11 women who changed automotive history and the way we drive

Today marks the first day of National Women’s History Month.

To celebrate, we’re celebrating women whose ideas, tenacity and inventions changed automotive history and the way we drive our cars:

Bertha Benz | Brake pads and the first road trip

Let’s start with the woman who put automobiles on the map.

Bertha Benz | Photo from Onmanorama

Bertha Benz | Photo from Onmanorama

Bertha Benz was born in 1894 in Germany when women were denied access to higher education. She married young engineer, Carl Benz, and supported his numerous career paths, emotionally and financially, including the invention of the automobile.

No one was very interested in his motorcar, until Bertha and their sons took a now-famous road trip. Without Carl’s knowledge, Bertha and the boys snuck the car out of Carl’s workshop and took it on the first-long-distance road trip, from Mannheim to Pforzheim.

Ad for Carl and Bertha’s Motorwagen | Photo from Mercedes-Benz

Ad for Carl and Bertha’s Motorwagen | Photo from Mercedes-Benz

It was a rough ride on roads built for horses and carriages. She made several repairs during her journey and even invented the first brake pad, made of leather, when the car’s wooden brakes failed.

Her tenacity and determination created the popularity the Motor Car needed to become the world’s most important modern advancements.

Photo from Museum of American Speed

Photo from Museum of American Speed

Margaret Wilcox | Car heater

Margaret Wilcox was a trailblazer. Born in 1839, she was one of the very few female engineers of the time. In 1893, she received the patent for the interior car heater when she engineered a system that pulled the heat from the engine into the cab.

Wilcox’s work inspired the air heaters found in today’s cars making our cold winter drives more enjoyable.

Mary Anderson and her patent | Photo from EngineerGirl

Mary Anderson and her patent | Photo from EngineerGirl

Mary Anderson & Charlotte Bridgwood |Windshield wiper

We have both Mary Anderson and Charlotte Bridgwood to thank for our windshield wipers that help us to drive safely in rain and snow.

Anderson’s idea for the windshield wiper came to her while riding on a trolley car to New York City in 1903. Due to the snowy weather, she couldn’t look out the window and enjoy the sights, and the driver had to stop constantly to wipe the snow off the windshield.

Charlotte Bridgwood | Photo from USPTO

Charlotte Bridgwood | Photo from USPTO

Inspired by her less-than-ideal road trip, she designed a spring-loaded arm with a rubber blade that would wipe across the windshield and could be activated from inside the car. Building on Anderson’s idea just a few years later, in 1917, Bridgwood upgraded the wiper to be electrically operated, her design used rollers instead of blades to clean a windshield.

Anderson and Bridgwood were too smart for their time because their patents expired after not getting enough attention from automakers. Little did they know windshield wipers would eventually become a standard feature in all cars.

Florence Lawrence | Photo from Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research

Florence Lawrence | Photo from Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research

Florence Lawrence | Auto signaling arms

At one point in automotive history, brake lights and turn signals didn’t exist – until silent-film actress Florence Lawrence saw the need.

In 1913, Lawrence invented a device called the Auto Signaling Arm that, “when placed on the back of the fender, can be raised or lowered by electrical push buttons,” she described.

When you pressed on the brake, the signaling arm would raise, indicating a stop.

Lawrence never received any patents for her design, but her idea inspired the necessary turn signals and brake lights we have today.

Photo from El Motor

Photo from El Motor

June McCarroll | Road markings

In 1917, while driving her Ford Model T down a California roadway, June McCarroll was inspired to create a safety measure that saves lives to this day:

“My Model T Ford and I found ourselves face to face with a truck on the paved highway,” she explained. “It did not take me long to choose between a sandy berth to the right and a ten-ton truck to the left! Then I had my idea of a white line painted down the center of the highways of the country as a safety measure.”

McCarroll launched a letter-writing campaign that gained so much attention that painted lines became California law in 1924. The rest of the country quickly followed.

Photo from Edison Tech Center Engineer and scientist Katharine Blodgett is who we have to thank for

Photo from Edison Tech Center Engineer and scientist Katharine Blodgett is who we have to thank for

Katharine Blodgett | Nonreflective glass

Engineer and scientist Katharine Blodgett is who we have to thank for creating non-reflective and anti-glare windshields.

Born in Schenectady, New York, in 1898, she obtained her bachelors degree at Bryn Mawr College and her masters at the University of Chicago. In 1926, at age 21, Blodgett was the first woman to receive a PhD in Physics at Cambridge University.

In 1938, she developed a liquid soap that, when 44 layers were spread over glass, would allow 99 percent of light to pass through. Her development paved the way for future engineers to create a more durable coating that wouldn’t wipe off.

Photo from Wednesday’s Women

Photo from Wednesday’s Women

Hedy Lamarr | Bluetooth

You might recognize Hedy Lamarr from the World War II film The Conspirators, but Lamarr was more than an actress – she was the inventor who created the technology in car’s Bluetooth features.

In the 1940s, Lamarr invented a device that blocked enemy ships from interrupting torpedo guidance signals. The device would take the torpedo signals and make them jump from frequency to frequency, making it near impossible for an enemy to locate the message.

It’s this ‘frequency jumping’ technology we find in the Bluetooth features in our car letting us talk on the phone hands-free or stream our favorite music.

Her technology can also be found in cell-phones, Wi-Fi and GPS.

