Benz Patent Motor Car, 1886 - 1894
The Benz patent motor car is the world’s first automobile. Carl Benz designed it in 1885 and filed for a patent on January 29, 1886. The patent No. 37435, granted by the imperial patent office for this “vehicle with gas-engine drive” was the automobile’s birth certificate. Carl Benz did not content himself with outfitting an existing carriage with an engine. In his Patent Motor Car, engine, chassis and drive train were designed from scratch. With gasoline engine, ignition, cooling, transmission, wheels and brakes it has been the archetype of every automobile built since then. Benz could not devise a convincing solution for the steering though. “As I was unable to solve the theoretical problem involved in the steering, I decided to build the vehicle with three wheels,” he said later. In 1893, Benz was to find an answer to the steering problem too.
Carl Benz long worked in secret on his invention, for fear someone could beat him to it. At first, he only dared to go out on the road at night, in the immediate neighborhood of his factory. Night after night, he gradually learned to take command of his vehicle and its technology, cautiously extending the length of the spins he took with it. He waited until the car was patented to venture to present it to the public. On July 3, 1886, a Sunday, he took a drive around the old ring of ramparts which surrounds Mannheim. In the midst of baffled Sunday walkers he went rattling around the town, while his son Eugen ran alongside the vehicle with a bottle of gasoline to keep it fueled. The next day, all Mannheim talked about Carl Benz and his invention.
The consistency Carl Benz shows, when he develops his idea of a “horseless vehicle” into a product suitable for daily use, brings it on the market, and makes his vision a reality, is his crucial achievement. He had the idea of a motorcar, designed it, built it, tested it, patented it, put it on the market, produced it in series, developed it further, and thus made his innovation usable.