed to be over fifty-five hundred years old. Diagrams on ancient clay tables suggest the wheel did not materialize for thousands of years until a potter’s wheel was used in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) in 3500 BC.

The oldest wooden wheel

first wheel
first wheel

The oldest wooden wheel discovered so far was found in Ljubljana, Slovenia and is believed to date back to about 3200 BC. It was about the same time that the wheel was first used for transportation on chariots. With a need for greater speed and maneuverability.

Spoked wheel

The Egyptians created the spoked wheel around 2000 BC.  The spoked wheel was invented to allow the construction of lighter and swifter vehicles. Soon after this, horse cultures of the Caucasus region used horse-drawn spoked-wheel war chariots for the greater part of three centuries. Celtic chariots introduced an iron rim around the wheel in the 1st millennium BC. The spoked wheel was in continued use without major modification until the 1870s. When wire wheels and rubber tires were invented.

The Wire wheel

They were invented by aeronautical engineer George Cayley in 1808. Although Cayley first proposed wire wheels, he did not apply for a patent. The first patent for wire wheels was issued to Theodore Jones of London, England on October 11, 1826. Eugène Meyer of Paris, France was the first person to receive, in 1869, a patent for wire wheels on bicycles.

Bicycle wheels were not strong enough for cars until the development of tangentially spoked wheels. They rapidly became well established in the bicycle and motor tricycle world but were not common on cars until around 1907. This was encouraged by the Rudge-Whitworth patented detachable and interchangeable wheels designed by John Pugh.

The Modern wheel (Steel or alloy wheels)

Although alloy wheels have been around since the early 1920’s, the rise to prominence of vehicles commonly found on the road came in the 1980’s.Magnesium wheels were originally used for racing, However, those magnesium wheels proved to be impractical because they were prone to corrosion and they were mostly used in racing sports. After 1960’s magnesium wheels were gradually replaced by aluminium alloy wheels on the mass market. However, pure magnesium wheels are no longer produced, being found only on classic cars.

The Tyre

The earliest tires were bands of leather, then iron (later steel) placed on wooden wheels used on carts and wagons. The tire would be heated in a forge fire, placed over the wheel and quenched, causing the metal to contract and fit tightly on the wheel. A skilled worker, known as a wheelwright, carried out this work.

The first patent for what appears to be a standard pneumatic tire appeared in 1847 lodged by the Scottish inventor Robert William Thomson.

But it seems we all have a whiny little boy to thank for the smooth rides we enjoy today. In 1887, when Scottish veterinarian John Dunlop’s son complained that his new bike was too uncomfortable to ride on rough roads. He didn’t tell him to tough it out. No, he crafted a inflatable inner tube from the rubber and pump available in his animal surgery. Problem solved, tire invented.

The Tubeless Tyre

Unlike pneumatic tires which use a separate inner tube, tubeless tires have continuous ribs molded integrally into the bead of the tire. So that they are forced by the pressure of the air inside the tire to seal with the flanges of the metal rim of the wheel.

Killen Tire applied for a patent in 1928 and was granted GB patent 329955 in the UK in 1930. The Wingfoot Corporation, a subsidiary of Goodyear Tire were granted a patent in South Africa in 1944. Due to technical problems, most of these designs only saw limited production or were abandoned.

Frank Herzegh working for BF Goodrich applied for a patent in 1946 and eventually received US patent 2587470 in 1952 in the United States. By 1955 tubeless tires became standard equipment on new cars.

The Tweel

The Tweel (a portmanteau of tire and wheel) is an airless tire design concept developed by the French tire company Michelin. Its significant advantage over pneumatic tires is that the Tweel does not use a bladder full of compressed air. And therefore it cannot burst, leak pressure, or become flat. Instead, the Tweel assembly’s inner hub connects to flexible polyurethane spokes which are used to support an outer rim. And these engineered compliant components assume the shock-absorbing role provided by the compressed air in a traditional tire.

Active Wheel System-the future

The concept is probably the most revolutionary of them all as it incorporates all of the car’s key components into the wheel itself. While only suitable for electric cars. The Active Wheel System houses the engine, the suspension, the gearbox and the transmission shaft.


So this was the chapter One- Invention of wheel. Hope you all like it. Will bring next chapter next weekend. Till then keep yourself updated with all automotive news here

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