Home / Automotive / 100 Years of Automotive Innovation, in One Amazing Display

100 Years of Automotive Innovation, in One Amazing Display

In 1968, Ford made the GT40 Mark III Coupe, one of the first production cars with a mid-engine design. While its predecessors, the Mark I and Mark II, were meant for racing, this car was made to be driven on the street, although only a handful were built. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

Placing the engine in the middle of the car—behind the driver but ahead of the rear axle—helped the car’s weight distribution and made it easier to keep under control at high speeds. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

The 1941 Mercedes-Benz 770K W150 Offener Tourenwagen was built during World War II to move Nazi officials in safety. The armored car featured bullet proof glass, an protected underbody, and a 7.7 liter (thus the name) engine to move the extra heavy vehicle. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

In the aftermath of the war, while the Allies were scouring Germany for stolen artworks, Jackson says, men like Tom Barrett, his father’s partner and co-founder of Barrett-Jackson, were looking for cars like this one to bring home. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

At this year’s Concours, one featured class of cars was Eastern European motorcycles. This is the Czech-made 1930 Bohmerland, the first motorcycle that had solid-cast wheels instead of spokes like you see on bicycles. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

This Bohmerland could seat three passengers, hit a top speed of 65 mph, and could go 70 miles on a gallon of gas. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

These days, front-wheel drive is the norm, and sending power to the rear wheels is for performance-oriented cars. But early cars were all about rear-wheel drive. Ruxton, a short-lived American car maker, was among the first to sell something different to large numbers of consumers. Front-wheel drive cars are easier to control in rough conditions, Jackson says: It’s easier to keep a car in a straight line when the front rears are pulling than when the back ones are pushing. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

This car, the 1929 Ruxton A, also featured woods headlights, which provided a more focused beam of light. They may have also offered aerodynamics, but in the age before wind tunnels, that wasn’t much of a concern. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

One highly-touted feature in today’s luxury sedans from the likes of Mercedes and BMW is headlights that swing to light the road ahead as the car turns. The 21st-century technology is based on cameras watching the road, but it’s not quite as new as it seems. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

The headlamps on the 1933 Auburn 12-165 Salon Speedster also swiveled to light the road ahead. No cameras here: they were attached via rods to the steering column, so turning the wheel made them go left or right. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

SIMILAR GALLERIES

An App That Turns Your Instagrams Into Sci-Fi Landscapes

An App That Turns Your Instagrams Into Sci-Fi Landscapes

This Ingenious Clothes Hanger Is a Godsend for Tiny Closets

This Ingenious Clothes Hanger Is a Godsend for Tiny Closets

6 Fantasy Steampunk Contraptions Made Only From Cardboard

6 Fantasy Steampunk Contraptions Made Only From Cardboard

A Zoo Designed to Trick Animals Into Thinking You Aren’t Watching

A Zoo Designed to Trick Animals Into Thinking You Aren’t Watching

Mesmerizing GIFs Use Light and Motion to Visualize Sounds

Mesmerizing GIFs Use Light and Motion to Visualize Sounds

The Cutting-Edge Butter Knife of Your Dreams Is Finally Here

The Cutting-Edge Butter Knife of Your Dreams Is Finally Here

In 1968, Ford made the GT40 Mark III Coupe, one of the first production cars with a mid-engine design. While its predecessors, the Mark I and Mark II, were meant for racing, this car was made to be driven on the street, although only a handful were built. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

Placing the engine in the middle of the car—behind the driver but ahead of the rear axle—helped the car’s weight distribution and made it easier to keep under control at high speeds. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

The 1941 Mercedes-Benz 770K W150 Offener Tourenwagen was built during World War II to move Nazi officials in safety. The armored car featured bullet proof glass, an protected underbody, and a 7.7 liter (thus the name) engine to move the extra heavy vehicle. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

In the aftermath of the war, while the Allies were scouring Germany for stolen artworks, Jackson says, men like Tom Barrett, his father’s partner and co-founder of Barrett-Jackson, were looking for cars like this one to bring home. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

At this year’s Concours, one featured class of cars was Eastern European motorcycles. This is the Czech-made 1930 Bohmerland, the first motorcycle that had solid-cast wheels instead of spokes like you see on bicycles. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

This Bohmerland could seat three passengers, hit a top speed of 65 mph, and could go 70 miles on a gallon of gas. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

These days, front-wheel drive is the norm, and sending power to the rear wheels is for performance-oriented cars. But early cars were all about rear-wheel drive. Ruxton, a short-lived American car maker, was among the first to sell something different to large numbers of consumers. Front-wheel drive cars are easier to control in rough conditions, Jackson says: It’s easier to keep a car in a straight line when the front rears are pulling than when the back ones are pushing. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

This car, the 1929 Ruxton A, also featured woods headlights, which provided a more focused beam of light. They may have also offered aerodynamics, but in the age before wind tunnels, that wasn’t much of a concern. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

One highly-touted feature in today’s luxury sedans from the likes of Mercedes and BMW is headlights that swing to light the road ahead as the car turns. The 21st-century technology is based on cameras watching the road, but it’s not quite as new as it seems. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

The headlamps on the 1933 Auburn 12-165 Salon Speedster also swiveled to light the road ahead. No cameras here: they were attached via rods to the steering column, so turning the wheel made them go left or right. Jason Henry/WIRED

Jason Henry/WIRED

In an age where cars drive themselves, sip less fuel and go faster than ever, it can be hard to remember innovation isn’t a 21st century thing. For more than a century, brilliant minds have been working to make cars safer, more comfortable, and more powerful.

The best part of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the annual extravaganza where wealthy gearheads show vintage vehicles they’ve painstakingly preserved or restored, is seeing nearly the entire history of the automobile in one place (also, there’s a ton of champagne). Each year, around 15,000 spectators head to the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach golf course to see the cars and display. This year, 218 cars were lined up, competing in classes like postwar sports racing, antique, and European classic. The 1954 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe took home the award for best in show, meaning its owner can rake in a lot more cash if he ever decides to sell it off.

This year, we spend Sunday’s show hanging out with Craig Jackson, CEO of auction house Barrett-Jackson, and checking out some of the most innovative cars on the grass. And it turns out a lot of things you might think are new were developed decades ago. Here are some of the coolest and most inventive vehicles at Pebble 2014.

Scroll To Top