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15 Car Designs That Changed The Industry

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Car have existed for well over a century, and during all those years we have seen thousands of models come out from various makes. Most cars that are produced seem quite similar to what had been made before. There are just a few that can be called innovative.

Here’s a brief overview of the cars we included in the list:

• The first car ever designed.
• The car that initiated the use of assembly lines to mass-produce.
• The first car to have an electric starter.
• The first mass-production car that was fully enclosed.
• The first car with the V8.
• The first concept car.
• The world’s best selling car ever.
• The vehicle that revolutionized military transport during World War II then became very popular to civilians.
• The car whose layout would define front-engine and FWD cars.
• A race car’s layout that has lasted over fifty years.
• A car that was made for America’s youth with its sporty style.
• A super fast car with a bed.
• The rally car that proved the value of having AWD.
• The official family vehicle.
• The first mass-produced hybrid and cleanest car ever.

Curious yet? Here’s our pick of 15 car designs that changed the industry:


1. Benz’s Patent-Motorwagen – 1885

Benz Patent-Motorwagen

The world’s first car, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen was innovative for the obvious reason: being the first designed self-propelled car. Before this automobile was invented, people travelled on horse and buggy. This two-seater had single cylinder, four-stroke motor fitted in the rear of the car. It had three wire-spoke wheels and a tubular steel frame with wooden inserts. In order to prove the car was truly worth buying, Benz’s wife, Bertha, and their two children went on a 120 mile road trip. When they came back, she explained how she fixed any mechanical issues herself by using her garter and the pin in her hat. Too bad car problems are not still that easy to fix!

2. Ford’s Model T – 1908

Ford Model T

The Ford Model T revolutionized the industry in three ways: it introduced cars made in an assembly line, made the car affordable to middle-class people, and opened up the worldwide car market. Before using the benefits of an assembly line to produce cars, they were hand-fabricated. The Ford Model T was the first car to be produced in this way and made it more reliable and efficient. Henry Ford didn’t invent the assembly line method himself, but he was the first to incorporate it as the means to make a car, which is still being used to this day (albeit with higher technology machinery). Furthermore, the car became available to middle-class people due to the assembly line’s streamlined processes. Before this, the car was affordable only to the wealthy. Last but not least, Ford made the Model T the first car sold globally by opening factories all over the world. With him doing this, people worldwide would not have to pay for shipment. Thirdly, competitors started producing better cars, whereas Ford was not willing to spend on design and style due to focusing on keeping prices low. This, however, was good in the long run because it expanded the variety of makers around the world. Wouldn’t it be boring if we had only a few makers to choose from when deciding on our next car purchase?


3. Cadillac’s Touring Edition – 1912

Cadillac 57 1918 Sieber © Copyright Бернхард Эггер Egger :: eu-moto images classic cars 5001

Henry Ford initially founded Cadillac, but left after a dispute. The company kept going, and in 1912, came out with the Touring Edition. This is the model that established Cadillac as a maker of luxury cars by introducing the electric starter. Before this, people started their cars by cranking the engine by hand. This was a dangerous method as it was common for people to get broken thumbs and injured wrists. The Cadillac Touring Edition also attracted women drivers since one did not have to be strong to start a car. Cadillac took advantage of it by having women in their advertisements.


4. Essex’s Closed Coach – 1918


Photo by jamica1

Essex was established by the Hudson Motor Company in 1918, but Essex went back to being Hudson, as a model instead of a maker, in only four years. During the short four years of making cars, Essex came up with smaller and more affordable cars. It also began the trend of the fully-enclosed cars and doing away with the open-top styles. Back then, the open-tops were the norm, but now it’s just the opposite: fully-enclosed vehicles are much more common. Thanks to the Essex, the fully-enclosed became more affordable and convertibles more expensive.


5. Ford’s Model 18 – 1932

Ford Model 18 V8 (UP-53-48), Ford Model A (DD-71-29), Zwitserland 1967

Photo by Tuuur

In 1932, Ford Model 18 put drivers in the fast lane by having the first V8 engine-powered car. The four-cylinder model B was also introduced at the same time as the Model 18. The 18’s 3.6L V8 motor produced 65 horsepower and was such a success that the Model B easily got forgotten. It also had been raved by famous bank robber Clyde Barrow (from Bonnie and Clyde) and he supposedly wrote a letter to Henry Ford thanking him for producing such a “fine car”. Whether this is true or not is a mystery, but one thing is for certain: the Model 18 really was a fine car and definitely changed the industry.


6. Buick’s Y-job – 1938

1938 ... Buick "Y Job"

Photo by x-ray delta one

Buick came out with the world’s first concept car in 1938: the Y-job. General Motors wanted to engage the public’s curiosity by showcasing new designs and technology, such as power electric windows, pop-up headlights, flush door handles, wraparound bumpers, and styling characteristics that Buick continued to use until the mid-1950’s. It also introduced a vertical waterfall grille design, which Buick still uses today.


7. Volkswagen’s Beetle – 1938

Volkswagen Beetle Kafer Garbus

Photo by junktimers

German company Volkswagen conceived the Beetle in 1938, as a small, simple, reliable and inexpensive car. After World War II in 1945, it became popular all over. The Beetle was produced until 2003 (for 65 years total), making it the longest-running car model of all time. It also remains the most-manufactured car in history, with over 21 million produced. The VW Beetle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche: he continued to use the same rear engine and RWD layout in his cars later on.


