Commonly defined as a vehicle built at the beginning of 1919 until the end of 1930, this Era was dubbed the Vintage or Prewar Car Era. The start date of the vintage period was the end of WWI, but the end date was slightly debatable, as the British are quite strict about 1930 being the cut-off while the American sources prefer the year 1925 as the cut-off since it is the pre-classic car period as defined by the Classic Car Club of America. Several enthusiasts consider the classic period as overlapping the vintage period, since the vintage designation covers all vehicles produced in the period. Even more consider the start of WWII to be the end date of the vintage period.
The automotive period was in a state of transition at the time when the Vintage Era began. Beginning as a rarity in 1919, by the 1930’s it had become some quite universal. At the end of this period, automobile production was not matched again until the 1950s. Most industrialized states had constructed nationwide road systems in the intermediate years with the result, that the ability to negotiate through unpaved roads was no longer a large concern of automotive design anymore towards the end of the period.
The front-engined vehicle came to dominate during this Vintage Era, with closed bodies and standardized controls becoming the norm for auto enthusiasts. 90% of vehicle sold in 1919 were open, and by 1929, 90% were closed.
During this period, vehicles were much more convenient and comfortable. Little luxuries like an in-car radio and heating were introduced, along with antifreeze which allowed water-cooled cars to be used year-round. A common foot pedal was introduced, along with four-wheel braking and hydraulically actuated brakes. During this era, the biggest innovation to be introduced was power steering. Near the end of the vintage era, the system of octane rating of fuel was introduced which allowed the comparison between fuels. At a rapid pace, development of the internal combustion engine continued with multi-valve and overhead cam engines produced at the high end, while the V8, V12 and even V16 engines were produced for the super-rich. Society began gravitating heavily towards the vintage cars during this era.
Examples of the Vintage Car Era included the 122 Austin 7 which was one of the most widely copied vehicles ever and served as a template for vehicles worldwide. In 1924 an example of a Vintage car was the Bugatti Type 35, which was one of the ‘most successful racing vehicles of all times, with over 1,000 victories in five years’.