In San Antonio, the first motorized vehicle took part in the 1905 Battle of Flowers. In 1906, an interesting accident happened when the wife of a judge ran over and dragged a pedestrian the length of Alamo Plaza. Fortunately, someone jumped aboard the electric car and brought it to a halt. She abandoned the car right there. The pedestrian was compensated with a new suit of clothes. That car is now in the San Antonio Witte Museum in the transportation collection.
Henry Ford, one of the leading innovators of the automobile, came up with the unique idea to have his car transmissions sent to the assembly plant in crates made of oak in triangle shaped pieces. He then used these pieces as the floorboards for the Model T cars. Henry’s assembly line workers were paid $5 for an eight-hour day and they ran three shifts. The Model T had a 177-cubic-inch four-cylinder engine producing 20 horsepower and a two speed transmission with a top speed of 45 mph. The engine was started by a built-in crank on the front of the engine and advertised as starting with only one half-turn of the crank. The Model A followed the Model T production and more than 15 million of these cars were produced. By 1917, there were 1,345 cars registered in Guadalupe County.
There were several Model A and Model T cars used by students in this writer’s class. Many of the Model As were stripped down and made into “street rods.” I had the opportunity to buy a beautiful Model A coupe for $75. However, I wanted a NEWER model and bought a 1940 Plymouth for $200 from Pete Smith Motors located at the corner of Camp and Mountain streets, now a parking lot. It had no radio or air-conditioning, no power steering, no automatic transmission, no electric windows, but it had a heater that worked — both summer and winter! Difficult to get dates in the summer if we were to go in my car.
While we were in high school, a tornado crossed southeast of town. There was a call for volunteers to come help gather up belongings that had been blown across the fields. The football coach loaded the team into the bus and we went out to the farms where there was considerable damage.
While we were recovering items for the owners, some TLC students arrived and started helping. A barn had been partially blown over and the TLC boys were helping there. They came to the owner and asked about the old car that was still in the barn. They asked if he was interested in selling it. The farmer stated that it didn’t run anymore but he would sell it for $100.
We went to look at the car. It was a beautiful 1925 Oakland touring car with wooden spokes in the wheels and a huge brass radiator. The students got it running and drove it in the next 4th of July parade in town.
Another innovator in the automotive industry was Carl Fisher of Indianapolis, who at 17 years old, convinced his brothers to join him in opening a bicycle shop in 1891. By age 19, he owned the largest bicycle store in the city. But he realized that bicycles were being overtaken by faster and more thrilling machines: automobiles. He purchased a French-made 2.5 horsepower De Dion-Bouton and transformed his bicycle shop into an automobile dealership.
However, bigger things lay in store for Fisher. In 1904, he helped patent the process of using compressed gas to illuminate car headlights. He founded the Prest-O-Lite and became the leading supplier of headlamps.
To be continued ...