During the 1910s automobiles rapidly replaced horses. Motorcars appealed to the adventurous and the professional—doctors and businessmen were among the first Americans to buy and drive cars. Over this momentous decade the design of the automobile stayed relatively stable: Henry Ford's Model T, introduced in 1908, set the standard, dominating the market and providing a model for its competitors. The wealthy drove cars that looked much like the Model T but were appointed with fur rugs and fine leather. During the 1910s the big changes in automobiles came in their production and engineering. Technological advances made cars easier to drive and maintain, while assembly innovations made them faster and cheaper to make.
New makes of cars proliferated - from the low cost Model T Ford through to the expensive Duesenberg and even more expensive Rolls Royce. Most of the carmakers no longer exist or have been amalgamated but many of the old car names like Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Lincoln, and Oldsmobile live on today. Others like the Auburn, Cole, Crow, Davis, Dixie, Durant, Elcar, Grant, King, Kline, Lafayette, Kurtz, Marmon, Mercer, Overland, Peerless, Pilot, Roamer, Saxon, Stearns, Velie, Wescott and Winton are only seen in vintage car shows today. One of the biggest motoring events of 1927 was the release of the "new Ford", the model A, which replaced the long-standing Model T after 18 years of production.
Most of the early cars were open tourers (convertibles) but it didn't take long before they were enclosed and fitted with heaters to improve passenger comfort. Companies that had formerly produced horse drawn vehicles became vehicle manufacturers or built bodies on chassis produced by others. Many of the expensive cars were custom built for their wealthy owners who often had a chauffeur/mechanic to drive them.
In the 1930s cars were the nation's symbol of leisure, convenience, and security. Middle-class and farming families were understandably reluctant to give up driving even in the worst years of the Depression. As the country reeled from the effects of the stock-market crash, the auto industry seemed resistant to the Depression. Sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd noted in 1932 that the Depression had not changed the public's commitment to automobiles. Car ownership was synonymous for many Americans with self-respect and the American dream.