First 4WD cars
A four-wheel drive (4WD) system is a very important attribute of cars nowadays. Especially for people who live in remote locations or for those who are eager to drive a car capable of ensuring the maximum grip no matter what weather conditions are.
Many car manufacturers could distinguish the advantages of the four-wheel-drive system, especially, “Audi”, “Lancia”, “Subaru” or “Mitsubishi”. At some point, due to the 4WD system, these manufacturers were able to crush their opponents in World Rally Championships. However, today we would like to share with you about the very first cars which were equipped with such a system.
The references to the vehicle having 4WD can already be found in the late XIXth century when the very first car was invented. However, to find the real pioneer of this 4WD system, we eventually ruled out all sorts of experiments which included the steam or the electric engines. Thus, the actual 4WD system was first introduced in a modern car produced by an automobile company called “Spyker”.
The latter was a two-seater sports car “Spyker 60HP”, which, at that time, differed from other vehicles due to its many features. For example, it was the first car to have a six-cylinder gasoline engine or the brake system which applied the braking force on all four wheels. However, the most thrilling innovation was a 4WD system.
The original plan of the Dutch manufacturer was to introduce this new model in the “Paris-Madrid” race, but due to various reasons, the very first cars were produced only in December 1903. Since “Spyker 60HP” could not participate in a long and difficult marathon, later this model competed in various sprint races, where it showed its advantages against other 4-wheeled competitors.
Served in the army
As you know, the first car having a 4WD system was produced by “Spyker”. But the American company “Four Wheel Drive Auto Company”, established in 1908, managed to adapt 4WD in mass production. Particularly, this company was producing 2 and 3-tonne lorries for the American and British armies during the First World War.
All-wheel-drive vehicles were exclusively used in the army till 1930, but then the “Marmon-Herrington” company came up with an idea. The engineers of this company designed a four-wheel-drive pickup truck and lorry (both of them were built using “Ford” chassis). At first, this lorry was offered to the army, later for civilians. It did not take long for “Marmon-Herrington” designed lorry to become very popular in the oil industry, where the requirements for the vehicles in operation were very strict. However, not every oil well was reached by such a vehicle, especially the ones which were in remote areas.
Once a 4WD system has become more and more popular among the lorries and other heavy machinery, finally, the 4WD system was implemented in a mass-produced car. It was a Japanese automobile “Kurogane Type 95” which saw daylight in 1936.
At first, this compact roadster (or pickup truck or four-door sedan) was dedicated only for high-ranking military officers, but soon enough the civilians were allowed to purchase “Kurogane Type 95” too as it became an additional source of income.
“Kurogane Type 95” was considered a pioneer of the automotive industry in a particular way. However, the Americans who were the winners of the Second World War took all glory for 4WD with their compact “Jeep”. The latter became an icon and a symbol of WW2 and during this conflict, there were more than a million units made of “Jeep” vehicles.
After the victory in WW2 and enhanced influence of the USA in the world, the “Jeep”, which had just been transporting the troops, soon was adapted for usage on the regular roads. The first “CJ-2” and the second “CJ-2A” models were phenomenal.
Inspired by Jeep’s success
American “Jeep” became a real inspiration for other automotive companies. One of them was the British “Land Rover”. Its designer Maurice Wilks using his own original “Jeep” vehicle on his farm truly believed that he could develop a much better version of “Jeep” for the war-torn country.
Since the resources within the country were limited, the designer developed the first “Land Rover” vehicle using solid steel and aluminum. The choice of aluminum was made because it was cheap and easy to get since aluminum was widely used in aviation.
Later, the “Toyota Land Cruiser”, the Japanese version of “Jeep”, saw daylight. Surprisingly, “Toyota” developed its model at the USA request which experienced a shortage of vehicles in the Korean war.
The first version of “Land Cruiser”, in principle, was a very precise copy of the “Jeep” vehicle. However, there was one main difference between these two – the Japanese “Land Cruiser” did not have a low-range transfer case. Nevertheless, “Land Cruiser” was the first vehicle in the world to climb to the sixth station on the trail to the top of Mt. Fuji.
Americans had “Jeep”, British people – “Land Rover” and Japanese had “Toyota”. All great countries had their 4×4 vehicle which was used by both army and civilians. The leaders of the Soviet Union also have expressed the same desire to have their 4×4. They could not stand the idea that others have and they don’t.
The engineers of the Soviet Union had performed several experiments with 4WD even before WW2. At that time the manufacturer “GAZ” was responsible for designing and improving off-road vehicles. In the factories of this company the models such “GAZ-61“, “GAZ-64“, “GAZ-67“, and “GAZ-69“ saw daylight. These were different but, at the same time, also similar versions of 4WD trucks, which were acknowledged due to a surprising amount of off-roading capability.
The last version of the “GAZ” 4×4 truck was “GAZ-69” and it received the highest recognition. During the period of production (which lasted quite long) manufacturer “GAZ” produced more than 600 000 units of “GAZ-69” which operated in various regions of the USSR.
The successor of “GAZ-69” was broadly well-known “UAZ-469”. The latter is probably the most popular and famous Russian 4×4 military light utility vehicle, which including various modifications is still in serial production to this day.
1963rd year. Remember this year. Why? Because in these years “Jeep” introduced a new 4×4 vehicle, which caused a revolution in the 4×4 segment.
Until then, all 4×4 vehicles without any exceptions were made for one and only one purpose – comfortably and safely transport people while driving off-road. Meanwhile, “Jeep Wagoneer” was designed for families and people who did not have any desire to drive off-road but wanted to have a car that has a 4×4 truck-style design.
“Jeep Wagoneer” is considered not only a revolutionary vehicle, but it is also a pioneer of the SUV (sport utility vehicle) class. The same class in which vehicles drive people crazy.
“Jeep Wagoneer” appeared in the market 7 years earlier than other, higher class SUV “Range Rover”. The latter managed to outshine an extremely important “Jeep Wagoneer” vehicle.