The history of the automobile begins as early as 1769, with the creation of steam engine automobiles capable of human transport.In 1806, the first cars powered by an internal combustion engine running on fuel gas appeared, which led to the introduction in 1885 of the ubiquitous modern gasoline- or petrol-fueled internal combustion engine. Cars powered by electric power briefly appeared at the turn of the 20th century, but largely disappeared from use until the turn of the 21st century. The need to reduce the amount of air pollution generated by transportation has raised new interest in electric and hybrid vehicles. The early history of the automobile can be divided into a number of eras, based on the prevalent method of automotive propulsion during that time. Later periods were defined by trends in exterior styling, and size and utility preferences.
German engineer Karl Benz, the inventor of numerous car-related technologies, is generally regarded as the inventor of the modern automobile, and received a German patent in 1886. The American George B. Selden filed for a patent on May 8, 1879. His application included not only the engine but its use in a 4-wheeled car. Mr. Selden filed a series of amendments to his application which stretched out the legal process, resulting in a delay of 16 years before the US 549160  was granted on November 5, 1895. The four-stroke petrol (gasoline) internal combustion engine that constitutes the most prevalent form of modern automotive propulsion is a creation of German inventor Nikolaus Otto. The similar four-stroke diesel engine was also invented by a German, Rudolf Diesel. The hydrogen fuel cell, one of the technologies hailed as a replacement for gasoline as an energy source for cars, was discovered in principle by yet another German, Christian Friedrich Schönbein, in 1838. The battery electric car owes its beginnings to Hungarian Ányos Jedlik, one of the inventors of the electric motor, and Gaston Planté, who invented the lead-acid battery in 1859.
T-model Ford car parked outside Geelong Library at its launch in Australia in 1915
A Stanley Steamer racecar in 1903. In 1906, a similar Stanley Rocket set the world land speed record at 205.5km/h at Daytona Beach Road Course.
Some examples of cars of the period included
* 1908–1927 Ford Model T — the most widely produced and available car of the era. It used a planetary transmission, and had a pedal-based control system.
* 1910 Mercer Raceabout — regarded as one of the first sports cars, the Raceabout expressed the exuberance of the driving public, as did the similarly-conceived American Underslung and Hispano-Suiza Alphonso.
* 1910–1920 Bugatti Type 13 — a notable racing and touring model with advanced engineering and design. Similar models were the Types 15, 17, 22, and 23.
Exemplary vintage vehicles:
* 1922–1939 Austin 7 — the Austin Seven was one of the most widely copied vehicles ever, serving as a template for cars around the world, from BMW to Nissan.
* 1924–1929 Bugatti Type 35 — the Type 35 was one of the most successful racing cars of all time, with over 1,000 victories in five years.
* 1922–1931 Lancia Lambda — very advanced car for the time, first car to feature a load-bearing monocoque-type body and independent front suspension.
* 1925–1928 Hanomag 2 / 10 PS — early example of ponton styling, without fully articulated fenders and running boards.
* 1927–1931 Ford Model A (1927-1931) — after keeping the brass era Model T in production for too long, Ford broke from the past by restarting its model series with the 1927 Model A. More than 4 million were produced, making it the best-selling model of the era.
* 1930 Cadillac V-16 — developed at the height of the vintage era, the V16-powered Cadillac would join Bugatti’s Royale as the most legendary ultra-luxury cars of the era.
Exemplary pre-war automobiles:
* 1932–1939 Alvis Speed 20 and Speed 25 — the first cars with all-synchromesh gearbox.
* 1932–1948 Ford V-8 — introduction of the powerful flathead V8 in mainstream vehicles, setting new performance and efficiency standards.
* 1934–1940 Bugatti Type 57 — a singular refined automobile for the wealthy.
* 1934–1956 Citroën Traction Avant — the first mass-produced front-wheel drive car, built with monocoque chassis.
* 1936–1955 MG T series — sports cars with youth appeal at an affordable price.
* 1938–2003 Volkswagen Beetle — a design for efficiency and low price, which progressed over 60 years with minimal basic change.
* 1936–1939 Rolls-Royce Phantom III — V12 engined pinnacle of pre-war engineering, with technological advances not seen in most other manufacturers until the 1960s. Superior performance and quality.