Here’s a car that isn’t necessarily the first one might think of when listing classic cars, but it has certainly earned its place in motor vehicle history: The Essex. First introduced in 1919, after being delayed by World War I, the Essex endured a tumultuous economy, huge sales, and its eventual demise in 1932. Though it only survived 13 years before being replaced by the Terraplane, an impressive 1.13 million Essex automobiles were sold in its short life.
In a time when many Americans didn’t own a vehicle, and didn’t bat an eye at a car-less life, the Essex Motor Company and Hudson Motor Company (of Detroit, Michigan) brought to the table a small, affordable car option for the everyday consumer. It was known as being a durable car with a vibration free 4 cylinder motor. In fact, in 1919, the vehicle underwent an endurance test in Cincinnati, Ohio. The test took 50 hours over about 3,073 miles, but the Essex averaged a speed in the neighborhood of 60 mph. It would also go on to win many hill-climbing awards. The car had a top speed that reached nearly 70mph.
The most popular style was the touring car, which were open four-door cars with canvas tops. In 1920, an enclosed sedan version became available, but two years later, the closed coach was introduced for only $300 more and enjoyed even more popularity.
When the Essex was eventually replaced by the Terraplane (which was a play on the word “airplane,” since “terra” means earth or land in Latin) in 1932, it featured the first use of warning lights rather than gauges. Though drivers today would never dream of a car without warning lights, it was innovations such as these that forever shaped the auto industry.