Can You Match the Auto Innovation to Its Original Car?



By: Robin Tyler

7 Min Quiz

Image: Tim Stocker Photography / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Lights, windshield wipers, tail lights, CD players, heated seats ... these things were not standard on the cars produced one hundred years ago or more. 

Those cars were very simple. Many were steered using a tiller! In fact, steering wheels were used for the first time several years after the first modern car had driven its first few 100 meters. And there were many ways the motor car was improved over time. Take starting a car, for example. This is something we certainly take for granted. But before the starter motor made this job easier when first introduced in 1912, the driver had to use a crank and some good old elbow grease to turn the car's engine over to get it started.

Innovations followed in every decade and in all departments. The first V8 engine, the first Wankel engine and the first W16 engine are just some of the significant milestones when it comes to power units. And then there are others, like the first air conditioning unit in a car, the first radio, the first Bluetooth system and much more!

But do you think you would be able to match each auto innovation to its original car? Let's see just how much you know!

It all had to start somewhere! Which of these was the first fully functioning modern automobile?

Built in 1885 by Karl Benz, a German engineer, the Benz Patent Motorwagen is classified as the first modern car using an internal combustion engine. The vehicle, which steered with a tiller arm, not a steering wheel, was produced until 1893. Only 25 were built.


Which vehicle was the first to introduce a steering wheel as we know it today?

Also known as a hand wheel or driving wheel, the first modern steering wheel was seen on a vehicle from a French manufacturer, the Panhard Levassor 4 hp. For the 1894 Paris-Rouen road race, someone at Panhard Levassor had the clever idea to remove the tiller from the vehicle and replace it with a steering wheel. And thank goodness they did!


It's always been good to know how fast you're traveling in a vehicle, even early in the 20th century! Which car was the first to use a speedometer?

The Curved Dash Oldsmobile was released between 1901 and 1907. Over 19,000 Curved Dash Oldsmobiles were produced, and it was the first car to come equipped with a speedometer. Soon Cadillac and Overland models followed, and the speedometer became a factory fitted standard.


Seeing behind you is a good thing when driving, but which vehicle was first to include a rear-view mirror?

The rear-view mirror was used for the first time at the 1911 Indy 500, the first ever held. Ray Harroun won the race without the traditional second crew member who would call out the cars behind. Instead, he used a mirror, which saved considerable weight!


Always good to know when you are about to run out of fuel, right? From the list below, can you pick the first car to have a dash mounted fuel gauge?

The 1914 Studebaker was the first car to use a dashboard-mounted gas gauge. Although simpler than what we know today, it was a far cry from earlier models, in which a dip stick was placed in the gas tank to tell the driver the gas level. Doesn't sound particularly safe at all! There were certainly few health and safety requirements in the old days!


Hybrids are all the rage now, but did you know they were first manufactured in the late 1800s? Which of these was the first?

The Lohner-Porsche was the first hybrid vehicle ever made. It ran on a combination of battery power and gasoline. Each front wheel had its own motor, run on battery power. These were charged up using onboard gasoline engines. This vehicle was made until 1905 and was designed by Ferdinand Porsche.


One of the most powerful engines in the world is the Volkswagen W16, which has propelled cars at 250 mph. In which car was it first used?

One of a handful of cars to hit 250 mph, the Veyron was introduced by Bugatti in 2005. It features an 8.0-liter W16 quad-turbo engine. It is also a little thirsty and gives gas mileage figures of around eight in city driving.


From the list below, can you name the vehicle that was the first to break the 100-mph mark?

Believe it or not, the first car to reach the 100-mph mark did so back in 1905, and the car to achieve it was a 1905 Napier. Driven by Arthur MacDonald, the vehicle reached just over 104 mph on a track at Ormond Beach in Florida.


Aluminum engine blocks are found in a range of modern vehicles, but the metal was first used almost 100 years ago in engines. Which car had the first aluminum engine block?

Built in Italy from 1922 to 1931, the Lancia Lambda was a pretty unique vehicle. It was the first car to have an aluminum engine block and four-wheel brakes. Around 13,000 were built.


Vehicles with 1,000 bhp engines have become somewhat the norm in the last few years. Which was the first car to achieve this feat, however?

The first car to officially break the 1,000 bhp barrier was the SSC Ultimate Aero in 2006. This hypercar is powered by a supercharged Chevrolet V8 that propels the Aero to around 256 mph. It was considered to be the fastest production car in the world from 2007 to 2010.


