Questions or Students

Ask us at your school visit or education display day! 

Questions 4 – 7 year old students

  • What is the oldest car you saw this morning? (Year and make, for example: 1913 Buick)

  • Locate two Ford Model Ts that are not black. What colours are they?

  • Ask a Ford Model T owner why his/her car was so popular. Who did you talk to? List his/her/their name(s).

  • Find a car that has gas headlights. You can always ask the owners for help too. Ask how they work. Who did you ask?

  • About half of the cars are the same make. What are they called?

  • What is the oldest car?

  • What is the newest car?

  • What are the wheels made of?

Questions 8 – 11 year old students

  • Ask a car owner to show you how his/her car starts. Which car was it? (Year and make)

  • Find a car that has no front doors. Identify the year and make

  • Find a car with all white wheels. Identify the year and make.

  • Find a car that does not have brass (brass is a golden yellow) trim on it. Ask the car owner what material was used for trim. What is it?

  • Find a car that cost under a $1,000 brand new. Tell me the year and make.

  • Ask a car owner to show you the engine on his/her brass era car. See if he/she can tell you how the engine works! Write down the name of the owner.

  • Find a car with three letters in its name. Identify the name. (Names of cars are usually found on the front of the car)

  • Find a car with ten or more letters in its name. Identify the name.

  • What is the oldest car?

  • What is the newest car?

  • Why do these cars have such tall wheels?

  • What are the wheels made of?

  • The older cars don’t have light bulbs in the headlights – how do they work?

  • What is the purpose of the crank handle on the front of the car?

  • How does a “bulb horn” work?

Questions 12 + year old students

  • Ask a car owner to tell you how they how became the owner. Do not ask how much the car cost them to buy it. Who did you talk to?

  • List two ways that these cars are like modern cars

  • List two ways that these cars are different from modern cars.

  • How do you think these cars influenced the modern car of today

  • Find the car with the smallest horsepower and the biggest horsepower.

  • Find a car that has more 20 – 25 horsepower.

  • Identify 3 different type of motors

  • Identify 3 different body styles

  • Identify 3 different materials the bodies are made of.

  • The older cars don’t have light bulbs in the headlights – how do they work?

  • What is the purpose of the crank handle on the front of the car?

Some additional questions and information

Body Construction
  1. Bodies were often built by carriage makers, many were all handmade – many makers of vehicles outsourced their bodies to other companies, others made whole vehicles.

  2. Students could enquire as to which was the case on a particular vehicle and if made by an outside contractor who they were and where they were located at the time of manufacture.

    • Examples of companies using coach build bodies include Rolls Royce, Chevrolet (prior to 1925) Cadillac and Buick,

    • Examples of companies using their own factory to make bodies include Oldsmobile, Elmore, Ford.

  3. Wooded body or wood with metal overlayed – almost of all bodies prior to 1910 were fully made of wood – a wooden skeleton (frame) was covered in plywood or wooden sheets. Some expensive bodies were made of cast aluminum. By 1910 most bodies were wooden frame with steel or aluminum sheets covering the wooden skeleton

  4. Originally bodies were painted by craftsmen by brush –appx. 22 coats with sanding in between coats which took about a month to paint each body. Many original unrestored cars still have this paint finish. Today, modern spray paint methods are faster and provide an equally good result. Students could quiz owners as to the type and method of painting on individual vehicles.

  5. Body styles are many and varied. 2 passenger Roadster, 4, 5 and 7 passenger touring car, Sedans, coupes and commercial vehicles. Students could identify 3 different body styles and note the differences between them and the positive and negative attributes.

  6. Most cars prior to 1905 did not have a windshield and if so, were fitted as an accessory by a dealer. By 1910, almost all cars had windscreens and some even a 2nd windscreen for the passengers.
    Students could quiz owners on whether the windscreen was factory fitted or an accessory and if fitted with a 2nd windscreen request a demonstration on how it operates.


Lights, as mentioned earlier, were an option on most vehicles prior to 1912. Students could quiz owners on which type of lights their vehicle has and even ask for a demonstration on their operation

  1. Acetylene gas generated by mixing water and calcium carbide.

  2. Kerosene

  3. Electric

Tyers & Wheels

Tyers and wheels varied considerably from the dawn of the automobile to the end of the Brass Era. Tires – early vehicles had solid rubber tires, followed by heavy walled tubes that doubled as tires, before the invention of the pneumatic tires with an inner tube. Types of tires:

  1. Solid Tires

  2. Permanent mount

  3. High-pressure “Clincher” tires

  4. “Straight Side” lock-ring tires

Wheels again came in a number of varieties

  1. Wood,

  2. Wire

  3. Solid disc

Student could ascertain what type of tire and wheels vehicles had and identify 3 tires of different tire and wheel.


