It is interesting indeed to pursue the complete development in the car body construction. Already shortly after the birth of vehicles with internal combustion engine there are two variations: the carriage with subsequently built-in engine and the implementation with steel chassis to especially meet the requirements of the new engine.
Up to the turning of the century there is in principle just the rear engine. There are one or two rows of seats, the one in front occasionally facing backwards (vis-a-vis). The most frequent representative is the Benz Viktoria (picture 1) until in the beginning of 1900 Daimler take over lead for the upper class models and the French (picture 2) for the rest.
The front engine gets it`s way and the radiator influences the appearance to a great extent. Some manufacturers, for example Renault, arrange the radiator behind the engine which reduces the massiveness of the front section. Wheels become smaller in all and equal in size. Changes to the frame additionally lower the engine`s center of gravity. The cars become safer more accurate to handle.
It is the time of clear separation between construction of vehicles and car body construction. Therefore, many vehicles cannot be standardized like later ones. Only slowly manufacturers like Daimler, Benz and e.g. Opel start offering complete packages. For a long time, the frame consists of a wood/metal combination and as long as it carries the weight, everything can be arranged on it according to customer`s needs.
The First World War and its far-reaching consequences make Europe fall behind the USA for approx. 10 years. They now have better metal punching techniques which by and by replace wood in car body construction. The european constructions still have to be varnished in a week-long process. This creates several layers of color which nevertheless do not withstand the ravages of time for long.
From the mid-twenties on interest in aerodynamics rises. Country roads get a little better, at least in Europe and speed grows slightly. While experimenting with car body shapes favorable until today like the drop shape, and e.g.rear engines, the average - and superclass vehicle still carries the angular radiator. Their rounding-off occurs only ten or even more years later.
In the thirties American metal punching techniques increasingly find the way to Europe. It marks the birth of the all-steel body which soon becomes self-supporting. The large-scale production begins. In the meantime, the varnish chemistry has also developed. Nevertheless, integration of the headlights into the front fenders lasts up to the beginning of the second world war. So does the developement of car boots which can be opened from in- or outside.
After the war development splits. A few expensive sports cars still have hand-made metal bodies, e.g., in Italy, while the majority of them is punched. Lack of steel occasionally forces the use of wood and other materials. In the first newly developed models the fenders are integrated in the bonnet thus giving more interior room (pontoon car body). Typical for that time is the change of the door stop unit from the back to the front.
A large amount of light-flooded car bodies with good all-round view follows. Only the increasing efforts towards passenger safety strenghten the A-, B and C pillars but at the same time darken the interior. The three-box design with engine compartment, passenger's cell and luggage compartment still rules for long time. Estate cars are rather something for small businessmen. As the only specific feature, by the end of the fifties the american influence shows with picture windows and rear fins.
In the interior the steering wheel is already shaped like a deep bowl and the dashboard is upholstered, at least its upper section. Bit by bit the compact cars following no special line disappear and the automarket starts, in principle, with the Beetle or the Kadett. The design shakes off the american influence again and becomes objective. The trapezoid gets stencil for the body manufacturers, to be recognized best possibly in BMW`s new class. Road performance increases, the attainable speeds do not yet develop accordingly.
It is the last time that one can see the corners of the vehicle when parking it. Thereafter it slowly becomes more curvy and the interior is packed with consoles and headrests. Originally coming from Great Britain, the compact category slowly gets its way below the middle class, mainly in France. The estate car is not yet presentable in the higher middle class, not even in France. There are still special fenders to which e.g. fog lamps and rear fog lamps can be fastened later.
The windscreens do not become more sloping until the eighties. From now on nearly every manufacturer lives through his design- and- sales crisis. Only a few manage a continuous transition into the nineties.Time comes in which nearly everything is possible. Even lower class cars increasingly break the 200 km/h barrier, aerodynamics rules the design. Fears that car bodies from different manufacturers could hardly be distinguishable in the future are on every vehicle enthusiast`s lips.
Around that time a lot of different cars appear on the same patform. It seems less a problem obviously to change the car body in shorter time intervals than the rest of the car. So there are endless numbers of shapes on a common basis which are then considered as new creations. Every imaginable loophole in car body design is filled, last by an off-road coupe. Those who know another conceivable combination, report to us! Not the use is important, but that it does not exist yet.
From now on women have their vans, so there are no transport problems any more. Men have their cross-country vehicles - but not the terrain to drive them on! Gigantic towed weights for heavy goods haulage are possible. Fortunately, in Germany approx. just one third of the traffic we have to deal with consists of those heavy weight, view restricting RUV`s, SUV`s or whatever you call them. In the USA it is already more than half of it! A step back in development is in sight, thanks to climate change. Talking about climate: Germany is by far not the warmest country in Europe, however, has the most registered convertibles ... 02/10