Is this an automotive first?

While arranging my literature collection I came across three articles noting items that may be automotive firsts. It is interesting to look at these innovations from 100 years ago and note that similar recent innovations may be old hat.

1912 Henderson driver’s area
1912 Henderson driver’s area

The Henderson Motor Car was introduced on May 30, 1912, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and featured a console-mounted gear-shift between the front seat cushions. I remember console-mounted gear-shifts from the early 1950’s, but the Henderson unit predates this by 40 years. This gear-shift uses the familiar H pattern to control a Stutz Auto Parts Company rear transaxle unit. Henderson claimed that the convenient location of the lever, together with the short movement necessary, made gear-shifting very easy. This also helped to unclutter the driver’s area.

1916 Apperson “Chummy”ad
1916 Apperson “Chummy”ad

The 1916 Apperson “Chummy” four-passenger roadster offered exclusive seating for four in a sleek sporty style. This unique feature also predates four-seat mid-century sports cars. Apperson ad copy states: “Graceful in line, long, and low, the Chummy Roadster has a rakish swing and an aggressive air. It seems alive with ‘pent-up’ eagerness to go. It is a type of car to delight the sportsman who demands power and speed above all else.” The roadster’s separate front seats are divided by an aisle-way giving access to the rear bench-seat. Wouldn’t this seating arrangement be chummy today?

1917 Overland
1917 Overland

I thought voice-activated automotive controls were a recent development. How about this instance of a voice-activated starter on a 1917 Overland Automobile at the Gibson Company in Indianapolis? The photo caption explained “J. C. Harris, manager of the service department, has used a very sensitive telephone transmitter and a series of relays in such a way that when one speaks into the transmitter sufficient energy is developed to operate the regular starting apparatus. As a result, when one says ‘Start’ into the transmitter the engine starts, and when he says ‘Stop’ the engine stops.” Check out the wiring running across the floor from the control relays to the automobile. I guess the modern-day packaging of electronics makes this possible today.

One thing I especially enjoy about early auto advertisements is their outlandish claims to sell products. We can look at these early advertisements and get some idea of how advertising transformed through the years. These automotive firsts are commonplace today but were innovative in their day.

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