On this date in 1896, a young electrical engineer named Henry Ford completed, and successfully tested, his first experimental automobile. He called it the “Quadricycle,” because it rolled around on four bicycle tires. He’d been working on it for two years, out in the shed behind his house on Bagley Avenue in Detroit. It was finally ready to test when he hit an unexpected snag: It was too wide to fit through the workshop’s door. Ford took an ax to the doorframe and the surrounding bricks, and was soon rolling down Grand River Avenue.
The Quadricycle had a two-cylinder, four-horsepower engine and could achieve speeds up to 20 miles per hour. It had two gears and no brakes. It ran on pure ethanol, and it was steered by the means of a tiller, like a boat. It wasn’t much to look at, just a 500-pound skeleton with a steel frame and no body. But the first test drive was a success.