The History of the First Automobile

23 November 2021 0 By Edith M.
The History of the First Automobile

We have sure come a long way since the first car models from the 1800s. It all started with the first patented car by Carl Benz: the Benz Patent-Motorwagen Nr. 1. This car was a 3-wheeler with 2 seats and it was able to output 0.75 of horsepower. Now if you look at the high-performance cars we have today, it is hard to imagine that something like that ever existed. How much did the first car from Carl Benz cost? When was it officially used on the roads? Let’s go back to the past while we take a closer look at the Benz Patent Motor Car.

Who was the inventor of the first car model?

Carl Benz (or Karl Benz) was born on November 25th, 1844 in Germany. After studying at the Polytechnic in Karlsruhe and working at various jobs, Benz had decided to open up his first company in partnership with August Ritter.

While working at this new location, he was completely absorbed by the idea of a two-stroke engine. He was working on it almost every day since it was his dream to make a self-propelled engine.

With a lot of financial help, Carl Benz found the money he needed to set up Benz & Co, his new engine company. In 1886, the famous patent No. 37435 was granted to the Benz Patent Motor Car, along with the first car to ever be put to the test on the roads.

Why Carl Benz’s car was a success?

In 1888, it was actually Carl’s wife that took over by showing the huge potential of the self-propelled 3-wheeler. To do so, she used the car on a trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim, where she brought her two sons, Eugen and Richard. She drove the steel machine on wheels the whole way, and from there, people were very excited to get their hands on this revolutionary way of transport. As an extra note, the model of the car during that trip was the Benz Patent-Motorwagen Nr. 3.

To this day, Germany celebrates this important event by parading antique cars through the same roads of that trip, every two years. This route is called the Bertha Benz Memorial Route and replicates almost perfectly the exact route that was taken during that historical moment.

How much did it cost to buy the first car ever made?

In Germany, the Benz Patent Motor Car Number 1 was priced at 600 imperial German Marks. In US Dollars, that’s $150 USD. In our current times with the inflation, it is estimated that this price would be the equivalent of almost $5000.

What’s a two-stroke piston engine?

A two-stroke engine is what you commonly find in some motorbikes, jet skis scooters, snowmobiles, etc. As you may have guessed already, it is more adapted to small machines, especially with the new engine technologies that are now available. Before going forward with his car invention, Carl Benz made a fully functional two-stroke engine, which was powerful enough to support a 3-wheeler made of steel.

How does a two-stroke engine work exactly? It’s simple, the 2 strokes refer to the up and down movements, of the piston that is being pushed with the combustion process. In order to make this process happen, the crankshaft under the piston has to complete 1 cycle (1 full circle). This pushes the piston upward, and when the cycle ends, the piston goes back down to its original position.

In which video game and which movie can we find Carl Benz’s car?

Did you know? In the video game Gran Turismo 4, a famous racing game released in 2004 on Sony Playstation 2, you can actually unlock the Benz Patent Motor Car N.1.

Moreover, in the more recent releases, the movie about Sherlock Holmes’s sister also features the famous old school car. Enola Holmes is even driving the steel structure in 2020 Netflix’s detective movie.

Did anybody else create a car before Carl Benz?

As a matter of fact, yes, even though we have been giving all the credits to Carl Benz for so many years, it was found later on that other discoveries had been made as well. Here’s a chronological order of the other automobile discoveries:

  • Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot (1725-1804)
    In 1769, Mr. Cugnot builds the first self-propelled road vehicle by steam for the French army. It was a 3-wheel military tractor.
  • Robert Anderson 1832-1839
    An inventor from Scotland who created the first electric carriage. Quite an impressive invention for the time, although, the machine was powered by non-rechargeable cells, making it very expensive to operate.
  • Karl Friedrich Benz (1844-1929)
    This is the creator of the first car that is most often mentioned as the first real viable car model. His car was working on a two-stroke piston engine.
  • Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler (1834-1900) and Wilhelm Maybach (1846-1929)
    Well-Known for creating the “Cannstatt-Daimler”, this duo created nothing less than the first four-wheeled car working on a four-stroke engine.
  • George Baldwin Selden (1846-1922)
    Invented the first internal combustion engine in 1895 but it sadly never got manufactured. Nevertheless, he was a patent lawyer, so since he had continuous problems with his car designs, he renamed his company the Selden Truck Sales Corporation. The latter got purchased by Bethlehem Motor Truck Corporation a few years later.
  • Charles Edgar Duryea (1862-1938) and his brother Frank (1870-1967)
    This is the American pair who created the first gas-powered car, which was pretty close to what we still use today. Together, the brothers co-founded the Duryea Motor Wagon Company. In the early 1900s, the first car accident ever recorded in America occurred in Chicago with a Duryea car. A few years later, in 1917, the company stopped manufacturing.

Final Word

This concludes the history of the first car ever made and the other automobile inventions that all played an important part in our evolution. When we think about how far our transportation technology is going to be in a couple of years from now, it is quite exciting, and, a bit frightening.