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First Steam Car

The first steam car was actually the first automobile created here on Earth. Gasoline, electric, hydrogen, biofuel and other kinds of vehicles came much later.

First Steam Car

Father Ferdinand Verbiest, a Catholic priest may have been the inventor of the first steam car in 1687. Early documentation suggests that Father Verbiest built the steam vehicle for Chinese Emperor Chien Lung, but this has been under much debate.

French engineer and army officer Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot and M. Brezin exhibited an experimental steam-powered artillery tractor in 1769 that many consider to be the real first steam car. The Cugnot steam car or "Steamer" (pictured above) traveled at a blazing 2 ½ mph and Cugnot ran it once into a stone wall making for the first motor vehicle accident in history.

In 1784, William Murdoch built a steam-powered carriage. Oliver Evans gained the first U. S. patent for a steam car in 1789. A 10-seat steam carriage was build by Richard Trevithick in 1803. Sir Goldsworthy Gurney in 1825 built the first high pressure steam carriage (pictured below). The Gurney Steamer was not an overwhelming success for the Cornish engineer because of the apprehension of the passengers.

Between 1860 and 1880 in the U. S. several inventors created steam carriages to haul passengers including Rufus Porter, Harrison Dyer, William T. James and Joseph Dixon.

Amedee Bollee Sr. built the La Mancelle steam car in 1878, which had a front-mounted engine with a driver's seat behind the engine. The boiler for the vehicle sat behind the passenger compartment. He also built steam cars he named Rapide and L'Obeissante.

In 1871, Wisconsin State University professor Dr. J. W. Carhart built a steam car that won a race that ran for 200 miles. By 1902 over half of the 900 cars registered in the U. S. were steam cars. In the early 1900's the Doble brothers, Abner, John, and Warren designed several steam cars that caught national attention.

The internal combustion engine soon took over, however, because of low fuel cost, quick refueling and long range driving. In more recent times, the steam car has made a comeback - somewhat. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) has been used to propel the Peroxide Thunder and several other racecars down the track using a chemical reaction to a metal, usually silver creating steam thrust.

The British Steam Car (pictured left) also set a land speed record for vehicles in its class.

So, you see that steam has the longest history of any car. From the first steam car to the ones now to the future steam cars, it's a technology that may have gone away for a while, but now it's boiling hot again.