Benz Patent-Motorwagen

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Benz Patent-Motorwagen
Benz Patent-Motorwagen Nr. 1
ManufacturerRheinische Gasmotorenfabrik Benz & Cie.
(known today as Mercedes-Benz)
Engine1.0L (954cc) single cylinder engine 23hp (Ligroin)
SuccessorBenz Velo

The Benz Patent-Motorwagen ("patent motorcar"), built in 1885 by the German Karl Benz, is widely regarded as the world's first practical modern automobile[1][a] and was the first car put into production.[8] It was patented and unveiled in 1886. The original cost of the vehicle in 1886 was 600 imperial German marks,[9] approximately 150 US dollars (equivalent to $4,900 in 2022).

Two years after Karl Benz first drove the car in July 1886,[10] Karl's wife Bertha demonstrated its feasibility in a trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim in August 1888, shortly before it became the first commercially available automobile in history in the late summer of 1888.[11]

Due to the creation of the Patent-Motorwagen, Karl Benz has been hailed as the father and inventor of the automobile.[1][12][13]

Development, specifications and Karl Benz's first drive[edit]

Benz Patent-Motorwagen Nr. 1 used in Karl Benz's first trip in 3 July 1886
The Benz Patent-Motorwagen Nr. 3 of 1888, used by Bertha Benz for the first long-distance journey by automobile (106 km (66 mi) long)

After developing a successful gasoline-powered two-stroke piston engine in 1873, Benz focused on developing a motorized vehicle while maintaining a career as a designer and manufacturer of stationary engines and their associated parts.

The Benz Patent-Motorwagen was a motor tricycle with a rear-mounted engine. The vehicle contained many new inventions. It was constructed of steel tubing with woodwork panels. The steel-spoked wheels and solid rubber tires were Benz's own design. Steering was by way of a toothed rack that pivoted the unsprung front wheel. Fully elliptic springs were used at the back along with a beam axle and chain drive on both sides. A simple belt system served as a single-speed transmission, varying torque between an open disc and drive disc.

The first Motorwagen used the Benz 954 cc (58.2 cu in) single-cylinder four-stroke engine with trembler coil ignition.[14] This new engine produced 500 watts (23 hp) at 250 rpm in the Patent-Motorwagen, although later tests by the University of Mannheim showed it to be capable of 670 W (0.9 hp) at 400 rpm. It was an extremely light engine for the time, weighing about 100 kg (220 lb). Although its open crankcase and drip oiling system would be alien to a modern mechanic, its use of a pushrod-operated poppet valve for exhaust would be quite familiar. A large horizontal flywheel stabilized the single-cylinder engine's power output. An evaporative carburettor was controlled by a sleeve valve to regulate power and engine speed. The first model of the Motorwagen had not been built with a carburettor, rather a basin of fuel soaked fibers that supplied fuel to the cylinder by evaporation.

The vehicle was awarded the German patent number 37435, for which Karl Benz applied on 29 January 1886. Following official procedures, the date of the application became the patent date for the invention once the patent was granted, which occurred in November of that year. Benz unveiled his invention to the public on 3 July 1886, on the Ringstrasse in Mannheim. For the first time Karl Benz publicly drove the car on July 3, 1886 in Mannheim at a top speed of 16 km/h (10 mph).[15]

Benz later made more models of the Motorwagen: model number 2 had 1.1 kW (1.5 hp) engine, and model number 3 had 1.5 kW (2 hp) engine, allowing the vehicle to reach a maximum speed of approximately 16 km/h (10 mph). The chassis was improved in 1887 with the introduction of wooden-spoke wheels, a fuel tank, and a manual leather shoe brake on the rear wheels.

About 25 Patent-Motorwagen were built between 1886 and 1893.