Photo from Smithsonian

Photo from Smithsonian

Stephanie Kwolek | Kevlar tires and reinforced brake pads

In 1964 chemist Stephanie Kwolek discovered the synthetic fiber, Kevlar. This polymer fiber is five times stronger than steel but lighter than fiberglass. It’s even bulletproof.

Her discovery has saved countless lives as Kevlar is now used to make bulletproof vests and armor.

Today, we can find Kevlar in our tires and in reinforced brake pads.

Photo from Ford Motor Company Archives

Photo from Ford Motor Company Archives

Mimi Vandermolen | Ergonomic controls

In 1970, Ford’s Design Studio welcomed Mimi Vandermolen to the team as one of the first full-time female designers.

After her first project working on the 1974 Mustang II, she led the design team for the 1986 Taurus interior.

In the Taurus, Vandermolen created ergonomic controls, dials for climate function, buttons with raised bumps, and a curved dash to make it easier to reach controls. Her work made the car more accessible and accommodating to drivers.

She went on to lead all of Ford’s North American small-car designs and the styling of the 1993 Probe, inside and out.

Photo from U.S. Navy

Photo from U.S. Navy

Gladys Mae West | GPS

As a mathematician who worked for the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory, Glady Mae West was the project manager for SEASAT, the first earth-orbiting satellite measuring ocean depths.

The work on the 1978 SEASAT project helped West and her team build the GEOSAT satellite creating computer simulations of earth’s surfaces.

Her calculations and work on the SEASAT and GEOSAT helped make the GPS systems in our cars – we’d be lost without her.

This article, written by Racheal Colbert, was originally published on ClassicCars.com, an editorial partner of Motor Authority.

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How to protect everything with paint protection film

If you want to keep your car’s paint looking new, paint protection film is a great option. The name is pretty self-explanatory, but this video from Ammo NYC founder and car-detailing evangelist Larry Kosilla shows just how versatile this material can be.

It turns out you can use paint protection film on more than just cars. Kosilla starts out with the cabinet tops in his garage, which are prone to damage from regular use. This first step is to dust and measure the surface. Kosilla uses Xpel, which makes pre-cut kits for everything from cars to iPhones, but also sells material by the foot and in non-standard sizes.

The film adheres to surface with an application gel, while a top-surface “slip agent” and a squeegee are used to get it into position and iron out lumps. While the surface is still wet, it’s also possible to remove any dust that you might have missed before. That’s important, as any leftover particles will create bumps in the film.

Ammo NYC paint protection film video screenshot

Ammo NYC paint protection film video screenshot

When applying the film, it’s a good idea to have some extra material in case of mistakes, Kosilla said. That excess material will have to be trimmed away, and the best way to do that is to score the cut line with a razor blade, and then peel the material away like a zipper, he added. Scoring rather than cutting straight through avoids disfiguring the material.

You can apply these basic techniques to all kinds of surfaces, Kosilla said. For example, Xpel makes a kit for the Porsche Macan that covers not only exterior surfaces, but also interior lights, the trim piece that surrounds the shifter, door and dashboard trim, and even the face of the clock on Sport Chrono Package models.

If you’re car-detailing perfectionist, Kosilla has plenty of other how-to videos, from small jobs like removing scratches from door handles and interior trim, to installing a vinyl wrap.

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Gunther Werks Speedster, Gordon Murray T.50s, 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class: This Week’s Top Photos

California’s Gunther Werks returned this week with another carbon-bodied stunner based on the 993-generation 911. This time the company delivered a wide-body speedster to complement its coupe from a few years back.

2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5

2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5

The first model based on Hyundai Motor Group’s E-GMP dedicated electric-vehicle platform was revealed this week in the form of the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5. The vehicle is a handsome crossover coming to dealerships this fall as a challenger to the Tesla Model Y and Volkswagen ID.4.

Gordon Murray Automotive T.50s

Gordon Murray Automotive T.50s

Last year Gordon Murray showed off the T.50 supercar as a spiritual successor to the McLaren F1 he designed in the early 1990s. This week he revealed an even more extreme version of the T.50 designed for track use.

2022 Land Rover Defender

2022 Land Rover Defender

Land Rover announced some tweaks being made to the Defender for 2022. Among them is the long-awaited availability of a V-8 powertrain, specifically a 516-hp version of Jaguar Land Rover’s familiar 5.0-liter supercharged mill.

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The redesigned 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class was revealed. It’s an impressive sedan (and wagon if you live outside the United States), though sadly there aren’t any 6- or 8-cylinder engine options planned—not even in the high-performance variants from AMG.

Ferrari LaFerrari once owned by Sebastian Vettel - Photo credit: Which Car/Tom Hartley Jnr

Ferrari LaFerrari once owned by Sebastian Vettel – Photo credit: Which Car/Tom Hartley Jnr

Formula One driver Sebastien Vettel accumulated an enviable collection of Ferraris during his career driving for the Italian supercar maker. Now he’s off to Aston Martin, so he’s selling off those fabulous cars. Luckily, Aston Martin makes some desirable cars, too.

Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus 007 Le Mans Hypercar race car

Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus 007 Le Mans Hypercar race car

Another hypercar in the headlines this week was the new 007 Le Mans Hypercar racer from Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus. The new season of the World Endurance Championship is nearly upon us, and the 007 has just made its initial shakedown test ahead of April’s season opener in Portugal.

2023 BMW M2 spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

2023 BMW M2 spy shots – Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

And finally, BMW was spotted testing a prototype for its next M2. We currently expect the car to debut in 2022 with a detuned version of the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-6 borrowed from the M3 and M4.

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