Despite the First World War bringing all of Europe to a halt, Autocar still had the duty of reporting motoring matters to the public

Midway through World War 1, it is scarcely believable that Autocar had the manpower to put out a magazine each week, let alone enough to write about.

But such things were deemed important to morale, and the editorial team set to work. Each issue usually incorporated motoring stories from around the world plus tales from road trips taken before war broke out. 

However, on this occasion the team couldn’t help itself from wistfully looking ahead to a post-war era, when road car development could accelerate again. With automobile powerhouses such as Britain, Germany, Italy and France otherwise disposed, attention turned to the latest advances that were being reported from the United States.

“There, things are moving with some rapidity,” noted the author, identified only as “a British subject”. While no reason is given for the article not having a proper byline, the tone perhaps gives some clues.

“There are two possible directions of motion, namely, the right way and the wrong way,” he notes. “It behoves us to consider in which direction our friends across the Atlantic are moving, and consequently how far it will be worthwhile to follow in their footsteps. However, in one respect there is no following to be done, for their progress is simply along a path that we have already traversed.”

Then came some predictions, few of which were more noteworthy than an observation on American engine advances: “I do not believe that in adopting the eight and 12-cylinder V-type engine, the Americans are setting a fashion that will be followed by the world.

"I am inclined to think that it will not be long before the tendency will be back in the direction of the six and four, although it is quite possible that by that time the four-stroke engine will be giving way to the two-stroke variety.”

The magneto’s future also vexed our writer, who noted that the development in the US of an electric light and starter showed promise. “This seems more certain than ever, though I cannot believe that it is certain the magneto will go by the board, and the self-contained central-station type of installation will make itself responsible for the ignition in the great majority of cases.

"On the very best cars I believe we will find dual ignition with the magneto retained, and on at least some cheaper ones I think the magneto will hold its own and the lighting and starting equipment remain free of ignition duties.”

More on point was praise for vacuum systems for petrol supply coming from the US: “Its power is to aid fuel economy, which is unlikely to grow a less important factor as time goes on, unless more tangible assistance be given to those developing petrol substitutes.”

Previous Throwback Thursdays

4 March 1899 - Steam, electric or combustion engine? 

14 February 1913 - 100 miles in one hour

25 March 1922 - Caterpillar tracks are the future

2 February 1934 - The ethics of skidding

21 January 1949 - Tidier tails

27 January 1961 - Ford Thunderbird road test

19 January 1980 - Talbot Horizon road test

13 February 1982 - 4x4s tested on the farm 

16 March 1994 - Bentley's Concept Java

4 April 2001 - 0-260mph in 6.0 seconds

16 April 1997 - When Bugatti bit the dust

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Comments
3

9 April 2015
When people look into the future they don't look far enough or imagine hard enough.

When I think about the future of cars, I see nothing but autonomous vehicles on narrow single or multi lane roads with no road markings, traffic lights, or other ugly 'road furniture', no need for roundabouts or any of that stuff... there'd be hidden underground car parks with no humans in them, parcels from Amazon delivering themselves, kids travelling alone to Granny's house... etc etc, and still I know I am not seeing far enough into the future. only true visionaries can do this.

10 April 2015
They are putting more cameras up on our roads all in the name of safety & your security! How are they going to fine all the motorists and keep their revenues flowing if autonomy is the future?

 Offence can only be taken not given- so give it back!

10 April 2015
The author had it quite spot on I thought- we copied the Americans went to V8's and V12's even VW with their V5's (not that V5) that have all but disappeared now to be replaced with straight 4's. Now going to 3 cylinders. If only the author had been right about 2-strokes we would all have a nice smell in the air rather than cold diesel engine smells...

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