A Look at the Benz Patent Motorwagen for History Buffs in Mechanic Colleges
July 17, 2019
Automobiles have certainly come a long way, but that doesn’t mean old ones aren’t cool to look at. The Benz Patent Motorwagen is known as the world’s first automobile, having been unveiled in July 1886 by Karl Benz. Though only 25 of them were ever built, it’s still a fascinating look into the early days of car development, and it’s one that Mercedes has tried selling replicas of over the years. If you’re an aspiring auto mechanic with a love for classic cars, this article is for you.
Here’s a closer look at this remarkable old vehicle.
It’s the First Vehicle to Run with an Internal Combustion Engine
Although gasoline engines weren’t a novel idea back in 1885, the development of motorized automobiles certainly was. German automotive engineer Karl Benz did something new by incorporating an internal combustion engine to power the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. Despite Benz having pioneered stationary engines to be used by industrial machinery, his invention of a smaller, cylindrical engine was what really pushed automotive development forward.
In January 1886, he successfully applied for a patent (No. 37435) to have his Motorwagen be the first gas-powered motor carriage (despite similar attempts made afterward by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach). Benz’s three-wheeled automobile would be unveiled later that same year.
Audiences were wowed by this early car, which you can see in this short clip:
Benz’s Wife Played a Pivotal Role in Developing the Car
After the initial 1886 model, Benz would make improvements on its engine with future models of the same car. When the Patent-Motorwagen No. 3 came around in 1888, Benz’s wife, Bertha, took this new model on a 194 km trip, making this the first-ever long-distance road trip for an automobile. Without the knowledge of either her husband or the authorities, she took their two teenage sons along for the ride, and drove from Mannheim to her hometown of Pforzheim. Not only did she completely outdo her husband’s initial test runs (the first of which included him driving it right into his shop’s brick wall), her trip proved the Motorwagen was capable of driving long distances, with Bertha essentially going down in history as the first driver. If it weren’t for that or any prior development by Karl, auto mechanic colleges as we know them probably wouldn’t exist.
Students in Mechanic Colleges Might Be Surprised to Know It Initially Wasn’t a Big Seller
Students in a car repair course might be surprised to hear that despite the successful patent and test drive of the Motorwagen, it would take until 1892—six year after the first model had been unveiled—for sales figures to be recorded. Since gas stations didn’t exist at the time, and gasoline was difficult to find other than in smaller quantities, the Motorwagen needed some time to truly take off. In 1888, the car’s third model would be shown at the Munich Engineering Exposition, wowing attendees. That same year, it was shown at the Paris exposition by French importer Emile Roger, selling nearly a dozen over the next four years. A total of 25 would be made before Benz introduced the four-wheel Benz Victoria in 1892.
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