Automobile Gallery

Automobile Gallery 2F

From the Dawn of the Automobile to the Birth of Japanese Cars

ZONE 1-8
From the Dawn of the Automobile to the 1950s

The eight exhibition zones on this floor follow the worldwide progress of automotive technology and culture from the birth of the first practical gasoline-powered automobile (1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen—the one on show is a replica) to the 1950s.


The Dawn of the Automobile

The Dawn of the Automobile

From steam and electricity to gasoline

The first "automobile", a vehicle that runs on machine power rather than human or animal power, was a steam car built in France in the 18c.. This was followed by an electric vehicle in the mid-19c., and the gasoline-powered automobile finally made its appearance in the late 19c.. Although a latecomer, the gasoline-powered automobile underwent steady improvement over the years, and gasoline eventually became the main power source for cars.

The Dawn of the Automobile in Japan

Automobiles powered by steam, electricity, and gasoline arrived in Japan practically together at the turn of the 20c.. Only a few years later, the first Japanese-made automobile was completed by a Japanese who had learned the ropes by observing the imported vehicles. Other attempts at automaking soon followed, but none succeeded in reaching full-scale production, largely due to the lack of industrial resources and infrastructures.

The Dawn of the Automobile

Rapid Advancement
of the Automobile

Rapid Advancement of the Automobile

From horseless carriages to automobiles:
the establishment of basic automotive technoligies

The earliest automobiles were noisy, broke down easily. Nevertheless, automotive engineers in Europe and the U.S. kept on exploring one innovative idea after another. As a result, many of the basic automotive technologies still used today were already firmly established by the early 20c.. The performance of automobiles improved dramatically, and the exterior design departed from that of horse-drawn carriages to become increasingly low-slung and stylish. Some early automobiles made by the more scrupulous manufacturers were of very high quality.

Rapid Advancement of the Automobile

Widespread Acceptance
of the Automobile

Widespread Acceptance of the Automobile

The arrival of the Ford Model T makes the automobile approachable to all

While early automobiles improved in leaps and bounds over a very short period, they were still too expensive for ordinary people to own. Henry Ford decided to change this by building automobiles for the general public, and he launched the Model T in 1908. This car was simple in structure yet sufficiently functional. Most importantly, it was cheap and made life with automobiles a reality both in the U. S. and in other countries around the world.

Widespread Acceptance of the Automobile

A Pageant
of Luxurious Saloons

A Pageant of Luxurious Saloons

The artistic styling and technological sophistication of fine cars dazzle people

Automotive technology contributed greatly to the early development of airplanes. And then in the 1920s, the advanced engine technologies and lightweight alloys created for airplanes were applied to automobiles, fueling remarkable growth in the auto industry. European and American automakers eagerly produced luxury cars and high-performance cars, many of which were admired for their artistic styling and high technical standards.

A Pageant of Luxurious Saloons

The Advance of
Racecars and Sports Cars

The Advance of Racecars and Sports Cars

How car races improved automotive performance and gave people the joy of driving

Car races started soon after the birth of the automobile out of the need to determine which models performed better than others. And competition to win car races inevitably involved technological competition, which in turn played a major role in improving the performance of automobiles in general. As racing venues moved from public roads connecting major cities to dedicated motor-racing circuits, racecars and sports cars began to follow a different evolutionary path from regular cars. At the same time, national color schemes were set by motor sports authorities governing international races, which drove the entrants to compete for national pride.

The Advance of Racecars and Sports Cars

The Age of
Streamline Design

The Age of Streamline Design

Technology meets fashion to produce a new breed styling

ln the 1930s, the styling underwent a drastic change, due partly to the shift in the mechanical structure, advances in manufacturing, and introduction of aerodynamics. Marketing campaigns also helped to brand "streamline design" as the predominant styling of the time. Although the streamline design initially met some opposition, people soon became fascinated with the speedy image. Toyota quickly adopted the streamline design in its first car, the Toyoda Model AA.

The Spread of Automobiles in Japan and the Start of Domestic Mass Production

The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 devastated Tokyo' s public transportation. 800 Ford Model T truck were imported and converted into buses, which proved invaluable to the citizens of Tokyo. They encouraged the spread of automobiles in Japan, and Ford and Chevrolet established local assembly plants. Japanese automakers also started mass production in the mid-1920s, in the compact car category, where there was no direct competition with Ford and Chevrolet. Datsun (today's Nissan) proved reasonably successful. As the Japanese government was also eager to back the emerging auto industry, Nissan, Toyoda Automatic Loom Works (today's Toyota), and Isuzu seized this opportunity to embark on full-scale production of automobiles.

The Age of Streamline Design

The Blossoming Diversity
of Automotive Culture

The Blossoming Diversity of Automotive Culture

Cars that reflect the unique characters of American and European countries

As the devastating effects of the Great Depression that began in 1929 subsided in the late 1930s, a wide variety of high-performance cars were produced in the U.S. and Europe that reflected the national characteristics of the time. These included French cars imbued with high-flying artistry bordering on decadence, Italian cars with gorgeous bodies built by famous carrozzerie (Italian coachbuilders), British luxury cars built on their rich heritage, German cars with exceptional performance, and uninhibitedly unique American cars.

The Blossoming Diversity of Automotive Culture

Turning a New Leaf
after World WarⅡ

Turning a New Leaf after World WarⅡ

Novel design trends epitomizing the era leave lasting effects

As production of cars resumed in the U.S. soon after the end of WWII, Tucker and other upstart companies entered into auto manufacturing, using idle arms factories to produce uniquely designed cars. The postwar-models of the Big Three also featured styling innovations that were toprofoundly influence subsequent car designs around the world, including flush sides and tailfins. In Europe, too, a number of newcomers joined the ranks of auto manufacturers.

A Craze for Sports Cars in the U.S.

Some American WWII veterans returning home after serving in Europe brought back lightweight sports cars with them, spurring a craze for sports cars in the U.S. As a result, sports cars made in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe flooded the U.S. market. American carmakers responded by releasing their own breeds of sports cars and specialty cars, which carved their own niches.

Turning a New Leaf after World WarⅡ