The History of 4 wheel drive

The history of 4 wheel drive

Do you get out and about in a vehicle that's just as comfortable in harsh weather as it curving around the steep hills heading out to meet Mother Nature? Is your vehicle ready for when life on the road takes a drastic shift from the expected and you need your vehicle to respond immediately? Well, good chances are you're driving a vehicle that has 4-wheel drive capabilities. If you don't and are here for the lesson in history, settle back and prepare to take a step through time to the end of the 18th century, when, many would agree, the story of the automotive industry really took off.

Let's meet with Auguste Joseph Frederic Georges Latil, founder of the French automaker Latil. It's interesting, in a rather melodramatic fashion, that many innovators fade from the limelight while their inventions carry on without them. Such is the fate of Latil, who, at just 19 years of age, founded the automaker that shares his name as well as patented technology that is still used today. Called L'Avant-Train Latil (called "broken transmission" in English at the time), which would serve to pave the way towards the modern front-wheel drive feature we're so comfortable.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "I came here to learn about 4-wheel drive, not front-wheel drive."

Right, right, we're getting to that, let's just finish talking about front-wheel drive and we'll get to the four-wheel business. So, the following year, along with Alois Korn, the mechanic working for Latil, La société Korn et Latil was founded. Together, they invented a system that allowed horse-towed wagons to be converted into fully motorized automobiles. So successful was this practice that the company moved to Levallois-Perret and changed name to "Avant-train Latil".

A number of such mergers and expansions followed throughout the early 20th century, then, in 1911, Latil designed and built their first four-wheel drive vehicle. Primarily used for French Army vehicles, it could tow heavy artillery, and, at the conclusion of the war, the company shifted its practices to tractor and truck development.

In 1955, Latil merged with Somua and Renault.

Leaping back to 1893 we meet with English engineer Bramah Joseph Diplock, who is credited, among other inventions, of patenting a four-wheel drive system for the traction engine, which utilized steam power. At the time these road locomotives (seriously, they were often called as such), were the popular choice - having made their way onto the scene in the mid-19th century, they, along with Diplock, are referenced as being influential in the development of the 'tank' vehicle segment.

The history of 4 wheel drive

As stated earlier, this was a period of innovation and ingenuity in automotive design and development with quick iterations and technological advancements. The next member on our list of inventors that connect with the history of four-wheel drive happens to be one that did not fade away - Ferdinand Porsche.

It was 1899, when Porsche completed designs and constructed a four-wheel drive electric vehicle for k. u. k. Hofwagenfabrik Ludwig Lohner & Co. at Vienna. Presented at the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, the vehicle utilized electric hubs connected to each wheel that enabled independent energy distribution. Regarded as a bit clumsy because of its weight, the vehicle still went on to be a record-breaker in a number of categories, as well as earning the renowned and fame of being the first four-wheel drive automobile.

Designs have changed a lot in the century since the first tinkerers were developing four-wheel drive vehicles, but the concept remains the same - control and power matched by a responsiveness that simply does not exist on front-wheel or rear-wheel drive counterparts. Come down to Haley Dodge and find the next best vehicle for you - with a team of car experts.

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