In Reverse: 120 Years of Body-Building Changes

Posted by on Aug 29, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

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The first auto body designers and builders represented what was already an old established craft.

People had been traveling in wheeled carriages for hundreds and hundreds of years. But at the dawn of the 20th century, they would be powered not by horses or some other draft animal, but by some sort of motive power. It mattered little to early body builders if vehicles were propelled by a gasoline engine, electric power or steam. Their task was to create a conveyance that would carry people—period. The body builders contended that if the carriage designs of the late 1800s were good enough for horses, they were good enough for engines. And so it was that wood was the first automotive substrate.

One of the earliest references to an automotive body comes from the story of a doctor in Youngstown, OH. In June 1895, Dr. Carlos Booth experienced a runaway situation with his wagon and team of horses. Not wanting to experience that again, he designed a motor vehicle and commissioned a local shop to build it. Among its many features was a “body designed to hide the engine and the mechanisms of the vehicle.” (This is perhaps the earliest reference to an automobile body that served primarily as an aesthetic portion of the vehicle.) He is purportedly the first doctor in American to make house calls in a motor vehicle. It’s unknown if his car ever needed body work.

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