Gasoline engines were started. And if the engine hit 'back, you could break anything. Your arm, one leg. Your jaw. Starting a car could be deadly. In 1912, Cadillac was the first to install a starter motor as standard equipment on the 30 model. This deceptively simple device made it possible for anyone, regardless of power, to get a multi-cylinder combustion engine started without fear of injury from the hand crank when the engine crashed due to a 'backfire'.
Starting was risky
Indeed, until Charles Kettering invented the electric starter, you could die by starting a car. In early 1908, a lady's Cadillac engine stalled in Detroit, Michigan. She didn't have enough strength to crank the engine to start it again. A passing motorist offered to help. That lifesaver's name was Byron Carter, and he happened to be a friend of Cadillac founder Henry Leland.
So Carter would crank up the Cadillac's engine. That did not work out well. The engine kicked back, and the crank hit Carter in the face and broke his jaw. Carter was hospitalized, but he developed an infection and gangrene. And in those days without antibiotics, that was his death sentence.
An important intention
Carter's death led Leland to promise that Cadillac would release his cars from the launch. And so he contacted Charles Kettering, who owned Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company. A company that is still known as 'Delco' to fans of American classics. Kettering was an inventor / businessman, and just as brilliant as Thomas Edison. Born on a farm, he had a series of jobs until he landed at the National Cash Register Company (NCR), where he invented the electric motor for cash registers. Then he set up DELCO. The company quickly built the desired electric starter device. It was tested in 1911 and introduced in Cadillac's 1912 models.
The impact on the automotive industry was immediate
Within five years, starter motors would be standard on almost all new cars. Making cars easier and safer to operate, especially for women, the self-starting engine caused a huge leap in sales. And with that the end of the so promising steam mobiles was heralded. You will read about this soon AutoMotorKlassiek, the largest Dutch-language classic magazine with the lowest subscription price.
DELCO was purchased by General Motors (GM) in 1919 and Kettering became GM's head of technology. During his time at GM, he oversaw the development of leaded gasoline, fast-drying duco paint, lightweight diesel engines for trains and trucks, and GM's first OHV V8 - the Oldsmobile rocket 88.
A man of tight plans
When he died in 1958, he held 140 patents in his own name. He had a famous statement: "If you want to destroy an idea, you have to run a committee on it." That is in the context of the riddle: “Do you know what a camel is? “That is a horse that has been gathered about”