The term ‘chauffeur’ has been around since 1896 and it originated from the French word for ‘stoker’. Stokers were employed to stoke (feed coal to) the engines of the first vehicles that used steam powered engines such as locomotives or steamships. They used coal to heat a boiler which would then create enough steam to move the working parts in the engine, and then the wheels would turn to start a steam powered vehicle on its journey. Stokers, in essence, powered the vehicle so the journey could go ahead. Although today’s chauffeurs do not literally power their vehicles they still get people from A to B like stokers once did.
Chauffeurs have been around longer than steam powered engines have been though, and they began with the humble horse and cart. As the upper class moved around the country they wanted to do this in luxury and style so they employed the equivalent to a modern day chauffeur to man their means of transportation and get them around whilst they stayed warm, safe and comfortable inside the carriage. These employees were typically stable hands that doubled as the family’s chauffeurs and the respectable chauffeur side of a stable hand’s job would have definitely been an upgrade to mucking out the horses. Some of the richer families however could afford to employ a member of staff whose sole job was to be a chauffeur.
As the motor industry took off and technology advanced, a chauffeur’s role became slightly easier than the days of the stoker who had to make sure the fire never went out. Before the modern day electrical ignition, chauffeurs used to pre heat the cylinder heads with hot tubes before every journey. This ensured the cylinder heads reached the correct temperature so the engine would fire. Naturally, this meant that a chauffeur had to be a skilled mechanic to be able to maintain the vehicle and to be able to deal with any eventuality along the journey like a breakdown, punctured tyre etc.
Nowadays chauffeurs can enjoy taking clients on journeys in cars which are a world away from the horse and cart. Modern cars are now more and more luxurious and the attention to detail throughout is second to none. A chauffeur’s car is usually an executive model and these tend to be a long wheel based version of an Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Bentley or Maybach to name just a few. The car and the service the driver provides is the difference between just a taxi driver and a chauffeur driven car.