Although many automotive pioneers helped to shape the modern car, only Karl Benz actually “invented” it. Model of the car Benz Motorwagen Patent was made official in 1886, after his patents were registered. However, his spindly three-wheeler, with its single-cylinder, four-stroke internal gas combustion engine, spluttered into life on the roads of Mannheim, Germany, the previous year.
By a stroke of coincidence, Canstatt engineer Gottlieb Daimler had also designed a “high-speed” internal combustion powerplant in 1885. His motor ran on gas, but he chose to install it in a primitive motorcycle for demonstrations.
Many years later, in 1926, the Daimler and Benz companies merged to form Mercedes-Benz. Yet there is no record of Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler ever having met (the latter died in 1900). Furthermore, their approaches to self-propelled vehicles were contrasting. Apart from the different fuels used initially, Benz was not, at first, as progressive as his rival whose hot-tube ignition system better suited a mobile engine with its own portable supply of spirits. Daimler’s first car-like prototype of 1886 also provided the additional wheel that most car drivers quickly came to expect.
On the other hand, Benz put an improved version of his tiller-steered tricycle on sale in 1888 (no regular production Daimler was on sale until 1892). Moreover, by 1893, his newly-designed Benz Velo became the world’s first production car. A transportation revolution was beginning.
“In those days when our little boat of life threatened to capsize, only one person stood steadfastly by me, my wife. She bravely set new sails of hope.”
Karl Benz, writing in his autobiography
1886 Benz Motorwagen Patent
Video model of the car Benz Motorwagen
Specification model of the car Benz Motorwagen
- YEAR REVEALED: 1885
- PLACE OF ORIGIN: Mannheim, Germany
- HISTORICAL STATUS: prototype—the first “car”
- ENGINE: single-cylinder, 58ci (954cc)
- MAXIMUM POWER: 0.9bhp
- LAYOUT: rear-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
- BODYWORK: none
- TOP SPEED: 10mph (16kph)
- NUMBER BUILT: one