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The Cars That Introduced The Innovations

By raccars Published

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These days, auto manufacturers love to throw in new technology with every model, but in the earlier days of motoring there were only a handful of cars which could claim to be genuinely innovative, leading the market with new gadgets and gizmos.

Citroen DS

The Citroen DS can claim to be one of those. On release in 1955 its bold, modern styling turned heads but it was what was under the skin that was really interesting. Not only was this the first mass produced car to be fitted with disc brakes, it also introduced hydropneumatic self levelling suspension, for a ride as smooth as silk - and the ability to change a wheel without the need for a jack. For the third generation model in 1967, Citroen included swivelling headlamps to help it see around corners. While the novelty of the hydropneumatic suspension wore off as it proved to be unreliable and mechanically high maintenance, the market has only recently caught up with adaptive headlights. The premium German brands are including more sophisticated versions of these in their newer models and other brands are offering their own take on the idea.

Morris Mini

The Mini changed the automotive landscape forever when it was introduced in 1959 - not only because it made motoring cooler and more affordable but because it was mechanically revolutionary. The Mini introduced the first mass production transverse mounted engine and front wheel drive format, designed to save as much space as possible in the tiny bodyshell. The Mini also used externally welded seams on the body panels, again to make the interior as spacious as possible. While car design has discounted ugly external seams, manufacturers jumped upon the idea of transverse engines, to be able to create a whole new segment of smaller cars.

Crossley Saloon

The ponderous 1933 1.2 litre Crossley is most remarkable for offering the first factory fitted car radio. The price for this option was £35 which, inflation adjusted, equates to about £2,000 today.

Volvo Amazon The 1959 Amazon was a very capable car all round. It was good looking, comfortable and a nice little ride, but it also offered three point, retractable seatbelts as standard for the first time on a production car. Volvo designer Nils Bohlin's innovation received a patent in 1962, which in altruistic form Volvo released to other car makers. The seatbelt can be credited with saving thousands of lives since then, including hundreds every year in the UK alone. They were made a legal requirement for new cars in 1968 and Volvo continues to lead the field in car safety.

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