This website is the copyright of Peter Hurley March 2009

Driving school in Milford Haven, driving school in Haverfordwest, driving school in Pembroke, driving school in Pembroke Dock and driving school in Neyland.  Hurley School of Motoring.


Phone: 01646 694364 or 07816669128 or Email:

Brief Prehistory of the Motor Car

According to the New Scientist Magazine the first self powered vehicle was made in Madagascar over 2000 years ago as part of an entertainment for a king.  It drove itself and could be programmed to drive a preordained route.

The power source was a tube filled with sand which had a heavy piston placed on top of the sand.  A plug was taken out of the bottom of the tube so the sand could leak out and the piston travel down the tube.  The piston was attached to a rope which unravelled from a pulley which wound rope onto other pulleys which unwound from pulleys on the rear axles.  This meant that by using castors for the front wheals and and pegs on the axle pulleys a very simple system could not only power but self-guide the vehicle.

A Jesuit priest witnessed the demonstration of a 2 foot long self powered truck in Beijing (formerly Peking) in 1679.  This was a toy for entertainment but it was driven by a steam turbine.   

The next famous self powered vehicle is very often thought of as the first motor car.

Nicholas-Joseph Cognot built steam powered vehicles for towing guns  for Napoleon in 1770.  The valve gear had not been invented then so a lever had to be pulled back and fore so steam would go to the correct side of the piston, the only advantage of this was prompt engine braking.


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