Brass Era car

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The automotive Brass Era is the first period of automotive manufacturing, named for the prominent brass fittings used during this time for such things as lights and radiators. It extends from the first commercial automobiles marketed in the 1890s down to about World War I. These cars are also often called by the name they were originally known by, "horseless carriages."

Horseless carriage Template:3d glasses
1904 Packard Template:3d glasses
A 1910 Hudson Template:3d glasses
1911 Pope-Hartford Template:3d glasses
Brass Oldsmobile radiator Template:3d glasses

In the United Kingdom, this era is split into two periods:

  • Pre-1905 vehicles are veteran cars
  • 1905–1918 vehicles are Edwardian cars.

Such very old vehicles present special challenges to today's collectors. Replacement parts must nearly always be handmade and basic documentation such as wiring diagrams and specification sheets are often nonexistent. The huge variety of companies and technologies represented during this formative period is also a complicating factor—it has been estimated that there were well over 1,000 manufacturers in the U.S. alone.

Neverthess, an active collector community exists for these vehicles, which when well restored can be extremely valuable. The very, very rare original-condition survivor can be even more so.

The early Ford Model T is an example of a Brass Era car for the mass market, and the early European Hispano-Suiza models are fairly typical of expensive models of the time.

The gold-tone trim which is occasionally added to modern luxury sedans is a reference back to autodom's great Age of Brass.


In January, 1904, Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly magazine cataloged the entire range of automobiles available to the mass market in the United States. This list included the following manufacturers:

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