Change & Progress
By Dr. Gerald Perschbacher (all rights reserved)
Change is all around. So is progress. But not all "change" amounts to "progress."
Ford did not invent the automobile but he certain changed the direction of production.
He was part of a series of changes that marked the road to progress.
to 1908 it took immense and time consuming hand work to make a car. Not all vehicles
made at the same factory were assured of the interchangeability of work parts. Mechanics
grew tired of re-machining internal parts so that each car ran as it was meant. Such
was the necessity realized by Ransom Eli Olds as he promoted the early stage of successful mass production of American cars
that were considered low-priced in the main, with an occasion foray into the medium and upper price classes.
Leland is credited with masterminding the change toward exacting tolerances on engine parts, thus leading to the initial serious
stage of widespread mass production after 1908. This laid the groundwork
for Henry Ford to convert the concept toward the ultra-mass production of low-priced cars which he promoted beyond belief
with the modest Model T.
Ford changed one more thing. To make progress, he emphasized stewardship of raw
materials, shipping boxes, and a plethora of steps that brought much of his car production under his own corporate roofs.
who turned 20 in 1900 would have witnessed a massive series of changes that accelerated in impact during the five decades
leading to 1950. As the 1920s faded, the car as we came to know it was firmly
established as a four-wheeled family conveyance with modest storage space and
plenty of glass to encase the passenger compartment of the climate-controlled sedan.
Horsepower by tamed animal was envisioned as a thing of the past. Motorized
transport dominated the minds and landscapes of the country. Speed was demanded. Reliability
was desired. Comfort was paramount. Handling
was craved. Price was important. And
great styling was coveted.
new cars hit the streets in 2013, basic concepts of motoring and production remain similar to those of a half century ago
and older. Refinement now marks the progress of the industry as cars become sleeker,
body surfaces seem more aerodynamic, motors sip gasoline more miserly, controls are fantastically sophisticated, and internal
passenger compartments are lush beyond the most extravagantly dreams of a King's parlor.
basically, a car is a car. It was meant to carry passengers and a little cargo
from point A to point B reliably, in general comfort, fulfilling the demands and expectations of drivers.
begin to count the number of changes I have seen over the decades. I challenge
you to join me in that statement. Where does it go from here? See-through metal instead of glass? Air jets instead of wheels
and tires? Alcohol-burning motors instead of gasoline?
cannot imagine it. And in some case, don't want to.
you are like most car hobbyists, you honor the past. Each surviving "original" is a relic to be appreciated. Each authentically restored car is insurance that at least one of its type will survive into future decades. Time machines, they are. Mind trips. Heart trips. Historically invigorating. They offer relief and refreshment from the mundane, the rush of life, the uncertainty
of the future. Islands of sanity, those old cars, set in a present-day sea that
surges with political swirls and economic eddies.
Change. We have come to it. We have seen it. Often we have conquered it. It has been
assimilated into our way of life. We would be lost without its progress. Still, it is absolutely reviving to tuck ourselves in an old car and wrap its aura
around us. Good blanket, that! We
pillow ourselves at the wheel, longing for days of yore in which Good Guys wore white fedoras and slick Bad Guys daily pinned
carnations to their lapels.
the St. Louis Auto Show, we proved that change has marked our past but is much revered in the present. It's sadly true: man often perceives progress as building
on the foundation of the past without realizing the worth of what was covered up.
the hobby. More than that, help others enjoy it, too.