When primitive automobiles first began to appear in the 1800s, their engines were based on steam power, the same power source which had motivated the Industrial Revolution. Steam had already enjoyed a long and successful career in locomotive powerplants, so it was only natural that the technology evolved into a miniaturized version which was unshackled from the rails. But these early cars inherited steam's weaknesses along with its strengths. The boilers had to be lit by hand, and they required about twenty minutes to build up pressure before they could be driven. Furthermore, their water reservoirs only lasted for about thirty miles before needing replenishment. Despite such shortcomings, these newfangled self-propelled carriages offered quick transportation, and by the early 1900s it was not uncommon to see such machines shuttling wealthy citizens around town.
Read the rest of the Damn Interesting story of the last great steam car.