The first diesel engine car in Europe was designed in 1933. Which of these was it?

Although there were plans to put the Citroën Rosalie with a diesel engine into production as soon as it was developed in 1933, legislation prevented it until 1935. The engine was not designed by Citroën, but by English diesel pioneer Sir Harry Ricardo.


In 1964, which of these became the first car in the Western world to be powered by a Wankel engine?

Manufactured by NSU Motorenwerke AG in Germany, the NSU Spider was in production for a period of four years, between 1964 and 1967. With a body designed by the Italian styling house Bertone, the Spider was a looker. But it also was the first car in the West to use a Wankel rotary engine. This was a 498-cc unit which produced 54 hp!


Although V8 engines existed before, which American car manufacturer was the first to mass produce cars with this powerplant?

Cadillac started producing cars with V8 engines in 1914. These were 5.1-liter units, and in the first year of production alone, 13,000 vehicles with this powerplant were sold. The V8 became popular thanks to the fact that it offered more power, and the electric starter, invented in 1912, made the vehicle far easier to start.


From these options, which vehicle was the first to be equipped with a trip computer?

Produced by Swedish car manufacturer Saab between 1958 and 1960, the GT750 was a version of the Saab 9-3, specifically marketed with the United States in mind. It included a number of performance upgrades and was the first car to include a trip computer. This mechanical analog system was dubbed the "Halda Speedpilot."


Although they are part of modern vehicles nowadays, LED instrument panels were unheard of decades ago. What was the first car to make use of them?

The Aston Martin Lagonda first rolled off the production line in 1976 and was produced until 1990 by the British performance car maker. 645 were made during this period. The Lagonda has the distinction of being the first production car to include an LED instrument panel. Interestingly, to develop this, Aston Martin paid four times what they had budgeted for the car alone! Sadly, it was not very reliable, and by the third series of the car, the instrument panel had moved from LED lights to cathode ray tubes. That proved problematic as well.


Today we take GPS systems for granted. Two decades ago, they didn't exist. What was the first car to come with a GPS system in America?

Oldsmobile was the first to introduce a modern GPS system on their vehicles in America — they did so in 1995. This wasn't standard but was an optional factory package that appeared on vehicles such as the Oldsmobile 88. Called "GuideStar," it only included maps for California at first. Las Vegas soon followed, and then other cities which could be loaded onto the system using a cartridge.


Do you know which of these was the first vehicle able to park itself?

For some of us that hate parking, a self-parking car is a real blessing. The first car to offer this amazing extra was the 2004 Toyota Prius hybrid. This system was named "Intelligent Parking Assist" and could parallel park the car without any driver input!


Which vehicle was the first to offer a third headlight that swiveled?

The dream of Preston Tucker, the Tucker 48 only saw 51 units built. Why? Well, Tucker was indicted for fraud, although many say he was set up, as he was later acquitted of all charges. Sadly, it ruined Tucker, and his dream car never went into full-scale production. The Torpedo, as the Tucker 48 was called during development, was very modern for its time and included a third centered headlight that swiveled when the car was turning, plus a pop-out windshield for safety in a crash.


From the options below, can you pick the first car to have brake lights?

Phianna was an American car company which in 1919 produced a vehicle with brake lights — the first to have such an innovation. Yes, something we take for granted now took decades to make it onto a car! Phianna models were expensive, and the company eventually closed in 1922 due to lack of sales.


Bzzzz! Today, we can't imagine how we ever lived with car windows that you had to wind up and down. When do you think the first electric windows were installed, and on what make and model car?

The Buick Y-Job was an interesting vehicle. Essentially a concept car, the Y-Job was designed by Harley Earl. Not only did it have power windows, but it also had hidden headlamps. Oddly, the original car was at some point restored at the Henry Ford Design Center, although it is now back in GM hands!


Which vehicle maker was the first to offer air conditioning for their models?

Packard vehicles between 1939 and 1941 came with the option of air conditioning, installed by the Bishop and Babcock Company. The system wasn't a massive success, as it was clunky, took up a lot of trunk space and was expensive. Packard discontinued the option in 1941.


Instead of focusing on changing the radio station, watch the road! Which car was first to offer radio controls on the steering wheel?

