It was a day that would change the world by setting it in motion. Happy 130th birthday to the automobile, born January 29, 1886, when German engineer Carl Benz applied for a patent on his “gas-powered vehicle”.
Later the same year and independently of Benz, German engineer and tinkerer Gottlieb Daimler built his motorized carriage and also applied for a patent. It was not until many years later that the two competitors merged their companies to create the company we all know as Mercedes-Benz.
The birth certificate of the automobile bears the number DRP 37435, for the patent on a “gas-powered vehicle” filed by the Mannheim engineer Carl Benz and registered with the German Imperial Patent Office in Berlin.
The 130-year-old document is testimony to Carl Benz’s innovative spirit, creative power and entrepreneurial vision. Since 2011, the patent document has been part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme, which also includes the Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor.
Today it sounds simple, something nearly anybody can do in their garage, but 130 years ago it was revolutionary.
Carl Benz installed a high-speed one-cylinder four-stroke engine (954 cc displacement running at 400 rpm with 0.55 kW/0.75 hp output) horizontally in a specially designed chassis. Top speed was 16 km/h. This three-wheeled patent motor car was an absolute world first: a totally self-contained, self-propelled vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine.
First public appearance of the motorcar
The patent motor car made its first public appearance on 3 July 1886 on Ringstrasse in Mannheim. But it was the long-distance journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back in 1888 in the improved Model III patent motor car that was to fully demonstrate the automobile’s suitability for everyday use.
The contraptions were not selling well. They scared the horses, and getting fuel was complicated. So Mrs. Benz decided to take matters into her own hands and save her husband’s invention to save the family from financial ruin.
Bertha Benz Route
One morning, Bertha Benz left her husband asleep in his bed in Manheim, and bundled up two of their sons to make the first long-distance journey in history, the grand distance of about 75 miles, to her mother’s house in Pforzheim. The escapade generated headlines throughout Germany, even internationally, and helped popularize the horseless carriage.
Today, her trip likely would go viral on social media, and Bertha Benz would be crowned as the marketing queen of the automotive industry.
The Bertha Benz Route is now a historical trail in Germany. Read my recent article for AOL Travel.
The pioneering inventions of Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler brought a revolutionary, new dimension to mobility. Both Carl Benz’s patent motor car and Gottlieb Daimler’s motorized carriage, both deveoped in 1886, are the first things visitors see on the tour of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.
The visionary path continues through 130 years of mobility, including the latest developments in connectivity and the road to the driverless car.
The Museum celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2016, growing the number of seven million visitors. I’ve visited several times, and it never gets old.
I will admit that my favorite car here is the 1936 500K. The last time I visited, I specifically wore a red top to match the car.
photos courtesy Mercedes-Benz and ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter