We all have faced a question through out our lives. A puzzle nobody has concretely answered. That is if it was hen or the egg that came first. But we safely say it was some sort of vehicle frame that came first and all other components later. And I think invention of vehicle frame was as important as the invention of wheel for the making of a modern car.But before dive into the vehicle frame history, we must try to understand what is it and how it fit into modern automobile. Therefore I have divided into ancient(BC) and modern history(AD).
What is a Vehicle frame?
A vehicle frame(Chassis+ body) is the main supporting structure of a motor vehicle to which all other components are attached. Comparable to the skeleton of an organism. Until the 1930s, virtually every car had a structural frame, separate from its body. This construction design is known as body-on-frame. Over time, nearly all passenger cars have migrated to uni-body construction. Meaning their chassis and bodywork have been integrated into one another.
What Does it for ?
It supports the vehicle’s mechanical components and body. Like Suspension,car seats ,engine wheels. Deal with static and dynamic loads, without undue deflection or distortion. This means it take care of Weight of the body(car), passengers, and cargo loads. And handle vertical and torsional twisting transmitted by going over uneven surfaces i.e path holes. Also transverse lateral forces caused by road conditions, side wind, and steering the vehicle i.e body roll. Longitudinal tensile forces from starting and acceleration, as well as compression from braking so that it does not fall apart. And last but not least Sudden impacts from collisions so that you don’t die in your car. So now we should look into the journey of vehicle frame.
There are many discoveries and inventions in the history of human that helped the making of a modern human. And vehicle frame can be in top five along with fire,agriculture,domestication of animals and wheels. History of vehicle frame can be divided into a number of eras depending upon whom we refer to as vehicles. I would like consider every wagon/cart/buggy that took humans or their valuables from one place to another either by horses or horsepower consist of vehicular frame. Therefore we will discuss the history of chassis from ancient to modern history.
From the beginning of human history people have dragged any load too heavy to be carried. But large objects are often of awkward shape and texture, liable to snag on any roughness in the ground. The natural solution is to move them on a platform with smooth runners – a sledge. Wooden sledges are first known, by at least 7000 BC, among communities living by hunting and fishing in northern Europe, on the fringes of the Arctic.
These initial sledges were designed in such a way so that it can be pulled by humans over grass land and flat surfaces. One variation used to transfer heavy material was rolling sledge. In it a flat frame with the load is rolled over the wood logs. With domestication of animals, human replaced themselves in sledge with Bull,Ox. Ox-drawn sledges were in use till the 4th millennium BC. The natural next stage is the addition of wheels.
The invention of wheel provided human the opportunity to really progress to a new world. From forest to city. The earliest evidence for wheeled vehicles appears simultaneously in Southwest Asia and northern Europe, about 3500 BC. In Mesopotamia, pictographs representing four wheeled wagons have been found on clay tablets dated to the late Uruk period. Models of solid wheels, carved from limestone or modeled in clay, have been found in Syria and Turkey, at sites dated approximately a century or two later. There were some two wheeled versions found in Indus civilization from the same era.
The wheels of the first wagons were made either from a single piece of wood or from three joined planks. Sometimes they turn on the axle, sometimes with it. Whether first developed as an ‘invention’ in one place, or re-invented in several, wheels seem to have evolved as a natural solution to the problem of transport in areas where both oxen and wood were available.
With domestication of horse and evolution of wheel design came the chariot.The horse were available in Mesopotamia by about 2000 BC. Not much later a two-wheeled chariot would get developed. Its a superstructure made of a light wood, and its wheels are not solid; their rims are of bent wood, held in place by spokes. A horse can pull a chariot at a trot at up to 8 miles an hour – and at a gallop twice as fast. The use of chariots peaked around 1300 BC (see Battle of Kadesh).
Chariots had lost their military importance by the 1st century AD, but chariot races continued to be popular in Constantinople until the 6th century. There were ample historical evidences that chariots were in use in India , China and around the world with different variations. But the growth of vehicular design stagnated from here on till the 17th century due slow speed, lack of comfort and lack of road development. And focus had transferred to sea and river travel until the 15th century.
The second part of this article will cover Coaches, modern automobile and evolution of Vehicular frame.
Read History of automobile chapter 2 part 2 here
History of automobile chapter 1- wheels