8. Bantam’s Jeep – 1940

General Patton's 1941 Bantam Jeep (Peep)

Photo by TDelCoro

The Jeep originated from the American Bantam Car Company in Butler, Pennsylvania. There is an interesting story surrounding the creation of this new designed car. The four-wheel-drive Bantam Jeep unexpectedly changed the car industry in 1940. It was actually created for the purpose of being an innovative vehicle used for the military to help win World War II. Surprisingly, it was not a big manufacturer that came up with this; the Jeep was made from a little bankrupt company in a small factory and it was all made possible by the townspeople coming forth to help get this important job done for the military. This sturdy vehicle that was taken from the deserts, into jungles, and onto beaches was known as the only true American sports vehicle ever made. It could go anywhere and do anything, and today it continues to do so all over the world.


9. BMC’s Mini – 1959

60s Minis in the 21st Century #234

Photo by Happy Accidents Inc.

The BMC Mini truly changed the small car market by being the reason most economy cars now have transverse front-engine, FWD. Mini also had innovative suspension that used space-saving rubber cones. On top of that, the FWD layout and lightweight design helped it win the Monte Carlo rally several times thanks to its great traction on slippery surfaces. It continued to win many other championships.


10. Cooper’s T43 – 1957

1957 Cooper T43

Photo by Don Jones Photography

The Cooper T43, built in 1957, used the transaxle from a Citroën Traction Avant to transfer power to the rear wheels from a 2.0L, four-cylinder engine mounted behind the driver. The T43 became the first race car to win a world championship race in the 1958 Grand Prix. It was soon replaced by Cooper’s own T45 (in the next race, which it also won), and the next season the T51 arrived. The most impressive fact is that the T43 beat cars that had the maximum allowed 2.5L engine against its smaller 2.0L! This is the car that established open-wheel racing as we know it.


11. Ford’s Mustang – 1964

Ford Mustang - No Stripes

Photo by lachlansear

The 1964 Ford Mustang was based on Ford Falcon’s compact-sized economy car platform, but was designed with a longer hood and shorter deck to give it a more powerful and attractive look. It came with many customization options and several types of V8 engines to choose from. This car was made with sporty intentions, not as a family car, yet it became Ford’s best seller since the Model A that came out in 1931. It is still one of the most popular sports cars on the market.


12. Chevy’s El Camino SS 454 LS6 – 1970

1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS Pickup Truck

Photo by coconv

The El Camino came out in 1959, but it wasn’t until 1970 when the revolutionary SS 454 LS6 model was produced. It is essentially a Chevelle SS454 LS6 with a pickup bed.
Although actually a car, this 450 horsepower, big block V8 made this car the all time quickest Chevy production truck. It was made with the same SS454 exterior and interior badging, restyled front end with its domed hood and Blacked-out V-shaped grille, chromed 5-spoke SS wheels, custom vinyl seat trim and special round-faced gauges as the Chevelle SS. The El Camino SS also included F41 special suspension, dual exhaust and power front disc brakes. The big deal for SS buyers in 1970 was the new 454 CI engine available in either the 360 HP LS5 option or the LS6, which offered the highest ever horsepower rating for a production car.


13. Audi’s Sport Quattro – 1980

Audi Sport quattro

Photo by sfisher71

The rally car–1980 Audi Sport Quattro–debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 1980. It was the first rally car to take advantage of the new rules that permitted the use of AWD in rally competitions, and it dominated rallying for the next three years in a row. The Sport Quattro design marked the beginning of the AWD era in rallying by winning many championships, but what makes it so revolutionary is that it was a race car that proved the effectiveness of a sports car using AWD.


14. Chrysler’s Minivan – 1984

Walter P. Chrysler Museum: 1984 Plymouth Voyager

Photo by harry_nl

What design could change the industry more than a station wagon? The minivan! Chrysler introduced the minivan in 1984 and revolutionized the family car market in the United States. Within one short year, the minivan replaced the station wagon and became the car of choice; so much so that the manufacturer could not build enough minivans (Caravans and Voyagers) to meet the demand. It was the “people-hauler” of choice, and competitors quickly came up with their own versions of the minivan. Chevrolet came out with the Astro and Ford produced the Aerostar. These two used a traditional front-engine, RWD design, while the Chrysler utilized the transverse-mounted engine and FWD. This made the Chrysler better by offering better traction and it also had better driving characteristics, along with a better construction of a one-box design.

15. Toyota’s Prius – 1997

Toyota Prius (XW10)

Photo by xaina.sweet

In 1995, Toyota debuted a hybrid concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show, with testing following a year later. The first Prius, model NHW10, came out in 1997. The first generation Prius became the world’s first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid car. At its introduction in 1997, it won the Car of the Year Japan Award, and in 1998, it won the Automotive Researchers’ and Journalists’ Conference Car of the Year award.  Toyota Prius is a full hybrid electric mid-size hatchback, formerly a compact sedan developed and manufactured by Toyota. The California Air Resources Board and the EPA rate the Prius one of the cleanest vehicles sold in the United States based on smog-forming emissions criteria. When it launched in 1997,  Prius was available at all four Toyota Japan dealerships, making it the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. It was introduced worldwide in 2000. The Prius is currently sold in over 70 countries, with its largest markets in Japan and United States. In 2011, Toyota expanded the Prius model to include the “v” style, which is an extended hatchback wagon, and the “c” style, which is a sub-compact hatchback. The Prius plug-in version hybrid was introduced in 2012. By September 2014, Prius design models reached worldwide sales of almost 5 million cars (almost 70 percent of the 7 million hybrids sold worldwide since 1997).

Most notable are:
Prius c – the most fuel -efficient compact car.
Prius liftback – the most fuel-efficient midsize car.
Prius v – the most fuel-efficient midsize station wagon.

The next generation Prius is currently being designed to deliver significantly improved fuel economy in a more compact package that is lighter in weight and lower in cost. These plans are being achieved through the development of a new generation of powertrains with significant advances in battery, electric motor and gasoline engine technologies.

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