We’ve all heard the stories of the fact that vehicles were built by hand and were not mass produced before we had assembly lines. For most of us this is an unimaginable reality. The ability to only produce a few products each year to be sold meant the profits and the price had to be high on an item that took a few weeks to put together. The chance a company took when a new product was built was extreme and many businesses were defunct before they ever got started in the early days of the automotive world.
Henry Ford came up with the assembly line to resolve this problem and mass produced vehicles, starting with his Model T that was the most mass produced and sold vehicle in the world before the VW Beetle came along. Not only was it difficult and time consuming to build without an assembly line, many of the shops that were used were nothing more than a garage with a workbench and the right tools to get the job done. Today we have something much closer to a surgical operating room to make sure we can produce the vehicles that are built.
Not only was the areas generally dirty, hot and stinking of blood and sweat, the fact was parts were often cast by hand, which took time for the metal to harden. Parts were then cut out of the cast and then assembled by hand. The term hand-built wasn’t just an idea at the time of the early 1900s, it was truly the way things were done and showed us exactly how our vehicles were built. When you think about this process of assembly, it’s a wonder anyone drove around at all, and very few did until the Model T arrived.
The video below is an early 1900s film that shows you the process of building a motorcycle. Keep in mind, the term motorcycle literally is derived from motorized bicycle and when you see the frames these items are built on you’ll understand why I even mention this at all. These vehicles were built at a time when there were no rules of the road, in fact there were very few roads and having a motorcycle, even one that was built on what appears to be a bicycle frame was something that meant you were in the higher class of people in your area.
Imagine living at this time when there was no air conditioning, working conditions were not something that made a difference to the company you worked for and you had to deal with long hours in a hot factory for very little pay. This was a time when things were simpler, but life was harder, people had less to worry about and weren’t connected all around the world, but in this they were closer in their communities. At the end of this video you can laugh a little because you can see some great crashes and fun on the motorcycles as the guys who built them put some test miles on them.