Bertha Benz's trip[edit]

Bertha Benz, Karl's wife, whose dowry was said to have made a portion of contribution to finance the development of the Patent-Motorwagen,[16] was aware of the need for publicity. She took the Patent-Motorwagen No. 3 and drove it on the first long-distance internal combustion automobile road trip to demonstrate its feasibility. That trip occurred in early August 1888, when she took her sons Eugen and Richard, fifteen and fourteen years old, respectively, on a ride from Mannheim through Heidelberg, and Wiesloch, to her maternal hometown of Pforzheim.[17]

Official signpost of Bertha Benz Memorial Route

In Germany, a parade of antique automobiles celebrates this historic trip of Bertha Benz every two years. On February 25, 2008, the Bertha Benz Memorial Route,[18] following the route of Benz's journey, was officially approved as a Tourist or Scenic Route by the German authorities as a route of industrial heritage of mankind. The 194 km (121 mi) of signposted route leads from Mannheim via Heidelberg to Pforzheim (Black Forest) and back.

In media[edit]

Working replica of the 1885 Benz Motorwagen in Frankfurt, 2007

The car can be driven in the video game Gran Turismo 4 and Android video game Driving Legends: The Car Story. It was also driven by Sherlock Holmes's sister Enola in the film Enola Holmes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Before Karl Benz patented his Motorwagen in 1886, several inventors were working on automobiles powered by steam engines; in 1769, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot built the first steam-propelled vehicle.[2] During the 1870s, Bollée created several steam vehicles which could carry passengers for road trips.[3] Steam cars have, however, been characterized by various authors as "distinctly uncommercial",[1] "unsafe",[4] and "difficult to manage".[5] According to automotive historian G. N. Georgano, innovations such as the stationary Otto engine helped make the invention of the Benz Motorwagen possible, which he labelled as "the first motorcar" due to its commercial production.[6] The company Mercedes-Benz also acknowledge there were forerunners to the Motorwagen, but also state that Benz was the first to develop "a "horseless carriage" into a product for everyday use, which he then brought to market and as a result made his idea useful for the entire world".[7]


  1. ^ a b c Parissien, Steven (2014). The life of the automobile : the complete history of the motor car. Internet Archive. New York, N.Y. : Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press. pp. 2–5. ISBN 978-1-250-04063-3.
  2. ^ "Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 22 October 2022.
  3. ^ Lavergne, Gérard (1902). The Automobile: Its Construction and Management. Cassell. p. 17.
  4. ^ Frey, Carl Benedikt (2020). The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation. Princeton University Press. p. 166. ISBN 9780691210797.
  5. ^ Bailey, Diane (2015). How the Automobile Changed History. ABDO. p. 28. ISBN 9781629697666.
  6. ^ Georgano, G. N. (1985). Cars, 1886–1930. Beekman House. pp. 9, 16. ISBN 9780517480731.
  7. ^ "Forerunners to the automobile". Mercedes-Benz Group. Retrieved 22 October 2022.
  8. ^ "Der Streit um den "Geburtstag" des modernen Automobils" [The fight over the birth of the modern automobile] (in German). German Patent and Trade Mark Office. 2014-12-22. Archived from the original on 2017-01-02.
  9. ^ Neil, Dan (2006-06-21). "Before the Rumble Seat". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020-05-02.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Carl Benz and the Invention of the Automobile". 29 January 2018.
  12. ^ von Fersen, Olaf (2013). Ein Jahrhundert Automobiltechnik: Personenwagen (in German). Springer-Verlag. p. 10. ISBN 9783642957727.
  13. ^ Derry, Thomas Kingston; Williams, Trevor Illtyd (1960). A Short History of Technology from the Earliest Times to A.D. 1900. Courier Corporation. p. 393. ISBN 9780486274720.
  14. ^ "The birth of the automobile". Daimler AG. Archived from the original on 21 November 2015. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Frauen in der Geschichte des Rechts – Von der Frühen Neuzeit bis zum Gegenwart", Ute Gerhard e.a., Beck'se Verlagsbuchhandlung, München 1997, ISBN 3-406-42866-5, p. 464
  17. ^ MercedesForum (8 May 2011). "Making of 'Carl & Bertha' (Film)". Archived from the original on 2021-12-14 – via YouTube.
  18. ^ Bertha Benz Memorial Route (German-government-approved non-profit official site)

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Fastest street-legal production car
19 km/h (11.81 mph)
Succeeded by