Nation's First Gasoline-Powered Automobile

John Lambert, of Ohio City, Ohio, invented America's first gasoline-powered automobile in 1891. The three-wheel motorized buggy made transportation history, but was not a commercial success. Lambert dropped the idea of a car and worked on gasoline engines. Later, however, he resumed automobile manufacture and produced commercially successful four-wheel cars at his Buckeye Manufacturing plant.

The Lambert (1908 model shown to the right) could travel at about 25-30 miles per hour and was powered by a 15-horsepower Buckeye engine.  It featured brass lights, leather seats, and a wooden floorboard.

Gas powered cars took off because petroleum was so inexpensive, and also due to the size of batteries required for earlier electric cars. However, with gas-powered vehicles came lots of extra noise on the streets, as the new vehicles were much noisier than their battery powered predecessors. 

What is Octane?

Octane ratings are applied to gasoline based on how much the fuel can be compressed before it spontaneously ignites in a cylinder. If gas ignites by compression - rather than from a spark from the spark plug - it can cause knocking. Knocking damages an engine, so it is something to avoid. Low-octane gas -- 87-octane for example -- handles the least amount of compression before igniting, or knocking.

Did You Know?

Thomas Midgley, Jr., an Ohio chemist who worked at the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (Delco) in 1921 invented the tetraethyl lead gasoline additive that prevented engine knock.

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