Where did the first drivers buy their gasoline?

Obviously cars came before gas stations…but they’re not all that much use without one.

So those early adopters, where did they get their fuel? Did they actually burn gasoline or did diesel come first?

You could buy gasoline in the general store, along with kerosene and similar products. It had some uses before being used as a fuel, such as being used as a solvent.

There wasn’t a lot of gasoline out there, though, and most early automobile owners had to pay for gasoline home delivery, similar to the way folks had heating oil delivered (and still do). If you wanted to take a long trip, you brought a few extra cans of gasoline along with you, which could generally be attached to someplace on the running board or elsewhere on the automobile.

There were other competing fuels at the time. Some cars ran on batteries, which had to be recharged. Battery technology kinda sucked back then compared to modern batteries, so those lost very quickly once gasoline became more readily available.

Diesel engines were around in the early days as well. Those could run on vegetable oil.

The first “cars” did not run on gasoline or diesel. They ran on liquids left over from coal gasification (producer gas). These liquids were high in aromatics like benzene and some cultures have gasoline names derived from this.

The first internal combustion engines (as farm equipment) ran from synthetic gas too (produced by coal gasification). It was the same gas that you see in old movies for lighting homes and town squares.

Huh. Very interesting. So, could you leave a note in an empty bottle? Extra two gallons, please, and a quart of high octane. :slight_smile:

I guess that sort of thing happens with each new technology – what’s the point of a tv until there are television stations?

By the time commercially produced horseless carriages started appearing, the extraction of kerosene from petroleum for lighting was a very large business. More volatile fractions were a byproduct, and cheaply available. Those vehicles ran on a variety of mixtures from those fractions, often referred to as “naptha”. Today, we might consider them to be something akin to “Coleman fuel” or “white gas”.

I talked to the owner of a Model A Ford a few years ago at a car show. He mentioned that the car could run on almost anything that could be burned (presumably, with a spark-ignition, so excluding diesel), including gasoline, kerosene, and ethanol. The carburetor would need to be adjusted, but that was a simple matter of adjusting it. Ethanol, of course, is a well-known product that a lot of people made on the farm with a few extra bushels of corn :slight_smile: .

This is one of the erroneous anachronisms in the third Back to the Future movie.

The DeLorean is stranded in the 1880’s with an empty tank of gas. They have to go to ridiculous lengths (hijacking a railroad locomotive) to provide an alternative source of power despite the fact that they could have fueled up at the local hardware store with a quick octane boost at the local distillery.

You basically had to stop off at a pharmacist to re-fuel.

IIRC they did try moonshine in the car.


What a neat story! You go, Bertha!