Posted May 25th 2012 9:01AM
On this day in 1894, Elwood Haynes, the inventor of stainless steel, joins with Elmer and Edgar Apperson to found the Haynes-Apperson Automobile Company. Chances are, this company will not sound familiar to you, but if you own or have owned a car in the past 30 years or so, Haynes' legacy will be familiar. We'll get to that in a minute.
Elwood Haynes' interest in cars began after the 1893 Chicago World's Fair where he encountered a one-horsepower engine. Overcome by fascination, Haynes ordered one and set it up in his kitchen. After some cranking, the engine started and chaos ensued. According to Haynes, it "ran with such speed and vibration that it pulled itself from its attachments to the floor."
Haynes made an agreement with Edgar Apperson to let him work in an Apperson owned machine shop where he and the Appersons eventually built what he advertised as "America's first car." Haynes and the brothers formed a partnership and began work on a car called the Pioneer II. It was set to compete in the Times-Herald race, the first car race in America. Damage from an earlier accident prevented entry.
Keep reading after the jump.
Despite missing out on the race, the Pioneer II was awarded US$150 for its technical merits. The engine was well balanced and reduced vibration. It was also the first car to incorporate aluminium into the engine's construction. The car also featured a tilting steering column.
The Apperson brothers had a love of speed and racing while Haynes prefered sensibility and reliability. Because of this, the company eventually split apart. Haynes would continue manufacturing cars under his own name.
Aside from the alleged first car in America, Haynes' was also the first to feature an early semi-automatic gearbox, the Vulcan Electric Gearshift, operated by pushbuttons in the centre of the steering wheel. He also offered a top covering, windshield, speedometer and headlamps as standard equipment.
Obviously even by the standards of the early 1930s, this probably isn't significant, but considering Haynes had all of these features when the concept of replacing horses with cars was just getting off its feet, that's pretty special.
Haynes' company would eventually go defunct in 1924. An early Haynes-Apperson is on permanent display at the Smithsonian as a testament to the impact the company had on the car industry.
News Source: CruiseIn