The first known drawings of the car (with spring drive) belong to Leonardo da Vinci (p. 812R Codex Atlanticus), but neither a working copy nor any information about its existence has survived. In 2004, experts at the Museum of the History of Science in Florence were able to reconstruct this car from the drawings, thus proving the correctness of Leonardo's idea. During the Renaissance and later in a number of European countries "self-propelled" carts and carriages with a spring engine were built in single numbers for participation in masquerades and parades.
In 1769, the French inventor Cunyot tested the first example of a machine with a steam engine, known as the "small Cunyot cart", and in 1770, the "large Cunyot cart". The inventor himself called it "Fire Cart" - it was designed for towing artillery pieces.
"Cunho's cart is considered the predecessor not only of the automobile, but also of the steam locomotive, because it was powered by steam. In XIX century stagecoaches on steam traction and rutiers (steam tractors, i.e. non-rail steam locomotives) for ordinary roads were built in England, France and used in a number of European countries, including Russia, but they were heavy, voracious and inconvenient, so they were not widely used.
In 1791 Russian inventor Ivan Kulibin built a "scooter carriage".
There were separate cases of construction of passenger cars as luxury items. For example, La Marquise (official name - De Dion-Bouton et Trepardoux), built in 1884 and powered by steam traction, went down in history.
The emergence of a light, compact and sufficiently powerful internal combustion engine opened up wide opportunities for the development of the automobile. In 1885 German inventor Gottlieb Daimler and in 1886 his compatriot Karl Benz produced and patented the first self-propelled cars with gasoline engines. In 1895, Benz built the first bus with an internal combustion engine. In 1896 Daimler built the first cab and truck. In the last decade of the 19th century, the automobile industry was born in Germany, France and England.
In the first quarter of the twentieth century, electric and steam-powered cars became widespread. In 1900, about half of the cars in the United States were steam-powered; in the 1910s, as many as 70,000 electric cars were operating in cabs in New York City.
In the same year of 1900, Ferdinand Porsche designed an electric car with four driving wheels with electric motors driving them. Two years later, the Dutch company Spyker released a race car with all-wheel drive, equipped with an inter-axle differential.
The first race car was equipped with a 35 hp engine and was delivered to Emil Jellinek from DMG on December 22, 1900. This Mercedes was designed by Wilhelm Maybach, DMG's chief engineer, and included innovative design features: a long wheelbase, wide track and low center of gravity, steel frame, honeycomb radiator and steering wheel. The lightweight, high-performance engine had a top speed of 60 mph, and could reach 300 to 1,000 rpm. It had four cylinders and the ratio of each cylinder to piston stroke was 116×140 mm. The displacement was 5918 cm³. Each pair of cylinders had its own carburetor, two camshafts and controlled intake valves, low voltage ignition magneto.
The Stanley brothers produced about 1,000 cars a year. In 1909, the brothers opened Colorado's first luxury hotel, and a steam bus took guests from the train station to the hotel, marking the actual beginning of automobile tourism. The Stanley company produced steam-powered cars until 1927. In spite of several advantages (good traction, multi-fuel), steam engines had left the scene by the 1930s because of their uneconomical operation.
The American inventor and industrialist Henry Ford, who in 1913 introduced the conveyor car assembly system, contributed much to the widespread use of motor transport.
In 1923, the Benz company produced the first truck with a Diesel engine.