When World War l broke out, Henry Ford had just begun production of the Model T. At the time, horse draw carriage was the mode of transportation used by most civilians. Military personnel got around on horseback. The car or “horseless carriage” as it was commonly known, was reserved for the wealthy and eventually introduced to the military.
The Vauxhall D-Type, which came off the production line in 1915, had a 4 cylinder, 25hp, 3,969cc engine. The car was able to carry five passengers at a speed of 60 mph. It was used to transport top military officials across conflict zones.
It was during this time when the term “horsepower” was introduced to the auto industry. As you can imagine, the term literally compared the power of the engine to that of the horse. It is estimated that 8 million horses lost their lives during WW1.
In all, 1,500 D-Types were produced for the military – at a rate of approximately 7 vehicles a week. It had a sturdy chassis and durable engine. Ford used enforced bicycle tires in his design which worked remarkably well when traversing rough terrains. Remember, at that time, there were no roads so bicycle tires made perfect sense.
According to Vauxhall literature, a gunner on a D-Type in 1916 said, “The old Vauxhall will go on being bumped, swamped, bogged, and perhaps shelled; but its work is to help win the war, and it does it with a good heart.”
By 1916, approximately eight D-Types per week were being created for the military. You may wonder why they didn’t order more but when you think about it the number made sense. Just as there weren’t any paved roads at the time, the tools needed for automotive repair did not exist in large quantities which meant if the car broke down while transporting goods, the goods would be left behind for enemies to use. In order not to risk the loss of the important supplies, the army continued to transport supplies by horse and cart for the majority of the war. Nonetheless, it’s use of the D-Type was enough to change how the world operated. Only two D-Types survive today.