Brakes were somewhat of a novel idea pre 1900 and the bare minimum pre1905, remembering that there was very little traffic and the only need to slow down was going down hills. Regardless, as the need for brakes grew, various manufacturers invented varying methods of stopping the vehicles.

  1. Only on rear wheels

  2. Transmissions only

  3. External constricting band and/or internal expanding shoes

  4. Transmission, driveshaft, or wheel braking

Students could identify 3 different types of braking system on different vehicles.

Ignition System

The ignition system again varied by manufacturers. In the earliest days, this was as simple as a copper rod inserted into the motor and heated by an external flame (hot tube ignition) which ignited the gas within the cylinder. This proved very unreliable and was soon replaced by a timed sparking system that was more controlled and permitted the motor to run more efficiently. By 1900, most vehicles were running on spark plugs or some sort of sparking system that allowed the timing of the spark to occur at the most efficient time for the motor to perform at its best capacity.

  1. Battery/trembler coil (multiple spark)

  2. Magneto (single spark)

  3. Dual ignition

Students can quiz owners on which type of ignition system their vehicle has and how the spark is operated and adjusted (advance and retard).


Many manufacturers of the automobile experimented with various modes of obtaining “drive” from the motor to the wheels. The 1st Benz vehicle had only one speed which was conveyed to the wheels by leather belts. By 1888, the Benz had two speeds to assist it in going up hills. By 1900, three and four speed transmissions had been invented and again these were in a number of configurations:

  1. Band-operated planetary – generally 2 or 3 speed.

  2. Friction disc drive – a disc from the rear of the motor and a drive wheel that is slid across the disc – the further out on the disc surface, the faster the vehicle would go.

  3. Belt drive – belts were linked from the motor to the wheels, generally 2 speed.

  4. Progressive – where you must move from neutral to 1st to 2nd then on to top and then back through the gears to get back to neutral.

  5. Sliding selector gear – (now the norm) in a manual transmission where you can select any gear you desire.

  6. Transaxle – where the transmission and differential are housed together


As mentioned above, fuel systems varied greatly before settling on gasoline (petrol) as the primary source of fuel for over 100 years. Steam and electric vehicles dominated the pre 1900 period prior to the internal combustion motor dominating post 1900. Indeed, during World War 2, when gasoline was severely rationed, many vehicles were run on wood smoke from a gas producer mounted on the vehicle. This process required the motor to be warmed up by the use of gasoline, however once warm, the vehicle would run on the smoke produced by burning wood or coal.

  1. Gasoline

  2. Ethanol alcohol (moonshine)

  3. Kerosene

  4. Seam

  5. Electricity

  6. Wood smoke (by generator)

Students could inquire as to what type of fuel the vehicles were run on and where the reservoir (gasoline, water, batteries) is located on individual vehicles.

Engine construction

Engine design also changed considerably prior to settling in what is the general layout of a vehicle today – radiator, motor, transmission, differential.

From the simple single cylinder of between 1 ½ – 12 hp to twin cylinders from 8 – 28 hp, some manufacturers even tried 3 cylinder vehicles though these were quickly superseded by larger four cylinders of 20 -60 hp and 6 cylinder of 30 -90 hp motors. In late 1914 Cadillac introduced the 1st viable V8 rated at 85 hp.

Some of the multi cylinder motors were individually cast cylinders, mount on a common crankcase. Others were cast as one unit (mono block) and some had heads that were detachable and some the head and cylinder were cast as one unit.

Methods of cooling the motor also varied with two major variants – air cooled and water cooled.  Some water-cooled motors had a pump driven from the motor to circulate the water through the motor and back to the radiator and returning to the motor again. Others relied on simple convection (Thermo syphon) to have the water flow through the motor into the radiator and sucked back into the motor again. Example of motors and cooling systems:

  1. Single cylinder

  2. 2 cylinder

  3. 3 cylinder

  4. 4 cylinder 6 cylinder

  5. V8

  6. Separate castings or mono-bloc

  7. Removable heads or solid heads

  8. Motor under hood

  9. Motor mounted “mid ship” under the body

  10. Thermo-siphon or pump circulation coolant

  11. Air cooling or water

Students could quiz owners on the number of cylinders the vehicles has and their construction and location within the frame. They could also ask if the heads are detachable and what type of cooling system is employed.

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