Part of the famed Fairlady brand from Nissan, the 300ZX was an acclaimed sports car. It was sold between 1983 and 2001 and over two generations, the Z31 and Z32. The 300ZX 50th Anniversary Edition was the first vehicle to include stereo controls on the steering wheel, making finding your favorite station much easier.


Can you name the first American car, although not produced in great numbers, to feature a V8?

The first car to have a V8 engine in the United States was the 1905 Buffum Runabout. This engine produced up to 40 hp, which was pretty impressive at the time. Not many were manufactured, however, and it would take a few more years for V8s to become more mainstream, via Cadillac.


A VCR player in a car? Yes, it really happened! Which make and model was the first to have this installed?

A minivan, the Silhouette, was the first vehicle to offer a VCR system. Don't worry ... it wasn't anywhere near the driver to distract them. The system included a fold-down screen which could be viewed from the rear seats. The perfect gadget to keep the kids occupied on a long trip!


Which manufacturer offered a Bluetooth capable music system for their 2000 models?

Chrysler decided to embrace Bluetooth technology back in 1999, for their 2000 model year. Their interface was — and still is — called UConnect. Surprisingly, some manufacturers today still categorize Bluetooth as an option, not a standard feature.


Brrr! Nothing like a heated seat to warm up a cold posterior! Can you name the car to first provide us with warm rear ends?

Well, it would have to be a luxury brand that offered heated seats, right? In 1966, the Cadillac Fleetwood came with both heated seats and backrests. And how did they work? Well, with the flick of a switch, a coil within the seat would get warm and provide some heat. If left on, it could get pretty hot! Even today, heated seats work in pretty much the same way.


Are you able to tell us which of these cars was the first to offer four-wheel braking?

Isotta Fraschini was formed in 1900 in Milan, Italy. Although four-wheel braking was invented in Scotland by Arrol-Johnston, it was the 1910 Isotta Fraschini model that first put them into production. Isotta Fraschini was also responsible for a number of other motoring firsts, including the first production vehicle to have an inline 8-cylinder engine.


Objects in your mirror may be closer than they seem. That's where a backup camera comes in useful. But which car had it first?

Although the 1956 Buick Centurion concept car had a backup camera, this never featured on the production car released a few years later. The first car to have this feature was the 1991 Toyota Soarer Limited, which was only marketed in Japan. The first car to come with such a device in the United States was another Japanese model, the 2002 Infiniti Q45.


Seat belts save lives. That's for sure! The modern shoulder seat belt appeared on which car first?

With its two-door fast back styling, the PV44 was a product of Volvo from 1944 to 1966. It was specifically designed to be a smaller, more fuel efficient model than the larger cars around at the time. It was noted for its distinctive sloping back. It was also the first car to feature the shoulder seat belts we know today. Volvo never patented the design, allowing other manufacturers to copy it to help promote road safety!


What car was the first to offer a modern air-conditioning system as we understand it today?

Although Chrysler, like Packard, had tested the waters with air conditioning in the early 1940s, it was the 1953 Chrysler Imperial that would be considered the first model to use a relatively modern air-conditioning system, known as the Airtemp. It was much smaller and more reliable than Packard's earlier attempts.


Can you identify the first car that came with a CD player?

Car entertainment systems jumped from radios to 8-track players, cassette players and then CD players in the space of around 30 years! Now that is progress. The first car to include a CD player was the 1987 model of Lincoln's Town Car. Just 30 more years later, CD players are being phased out for audio streaming.


Power steering makes turning a car so much easier. But which vehicle had this useful system first?

If you have driven a car with power steering and then tried to drive an older vehicle without it, you realize what a luxury it is. The first car to have this as an optional extra was the 1951 Chrysler Imperial. The feature was called "HydraGlide."


Which of these cars was the first to use an electronic parking brake?

BMW has been a leader in innovating car systems for a number of years. In 2002, they introduced the electronic parking brake to one of their flagship brands, the 7 Series. Instead of pulling a lever to engage or disengage the brake, you simply press a button on the dashboard.


In 1922, an Italian car manufacturer introduced a vehicle with the first ever V4 engine. Can you identify it?

The Lancia Lambda is an Italian car that was produced between 1922 and 1931. Around 6,700 units were built. Not only did the Lambda have an aluminum cylinder block, but it was also the first car to make use of a V4 engine. The engine itself went through a number of refinements over the years, and around 11,000 were built.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!