Go back to article: Adapting to the emergence of the automobile: a case study of Manchester coachbuilder Joseph Cockshoot and Co. 1896–1939

Attitudes towards early motoring

In the late nineteenth century many believed motoring to be a fad and motorists faced opposition on many fronts, from local corporations, the police and rural residents and those with a vested interest in the horse trade. At the advent of the industry many coachbuilders were also sceptical. However, this attitude was not necessarily due to the threat posed to the established horse trade, but more to do with the unreliability, smell and noise created by the automobile. Simpson and Bodman, an early motor manufacturer founded in Manchester, focused on commercial vehicles because they believed the passenger vehicle to be unviable:

when as a carriage builder one of us has pointed out the defects of noise, clumsiness, and complication that he knew would never be tolerated... We do not think there is a village wheelwright even who would risk his reputation to say that any of the French or Franco-Coventry productions possessed the running – or standing – merits of a private carriage, in the sense that English carriage owners would accept it (The Engineer, 1897).

This view was also held by coachbuilders across the world. A Dutch trade journal noted that the automobile missed the grace of horse-drawn transport, an opinion also echoed in by American coachbuilders (Tjong Tjin Tai, 2015, p 191; Kinney, 2004, p 267). A few British coachbuilders, such as Arthur Mulliner, involved themselves in the motor trade in the nineteenth century; however, these were exceptions (Georgano, 2001, p 246). Despite this the popularity of motoring soon defied the automobile’s inherent flaws as the experience of speed and the adventure of touring became a powerful driving force in the establishment of automobile culture (Mom, 2015, Chapter One: ‘Racing, Touring Tinkering Constructing the Adventure Machine (1895–1914/1917)’, pp 59–113).

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/170803/003