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Originally published on

All carmakers like to tout innovations or “firsts.” Often, however, we find that a similar feature or function debuted many years before. In some cases, a good idea may have arrived before the technology was truly sorted out. In other instances, lack of market acceptance caused good ideas to be shelved for years.

Our first installment in this series looks at anti-lock brakes.

Mandated today as standard equipment on all new passenger vehicles, anti-lock brakes, commonly known as ABS, had been on automotive engineers’ wish lists at least since the 1950s. One famous German carmaker has long boasted of having the first electronic four-wheel anti-skid system. But an American luxury model got there first.

Anti-skid brakes first turned up on aircraft in the late 1940s. One of those purely mechanical systems, Maxaret, was adapted to the British Jensen FF, a four-wheel-drive version of the company’s Interceptor grand touring coupe, in 1966. Just 320 FF models were built through 1971, and this right-hand-drive-only model was not exported (officially) to the U.S.

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