• Menu
  • Menu

The First Car Ever Made: Benz Patent Motorwagen

Mercedes-Benz is one of leading brands in the automotive world. It is known as a provider of both luxury and sports cars. Mercedes-Benz is a division of Daimler AG who also owns or has shares in several other automotive brands.

Photo Source
The Benz Patent – Motorwagen. Photo Source

The story of how Mercedes-Benz came to be is one of innovation and adventure.

Everybody thinks of Henry Ford and how his vehicles shaped the automotive industry. But the Ford would not have been popular if not for Karl Benz and his invention of the petrol powered car. Karl Benz invented a two-stroke piston engine in 1873. At that same time, a team involving Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach was also working on a four-stroke engine. Karl Benz finished his engine and had it patented in 1879; he also founded a company that built stationary engines and parts. In 1886, after some setback, Karl Benz completed the Benz Patent-Motorwagen which was the first internal combustion engine powered car.

Photo source
Photo source

The Benz Patent-Motorwagen was a horseless carriage with a four-stroke engine that was designed and built by Karl Benz. The engine had 958cc displacement and just 2/3 horsepower. It had only three wire frame wheels and a tubular chassis. Some of its features like the electric ignition and rack and pinion steering are still standard to this day. Further improvements were made to the Motorwagen like having a fuel tank and leather shoe brakes.

There were several motor vehicles in development, just sixty miles away from where Benz was making the Motorwagen, Daimler and Maybach were also building a motorized bicycle with their own four-stroke engine. What set the Motorwagen above everyone else was when Bertha Benz, Karl’s wife, took the Benz Patent-Motorwagen for an incredible journey.  

Bertha Benz and her sons Eugen and Richard during their long-distance journey in August 1888 with the Benz Patent Motor Car. Photo source
Bertha Benz and her sons Eugen and Richard during their long-distance journey in August 1888 with the Benz Patent Motor Car. Photo source

In 1888, as a radical way of promoting the Motorwagen, Bertha Benz took the car without permission and drove it 121 miles from Heidelberg to her mother’s house in Pforzheim and back. She took her two boys on the first ever road trip. Along the way, she asked a shoemaker to add a leather lining on her worn out brakes inadvertently inventing the brake lining. The journey also featured the first refuelling station as Bertha Benz refuelled in a pharmacy in Weisloch. She came home three days later and generated the much-needed publicity for the Motorwagen.

The town pharmacy in Wiesloch, referred to as the "First filling station in the world", with a monument dedicated to her historic first car trip on the right. Photo source.
The town pharmacy in Wiesloch, referred to as the “First filling station in the world”, with a monument dedicated to her historic first car trip on the right. Photo source.

In 1926, a merger between the Benz & Cie which was owned by Karl Benz and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) which was founded by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach was completed. The new company was called Daimler-Benz AG. The brand Mercedes-Benz came to be used as DMG was selling “Mercedes” cars, which was named after Mercedes Daimler, who was the daughter of the current owner of DMG.

Daimler-Benz became Daimler AG after a series of mergers and buyouts.

The Mercedes-Benz brand is still owned by Daimler AG to this day and is known for producing top of the line vehicles and trucks. Mercedes-Benz has also been successful in motorsports, winning several Formula One championships and is the current world champions.

A working replica of the Motorwagen. Photo source.
A working replica of the Motorwagen. Photo source.

The historic road trip by Bertha Benz is still commemorated with a bi-annual parade along the route she took. It would be safe to say that thanks to Bertha Benz, the automotive industry is what it is today.

Jonno Rodd

Jonno is the hype-man for some of Australia's most rad brands. His passion for adventure, new tech, and off-roading, means there is no really automotive topic beyond Jonno's interest.

View stories

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *