A History of Luxury Cars for Auto Mechanic School Students

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Today the standards for what makes a vehicle luxurious seem to be shifting. There are brands like BMW, Mercedes, and Audi that are known as luxury brands, but these companies also sell relatively affordable models. Meanwhile, other brands like Rolls-Royce or Bugatti are undeniably luxurious in every way.
The history of luxury cars is as old as cars themselves. More than just being a way to get from point A to point B, luxury vehicles make a statement about the people who drive them. While the standards of luxury continue to shift, what remains true is the some cars are just more exclusive than others. Let’s take a look at what has made a vehicle luxurious over time.

Early History for the Auto Mechanic College Student

In the earliest history of cars, before any auto mechanic college was established, technically all cars were luxury items. If exclusivity is part of what defines luxury, we know that most people could not afford a vehicle until Henry Ford lowered the price of a Model T to $440 in 1915 when the average income was $687 annually.
Although the Model T became more affordable, expensive luxury cars were still being made. Packard was the most popular brand in the early 20th century and continued to be until the Great Depression. Decades later, Cadillac was the company to make a triumphant return after WWII with the 1948-49 Series Sixty-Two Club Coupe. Throughout the 1950’s they were the top seller with Lincoln as a distant second. Today, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus are the highest selling luxury brands.

Packard provided luxury, but also helped develop the modern steering wheel
Packard provided luxury, but also helped develop the modern steering wheel

A Classic Luxury: The Rolls Royce Silver Cloud

If you are doing auto mechanic training you may be more interested in the engine of a vehicle than its interior, but this is where a lot of the luxury lives. The Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud is a prime example. This model, introduced in 1955, was the last Rolls-Royce to have a body made separately from the chassis and it cost about as much as a seven bedroom house at the time.
The Silver Cloud had polished walnut wood finish, plush carpets, fine leather seats and enough headroom for passengers to wear top hats. One of the most luxurious qualities of this car was the manufacture. It took three months to make and had twelve coats of silver paint along with a heavy chrome bumper and privacy panels, which meant passengers in the back could not be seen from outside the vehicle. Here, the luxury experience is for the passenger rather than the driver, although it boasted a respectable acceleration of 0-60 mph in 13.5 seconds.

Luxury Features Today

While there is some debate about whether luxury is defined by exclusivity, performance, or price, many car makers are still interested in over-the-top displays of lifestyle. For example, the Mercedes Maybach S-Class now offers a refrigerator between the back passenger seats, and Bentley will add crystal wine glasses to the deal.

Some luxury vehicles come with power operated doors so you barely have to lift a finger
Some luxury vehicles come with power operated doors so you barely have to lift a finger

The privacy panels have also come into the new millennium in the form of “anti-paparazzi curtains,” offering yet another way to show status. This is a feature found in the Rolls-Royce Phantom and in case you were wondering, yes the curtains are power operated. From fancy analog clocks, to custom upholstery, the list of luxuries goes on.
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