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1886 Benz Patent

The world's first practical modern automobile

Production Years: 1886-1893

Country: Germany

Constructed in 1885 by the visionary Carl Benz, this pioneering invention is widely recognized as the world's first practical modern automobile and holds the honor of being the inaugural car to enter production. Unveiled in 1886 and patented shortly thereafter, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen revolutionized transportation as we know it.

Immerse yourself in the fascinating story behind this groundbreaking vehicle. Karl's wife, Bertha, played a pivotal role in showcasing its potential when she embarked on a historic journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim in August 1888. Her successful trip solidified the Benz Patent-Motorwagen as the first commercially available automobile, forever etching its name in the annals of automotive history.

The development of the Patent-Motorwagen was a testament to Carl Benz's ingenuity. Having already achieved success with a gasoline-powered two-stroke piston engine in 1873, Benz shifted his focus to creating a motorized vehicle while maintaining his expertise in designing and manufacturing stationary engines. The result was a motor tricycle featuring a rear-mounted engine, constructed with steel tubing and woodwork panels. The innovative design also included Benz's own steel-spoked wheels with solid rubber tires, a toothed rack steering mechanism, and fully elliptic springs at the back. The vehicle employed a chain drive on both sides, a beam axle, and a single-speed transmission using a simple belt system to regulate torque.

Under the hood of the first Motorwagen resided the Benz 954 cc (58.2 cu in) single-cylinder four-stroke engine with trembler coil ignition. This lightweight engine, weighing around 100 kg (220 lb), generated an impressive 500 watts (2/3 hp) at 250 rpm, although subsequent tests revealed its capability of producing 670 W (0.9 hp) at 400 rpm. With its pushrod-operated poppet valve and horizontal flywheel, the engine boasted a unique configuration that would later inspire generations of automotive enthusiasts.

The Benz Patent-Motorwagen, awarded German patent number 37435, made its public debut on July 3, 1886, on the Ringstrasse in Mannheim. Karl Benz went on to develop additional models, including the Motorwagen number 2 with a 1.1 kW (1.5 hp) engine and the Motorwagen number 3 with a 1.5 kW (2 hp) engine. These enhancements allowed the vehicle to reach a maximum speed of approximately 16 km/h (10 mph). The 1887 model introduced wooden-spoke wheels, a fuel tank, and a manual leather shoe brake on the rear wheels, further refining the driving experience.