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mrcvs

When did automobiles become 'commonly available'?

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Yep. I would guess that the middle, to upper middle class folks could commonly afford to buy a new motor car by 1915. I would think it took another 10 years for used cars to become commonly and cheaply available. A lot of old timers told me back in the late 20's and 30's it was easy to put a Model T together just by going to the local town dump and picking parts of what was discarded. Without a lot of trouble you could come up with enough to have wheels to drive with some mechanical ability. They always told me the hardest thing to get was good tires. Dandy Dave!

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Another old timer told me the same. He had a stripped down Model T in the early twenties, when he was in his teens. Tires were expensive. He used to grab old tires off the junk pile behind the garage. They were old, dried out and hard. So he soaked them in a pond for a few days until they softened up then stretched them onto his rims and packed them with hay or rags. He could drive around on them but if he went too fast they would fly right off the rims.

When he saved up some money he got some good tires. Then he hopped up the motor. He used a 1908 head which was higher compression than later models. Got a Bosch magneto off a 1912 Cadillac and bolted it to the frame, then drove it with a bicycle chain. Got a Rayfield carburetor cheap and fixed the broken idle jet. Of course the muffler was the first thing to go.

When he got done it would go 70 miles an hour or so he claimed.

So, by the early twenties old cars were so common a farm boy could piece together a hot rod for a few bucks.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)

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The old guys told me that if you had the Money, you could buy new tires from Montgomery Ward, or Sears and Roebuck, and they would come to your door. Had to sell some hogs, or chickens and eggs to get enough money. Dandy Dave!

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Ha ha ha my buddy hoed corn all summer for 10 cents an hour and saved up $20 to buy a brand new bicycle. That was his first set of wheels. This was in the mid teens. In other words about 100 years ago.

Later he bought an Indian motocycle that did not run, fixed it up and got it running, and traded it for a second hand Ford . That was the hot rod. Right after that he went to work as a mechanic for a motorcycle dealer. There were plenty of cars, bicycles and motorcycles around in the city and in the country. This was in the early twenties.

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Goes to show how times have really changed. around 1900, 90 percent of the population was somehow involved in some form of agriculture. Today, it is around 1.5 percent or less so I've been told. New car models came out in August. Just in time for harvest checks to arrive. Dandy Dave!

Edited by Dandy Dave (see edit history)

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Again, the problem is the definition of "commonly available". For example, one could argue that "commonly available" means that the purchase price of a new car is XX% of the average annual household income (or perhaps the median income). Another definition might have something to do with the ease of purchase, such as per capita number of dealerships (as was suggested above). And of course we've talked about both annual production vs. population and annual registrations.

That was my point exactly. By mentioning the number dealerships as a measure of how far one would be from one, I was defining 'commonly available" as in available for purchase. not available for an evening's cruise. I would argue that cars became "commonly available" long before they became "common", the same way personal computers and flat screen tvs did. If you lived in Greenwich Village or Hell's Kitchen in 1905 and had $1000 to spend, a car was certainly "commonly available" to you. In say 1915, many people may not have owned a car or even knew someone who did, but if they had that $1000.00 to spend on a Thursday they could buy a car. And they probably wouldn't have to travel very far to do it, even in some quite rural areas. By 1920 (I'm guessing) doubt there wasn't a home in the U.S. within a day's ride by horse of a car dealership of some kind.

If you can get something in a day if you have the money, I'd call it "commonly available".

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Floyd Clymer was in the auto and motorcycle business all his life. He started as a car dealer in his home town of Berthoud Colorado at the age of 11, in 1906. In those days if you bought a car they threw in the dealership and his father, a doctor, bought one of the first cars in town.

If they had a car dealership in Berthoud Colorado I think you could call that commonly available.

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