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Starting with Henry Ford Americans have been obsessed with cars and the production of cars since the early 1900s. Today we have the Big Three auto manufacturers and the fascination with locally produced products and accessories is still strong. Here are the 10 best automotive innovations that were “Born in the USA.”

Motorcycle: In late 1860’s, before German, Gottlieb Daimler introduced the first gas-powered 2-wheeler, Sylvester Howard Roper of New England invented the first motorcycle of any type.

Windshield Wiper: In 1905, Alabama inventor Mary Anderson patented a spring-loaded, rubber-bladed lever for use in streetcars. The idea was to clear rain, sleet or snow from the driver’s window.  By1917, the windshield wiper had become standard issue on automobiles.

Electric Self-Starter: In 1911 General Motors vice president filed a patent for an “engine starting device.” This caught on very quickly and by 1915 key-activated electrical self-starter had already debuted in Cadillac’s 1912 model line. Hand-cranking vehicles became obsolete by the 1920s.

Rearview Mirror: There’s a long tradition of safety features making their way from the racetrack to the driveway. This invention was no different, in 1911 Ray Harroun won the Indianapolis 500 alone, without a riding mechanic to watch for cars coming up from behind. He accomplished this feat by attaching a small mirror to the windshield.

Moving Assembly Line: Ford revolutionized modern manufacturing in 1913 with the conveyor-belt assembly line. V8 Engine (Mass-Produced): The first V8 engines came about in early 1900s and were used in various forms of transportation throughout Europe and the U.S.   By1915, Cadillac introduced the first mass-produced V8, the L-Head Type 51.  From there V8s became quieter and more widely used in the automobile industry.  By the 1940s it was standard in majority of fin-backed cars of post WWII era.

Bioplastics: In the 1920s Ford had simply begun making various minor automobile components out of corn and soybeans. In 1941Ford introduced the first plastic car with frame derived from soybeans. This experimental model weighed one-third less than an equivalent steel car.  Unfortunately it never made it from concept to production.

Air Conditioning: The Packard Motor Company introduced the first built-in, factory-installed air conditioning in its models in 1939 however at the time this was considered an extravagance. The feature didn’t take off until about 10-15 years late r when warmer climate became more of an issue.   

Automatic Transmission (Mass-Produced): GM tackled the first automatic transmission, which used both fluid coupling and hydraulic control to pull off reasonably smooth shift changes. Hydra-Matic was available as an optional feature in Oldsmobile cars in 1940, making those models the first cars without a clutch pedal.

Catalytic Converter: As early as 1950, a mechanical engineer had come up with a device that could filter engine exhaust, converting the most toxic elements into more harmless ones such as hydrogen and oxygen. With new EPA exhaust restrictions set to take effect in 1975 this became very popular and is now standard in all vehicle models.

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