Motoring Trailblazers - Imperial

Fri 29th Nov 2019

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Drivers across the globe who have endured long and monotonous car journeys will be thankful to a groundbreaking invention of the 1950s which allowed vehicles to maintain a steady speed rather than having to keep their foot rested on the accelerator.

Though ‘speed control’ on automobiles and engines was first conceived in the early 1900s, it wasn’t until the late 1950s that the concept was first added to a mass production car.

Cruise-control as we know it was the brainchild of Ralph Teetor, a prolific inventor who despite being permanently blinded in an accident at the age of five, came up with a device known as a ‘speedostat’ in 1948. Teetor had become frustrated by his lawyer friend constantly speeding up and slowing down the acceleration on his car as he talked. Teetor devised a dashboard speed selector which came with a speed lock capability that would maintain the car’s speed until the driver tapped the brake pedal.

Teetor’s invention was also timely due to the Second World War legislation which saw a 35mph speed limit introduced to reduce tyre wear and also save on fuel economy

Speedostat has been known as the controlmatic, touchomatic and pressomatic in the ten years it took from invention to implementation in its first vehicle in 1958.

Chrysler’s Imperial was the pioneer for speedostat, though it wasn’t until Cadillac got hold of the technology that we were first introduced to the name we know today, Cruise Control.

While cruise control is widely adopted in modern vehicles and the Imperial is credited for its introduction, credit was also given to Teetor, one of the most impressive motoring inventors of the last century. Teetor added an early lawn mower, lock mechanisms and fishing rod holders to his list of inventive innovations and was quite right inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1988.