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  Design 4

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All automobile technology emanates from the discovery of the wheel, which gives us the first starting point for designing, which up to now, hasn't lost anything of its fascination. How often do people attempt to change their cars appearance completely, by mounting special wheels or rims? Indeed, the wheels of the first cars looked very different, they were put together from various bits of wood.

Even the wheel itself had a predecessor: the roller. We know that they were used in Egypt, however, long before the building of the pyramids. Whether they were also used for this task, remains an argument between historians and scientists. The wheel becomes important as far as design is concerned, when parts which are not essential for its functioning are removed. A nice example is the early Fiat model shown above.

By the way, the wheel was also one of the first parts, which was manufactured by outside suppliers. These were wheels which were derived from the bicycle-wheel, which lent the vehicle a rather filigree appearance. Above you can see the motor-carriage, without any particular motor-vehicle-design elements. Below, the essential difference can be seen. Carl Maybach had the wheels for his first internal combustion engined vehicle made by a factory which produced bicycles.

The symbiosis between hand-craft and design, can be particularly well seen in the case of the wooden wheel. A great deal of effort was necessary, to get the straight-growing wood to follow a perfect curve. The connections also presented a challenge. The rebuilding of the (wooden) wheels for certain old-timers, costs about the same as having the engine restored. Fortunately, at the time of the invention of the automobile, wheels had already been manufactured for centuries.

Although wood, as a material for wheel-rims, would be used for a long time, it couldn't last forever. It was too heavy, too expensive and relatively unsuitable for pneumatic tyres. Here you can see, on one of the best selling vehicles before the turn of the century, a 1893 Benz, an early but nevertheless, very successful compromise between wood and metal. In the end, metal would of course, win the race, particularly then, when at least in Europe, mass mobilisation took off. 05/14

Henry Ford created mass-motorisation with wooden rims.

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