A vintage car is commonly defined as a car built between the start of 1919 and the end of 1930 known as the “Vintage era”. There is little debate about the start date of the vintage period—the end of World War I is a nicely defined marker there—but the end date is a matter of a little more debate. The British definition is strict about 1930 being the cut-off, and is widely accepted while some American sources prefer 1925 since it is the pre-classic car period as defined by the Classic Car Club of America. Others see the classic period as overlapping the vintage period, especially since the vintage designation covers all vehicles produced in the period while the official classic definition does not, only including high-end vehicles of the period. Some consider the start of World War II to be the end date of the vintage period.
The vintage era in the automotive world was a time of transition. The car started off in 1919 as still something of a rarity, and ended up, in 1930, well on the way towards ubiquity. In fact, automobile production at the end of this period was not matched again until the 1950s. In the intervening years, most industrialized states built nationwide road systems with the result that, towards the end of the period, the ability to negotiate unpaved roads was no longer a prime consideration of automotive design.
Cars became much more practical, convenient and comfortable during this period. Car heating was introduced, as was the in-car radio. Four-wheel braking from a common foot pedal was introduced, as was the use of hydraulically actuated brakes. Power steering was also an innovation of this era. Towards the end of the vintage era, the system of octane rating of fuel was introduced, allowing comparison between fuels. In 1923 the gasoline additive Ethyl made its debut at the Indy 500 that resulted in a boost in octane from the 50’s to the 80’s. In the United States drive-in restaurants were introduced as well as suburban shopping centers and motels.
Alfred P. Sloan and Harley Earl of General Motors, and Walter P. Chrysler capitalized on advertising the automobile’s role in the life of the consumer for more than just the utilitarian value compared with the horse. The stock market crash of 1929 started the layoff of automotive workers and many new companies went bankrupt but over two million cars were still produced in 1929 and 1930. Horatio Earle, known as the “Father of good roads” had proposed the government create an Interstate highway system in 1902 and in 1909 built the World’s first mile of concrete road on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
From 1920 to 1929, many dramatic changes took place. General Motors went into a financial crisis that lasted until after Alfred Sloan became president in 1923. Hudson produced the Essex in 1919 that, by 1925, had propelled the company to third in total sales behind Ford and Chevrolet. Ford was in the process of building a new plant, buying back stock, and began an 18-month process of tooling-up to replace the Model T with the Model A in 1927. In 1921 Maxwell failed and Walter P. Chrysler, formerly of General Motors, was brought in to reorganize it and, in 1925, the Chrysler Corporation was formed. With Ford out for a period, Chrysler was able to produce and market the low-priced Plymouth in 1927, and bought out the Dodge Brothers in 1928, resulting in “The Big Three” more recently known as the “Detroit Three”. During this time Britain had six major manufacturers instead of three: Morris, Austin, Standard, Rootes, Ford of Britain, and Vauxhall. There were other automakers that made it past the 1920-1921 depression only to fail during the Great Depression. Among smaller automobile manufacturers was Franklin that produced high-quality luxury cars during the 1919 to 1930 vintage era.
Source – Wikipedia