April 5th-11th | This Week In Automotive History


April 5th, 1887

Lucius D Copeland of Phoenix, Arizona, US was issued with a United States patent for his steam-powered bicycle and is sometimes classed as an early motorcycle. In 1881 Copeland designed an efficient small steam boiler that could drive the large rear wheel of a Columbia penny-farthing to a speed of 12 miles per hour. Unlike typical penny-farthing bicycles, the Copeland had a small wheel at the front, which was turned by the handlebar for steering, and large wheel at the back.


April 6th, 1934

The Ford Motor Company announced white sidewall tires as an option on its new vehicles at a cost of $11.25 per set. Whitewalls particularly in the US became associated with style and money. By the 1950s, whitewalls were standard on many cars. The popularity of whitewalls continued well into the 1960s. Car companies even offered different width white bands in a race to make their whitewalls whiter.


April 7th, 1936

The Fiat 500, commonly known as “Topolino”, was introduced. The name “Topolino” translates literally as “little mouse” in Italian, but is also the Italian name for Mickey Mouse. It was one of the smallest cars in the world at the time of its production. Three models were produced until 1955, all with only minor mechanical and cosmetic changes. It was equipped with a 569 cc four-cylinder, side-valve, water-cooled engine mounted in front of the front axle, (later an overhead valve motor) and so was a full-scale car rather than a cyclecar.


April 9th, 1930

The very first Bridgestone tire was produced, by the Japanese “Tabi” Socks Tire Division.


April 10th, 1807

Isaac de Rivaz of Switzerland test drove his road carriage powered by an internal combustion engine. The engine has a claim to be the w1orld’s first internal combustion engine and contained some features of modern engines including spark ignition and the use of hydrogen as fuel. Starting with a stationary engine suitable to work a pump in 1804, de Rivaz progressed to a small experimental vehicle built-in 1807, which was the first wheeled vehicle to be powered by an internal combustion engine.


April 11th, 1913

Ettore Bugatti first proposed designing the super car that would eventually emerge as the Bugatti Type 41 Royale. Eventually called the “car of kings,” Bugattis were huge hand-crafted luxury cars that were affordable only for Europe’s elite. The death of Ettore Bugatti in 1947 proved to be the end for the marque, as the company struggled financially after his death. It released one last model in the 1950s before eventually being purchased for its airplane-parts business. Volkswagen revived the brand in the late 1990s.


This week in Automotive History is produced by Branding Roar