Named after the eye-catching and widespread use of brass fittings utilized during this time for such accoutrements as radiators, brass head lamps, bulb horns, windshield frames, lights, the automotive Brass Era and the Edwardian car era were from 1910 until the 1930’s, (though the Brass Era does extend from the original commercial vehicles in the 1890s up until WWI). ‘Horseless carriage’ was another term for the 'Brass Era automobile'.
Cars and trucks built between 1890 and 1918 fell in the gap known as the Brass Car Era. This marked the start of automotive history when steam engines displayed fancy brass fittings and brass lanterns were an addition to the new ‘horseless carriage’. At the time, brass cars were generally built with carriage wood and forged steel and were fitted with steam engines or electric motors. The sale of the first commercial vehicles in the 1890’s heralded the Brass Car Era and lasted until the early 1900’s when mass production and gasoline engines started the Antique Car Era.
In the U.K. the Brass/Edwardian era is divided into two periods, pre-1905 the vehicles were dubbed veteran cars, while from 1905 through 1918 the vehicles were dubbed Edwardian cars. In the U.K. the Edwardian period was from 1901 through 1910 during the reign of King Edward VII. An example of a Brass Era car for the mass market was the early Ford Model T produced from 1908 through 1927. The Model T was the most widely produced and available vehicle of the era and utilized a planetary transmission and had a pedal-based control system. Other popular Brass Era cars were the 1910 Mercer Raceabout, which was regarded as one of the original sports cars, and the 1910 Bugatti Type 13, which was a notable racing and touring model with very advanced engineering and design.
1905 was a pretty significant year in the automobile industry as it marked the point when the majority of sales shifted from just the aficionado or enthusiast to the average user. During the fifteen years that encompass the Brass or Edwardian years, a variety of developmental designs and alternate power systems that could be utilized. It wasn’t until Panhard et Levassor's Système Panhard was licensed and adopted, though the modern touring car had been invented earlier, that the standardized automobiles were created. This front-engined system featured rear-wheel drive internal combustion vehicles with a sliding gear transmission.
At this time in automobile history, traditional coach-style vehicles were neglected and replaced with tonneaus and other less-expensive touring bodies. A huge number of small manufacturers were all competing during this era to gain the world’s attention. In 1903 Robert Bosch introduced electric ignition, the Arrol-Johnston Company of Scotland introduced four-wheel brakes in 1909. Other key developments included independent suspension, transmissions and throttle controls and much more. A variety of cruising speeds were available, though vehicles generally still had modest speed settings instead of infinitely variable system familiar in cars of later eras. The high-wheel motor buggy was in use from 1907 through 1912 and it resembled the horse buggy of pre-1900.