THE CAR AND THE BEGINNINGS

Museo Nazionale Dell'Automobile Torino

21 rooms, over an area of 3,600 square metres, tell how the car was born, was developed and became popular, keeping pace with the evolution of the 20th century. The itinerary is circular and takes visitors from the Library in “Genesis”, the first room, where information about the origin of locomotion is given and homage is paid to the many ingenious precursors of the mechanical engine, to the “Destiny” room, the last on this floor. Here, an attempt is made to get us to imagine the world we will find ourselves living in tomorrow. In between, there are nineteen other rooms telling the story of the twentieth century, taking in Futurism, the First World War, the advent of the utilitarian car, the Italian school of body work, the discovery of aerodynamics, female emancipation, the race towards mass production, the fall of the Berlin Wall, American advertising slogans, consumerism and ecology. It’s a story with many different threads, the guiding principle being to make us understand how far the motor car influenced, conditioned and favoured the most distinctive historical, economic, artistic and social events of the last century.

FROM MAN TO MACHINE: THE STORY OF A DREAM
This is the first section af the Museum permanent exhibition. The visit starts from the second floor. The Beginnings.  AUTO-MOBILE: literally, “moves by itself”. When was it first created? Who invented it? There is no simple answer. The internal combustion engine was first tried out in the late nineteenth century, in various parts of the world, by brilliant scientists who often knew nothing of what their colleagues were doing. It was really the combination and application of a series of historic inventions such as the steering wheel, suspension systems, differential gears, universal joints and brakes that led to the birth of the automobile. Without these inventions, which are illustrated on the four monitors, the car would never have come into existence. Man has always tried to free himself from animal movement and for many long centuries dreamt and thought up the most diverse and ingenious methods to move quickly and freely. This is why in this sort of universal library we find pedal, sail, wind, steam, gas and petrol vehicles and even electric roller skates. This section pays tribute to all those who invented an auto-mobile before the automobile was invented. The first is the Italian genius of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, a reconstruction of whose spring-operated vehicle, from a folio of the Codex Atlanticus, is shown here.

This is a 7:10 scale reproduction of the world’s first self-propelled vehicle, a steam-powered, tricycle artillery tractor designed in Paris’s Military Arsenal by Nicolas Joseph Cugnot of Lorraine.

At the end of the 19th century it seemed that the future of automobiles could have been either steam-powered, electric or internal combustion engine.

flat two-cylinder engine fuelled by a boiler generator with a concentric flue

and has a chain drive to the rear wheels

HORSE POWER BECOMES A GHOST
Steam was the main driving force in the nineteenth century industrial revolution and it is thanks to the steam engine that the carriages of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which had enabled the creation of a considerable communications network between the largest European cities and within the countries themselves, were gradually accompanied by horsepower, while all the time maintaining their appearance intact. But this would soon change completely.

IT LOOKS LIKECINDERELLA’S COACH, AND YET IT ISN’T: it conceals something far more magic. The magic of a vehicle capable of moving on its own, with the horse replaced by a mechanical heart - the engine.

made in 1854 by Turin-born Captain Virginio Bordino. He designed two steam-powered vehicles - a threewheel calash and an elegant carriage with a landau body, which has survived to this day.

Between 1854 and 1865, this huge vehicle, which consumed 30 kilograms of carbon coke per hour, could be seen travelling around Turin at a top “speed” of 8 km/h, but only on the flat.

At Top Speed
WHAT WAS THAT: A FLASH OF LIGHTNING, A TORPEDO, A GUST OF WIND? No, that was La Jamais Contente - “the never satisfied” - speeding by. The work of a very ingenious, inventive and courageous Belgian driver and car builder, Camille Jenatzy, in May 1899 it became the first car in the world to break through the 100 km/h mark (actually, 105 km/h). After hundreds, and indeed thousands, of years when the highest speeds had been those of oxen and horses, within just a few decades (from the mid nineteenth century, first with the locomotive and then with the automobile), engines allowed man to reach extraordinary speeds that had never been witnessed before, shortening distances, cutting travelling times, bringing people and places closer, and making possible new forms of visits, contacts and trade. One important detail: La Jamais Contente was powered not by a petrol engine but by an electric motor in a futuristic torpedo-shaped body with a meticulously streamlined design that only forgot to consider... Jenatzy himself! The 100 km/h record had enormous reverberations and reinforced the then current conviction that electric motors would be the way to the future. But just three years was all it took to quash this idea, and the evolution of the automobile throughout the twentieth century fully confirmed this.

Karl Benz, together with Gottlieb Daimler, is regarded as the father of the motor car.he moved over to four-wheelers in 1893

This example has a break-type body with four face-to-face seats, and bears the number 57.

Exactly this model on display, a Type 3 Peugeot 1892, chassis n. 25, Daimler engine n. 124, is a milestone in the history of the Italian automobile: it is the first car to circulate in our nation.

Prof. Enrico Bernardi of Verona was a leading automobile pioneer and a skilful inventor who took out a number of patents. He also built the first motor car to travel in Italian roads.

The three-wheeler 3,5 HP with its “duc” coachwork displays many of Bernardi’s inventions: cylinder with detachable head, overhead valves and a centrifugal inlet valve regulator.

constant-level carburettor with float and spray nozzle, incandescent ignition with platinum heat sponge, and goemetrically correct steering.

THE GREAT GARAGE OF THE FUTURE
A big garage where automobiles are designed and take shape. Whether they be the first attempts, the results of small manufacturers, or the debut of future companies, the world of four-wheeled vehicles expands rapidly and with enthusiasm, with ever different shapes and solutions. 

(late XIX early XX century)in Italy, France, Germany, UK, and USA the people who believed in the potential unleashed by the invention of the automobile became entrepreneurs, engineers, manufacturers.

They set up countless car companies, recruiting skilled and expert craftsmen in order to make their dream come true: that of building a car, giving it their own name, and selling it around the world.

Garages, repair shops, and mechanical schools for chauffeurs were also set up in Turin and in many other cities in Italy and around the world. And there were dealers, sole agents, intermediaries...

This was the first model made by what was to become Italy’s leading automaker, S. A. Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino: FIAT, and appeared in 1899 shortly after the company was formed.

Credits: Story

All the staff of the Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile di Torino, and in particular those who have taken care of this project:
Claudia Debenedetti: contents editor
Lorenza Macciò: communication
Paola Masetta: coordinator

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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