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GloboCars: THE NEXT CENTURY : SIDE TRIPS : Earliest Automobiles

March 01, 1994

The earliest automobile of which there is a record was a two-foot-long steam-powered model constructed in 1668 by Ferdinand Verbiest, a Belgian Jesuit priest, and described in his "Astronomia Europaea." His model was possibly inspired either by Giovanni Branca's description of a steam turbine, published in his "La Macchina" in 1629, or even by "Nan Huairen," writings on "fire carts" in the Chu Kingdom (c. 800 B.C.).


The earliest full-scale automobile was the first of two military steam tractors completed at the Paris Arsenal in October, 1769, by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot. It reached 2.25 miles per hour.

The world's big 20 automakers (1992)

Includes cars, buses, trucks produced in home country and overseas

1. General Motors (U.S.): 7,146,000

2. Ford (U.S.): 5,960,661

3. Toyota (Japan): 4,477,244

4. Volkswagem (Germany): 3,186,660

5. Nissan (Japan): 2,841,217

6. Peugeot (France): 2,438,296

7. Renault (France): 2,176,607

8. Chrysler (U.S.): 1,967,101

9. Fiat (Italy): 1,936,764

10. Honda (Japan): 1,765,608

11. Mitsubishi (Japan): 1,512,830

12. Mazda (Japan): 1,489,310

13. Suzuki (Japan): 939,688

14. Hyundai (Korea): 859,250

15. Daimler-Benz (Germany): 686,622

16. Daihatsu (Japan): 603,539

17. BMW (Japan): 580,295

18. Fuji (Japan): 505,517

19. Kia (Korea): 499,354

20. Isuzu (Japan): 476,101

Source: Automotive News (1993 Market Data Book)

Car Registrations

The world's first license plates were introduced by the Paris police in France in 1893.

License plate No. 8 was sold at a Hong Kong government auction for the equivalent of about $602,250 on Feb. 13, 1988, to Law Tingpong, a textile manufacturer. The number 8 is considered a lucky number.

Car Collection

The unrivaled collector of Rolls-Royces was Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh the Indian mystic of Rajneeshpuram, a commune in Oregon. His disciples presented him with 93 of the expensive British automobiles before his deportation from the United States in November, 1985.


Source: Guinness Book of World Records and Guinness Book of the Car.

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