Cars that changed the world

Karshare takes a look at autos that made history - though not in the way you might think.

It’s been nearly 130 years since the invention of the automobile and, it’s fair to say, vehicular innovation has fundamentally changed society several times over. So, we thought we’d take a look at some of the most iconic cars in history and consider their impact on the world.

You won’t find the world’s most expensive car (Ferrari 250 GTO for those interested) or James Bond’s Aston Martin in this list. At Karshare, we champion the everyday motors, the workhorses on wheels. From the first recognised modern-day vehicle to the world’s most popular car, here’s our take on the historic autos that have made the biggest difference to our planet.

Benz patent Motorwagon

The invention of the modern car is usually attributed to Karl Benz, a German inventor and engineer who would go on to found one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world.

The ‘Benz Patent Motorwagen’ was patented as an ‘automobile fuelled by gas’ and only around 25 were ever built. After two successive rounds of improvements, it was the Model 3 that proved definitive and was put on display at the Paris ‘Exposition Universalle’ in 1889.

Famously, Bertha Benz (Karl’s wife), took the Model 3 on its first long distance drive in 1888 to raise publicity for the practicality of the automobile. She drove with her sons from Mannheim to her hometown of Pforzheim in the south west of Germany, a journey of 194km. Even today, there is a car parade along this route every two years to celebrate her historic trip.

Model T Ford

Whilst the invention of the car precipitated him, pre-Henry Ford vehicles were expensive, limited edition luxuries. The Model T changed that paradigm and was instrumental in the proliferation of cars across the USA and the world. By making an everyday car for an everyday person, Ford’s ingenuity changed the world forever.

What made the Model T unique? Well, it certainly wasn’t the fastest, the flashiest nor the cheapest at first, costing a relatively expensive $825 when it debuted in 1908. However, Ford famously invented the assembly line, the essence of which still defines modern manufacturing. Cars were built with interchangeable parts on a continuously moving conveyor belt, where workers would each be responsible for adding one particular part. This massively reduced production costs and was reflected in the price, which dropped to $290 in 1925 ($7,700 in today’s money), by which time one car could be produced every 24 seconds.

By being able to consistently reduce the price and meet the stunning new demand for cars (the waiting list could be over a year!), the Model T truly is one of the most iconic cars ever made.

Mini Cooper

From the Italian Job to Mr Bean, and even popularisation in song form by Madonna, the Mini is an icon of British culture synonymous with fun, racing and somewhat hedonistic visions of the 1960s. The mini was actually invented and gained popularity due to a fuel shortage in Britain. The 1956 Suez crisis caused petrol to be rationed and the sale of imported German ‘bubble cars’ (such as the Messerschmitt KR200)  soared. Not to be outdone, British manufacturers decided to create their own car to counteract the 1950 behemoths that were all the rage - a ‘mini’, if you will. In true Blighty spirit, designer Alex Issigonis sized the passenger door shelf to carry the ingredients of his favourite drink: a dry martini in the correct proportions of one bottle of vermouth and one of Gordon's Gin. Now that’s a car feature you won’t see too often nowadays!

Toyota Corolla

What’s the most commonly sold car in the world? Look no further than the Toyota Corolla, with over 43 million of them sold worldwide. Originally put on sale in 1966 in Japan, it was marketed as a comfortable people’s car but with a sporty edge. Nothing about the Corolla seems particularly special by today’s standards, but to consumers at the time it was practical, inexpensive and, with availability in colours like Zeus Blue, it was, quite simply, fun!