1885 - Karl Benz invents the first car

When he designed the first car of mankind's history, Karl Benz saw it as an interesting engineering challenge with no practical utility

Mercedes-Benz was founded in 1926, following the merger of two companies, Benz and Daimler, which had been active since the end of the 19th century. The company's history is so old that it can boast the unparallel achievement of being the first to build a self moving vehicle. The internal combustion engine is thought to have been invented in 1853 by two Italians, Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci, but the principle was applied to automotive traction only at the end of the 19th century. Many engineers were studying and building (independently) primitives automobiles, but Karl Benz was the first to deposit a patent on January 29, 1886.

The first motor vehicle (motorwagen) of Karl Benz The patent for the motorwagen

Benz got a degree in mechanical engineering in 1864 while he was just 19 years old. In 1871 he opened his own mechanical shop in Mannheim. The enterprise was a financial disaster, and so was the subsequent Gasmotoren-Farik Mannheim, which was founded in 1882. One year later the German engineer got more success when he created Benz & Cie. Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik with two other partners. The company was producing static gas engines and earned him enough money to pursue his old dream of making a horseless carriage.

In 1885 he came with his first creation that he called the Motorwagen. It was a three-wheeled carriage with large and thin wire wheels, powered y a single cylinder, four-stroke 985cc engine putting out 0.8 horsepower. It is considered to be the first automobile ever.

For Benz, this was at first an invention that gave him immense personal satisfaction but he never thought about putting it to commercial use. His wife Bertha was much more entrepreneurial however and to demonstrate that the automobile was not merely a brilliant piece of engineering but could become a form of transport, she made a first memorable long-distance journey, reportedly without the knowledge of her husband.

The thrid verson of the motorwagen, 1888
The third prototype of the motorwagen, 1888. It was the first automobile mass produced, 25 examples were built

At the start of August 1888, she took the third prototype built by her husband, accompanied by her two sons, from Mannheim to Pforzheim to visit her mother, which was a trip of 104 km -or nearly 65 miles -. At a maximum speed of 8 miles/hour, it was even slightly slower than a trotting horse. She was the first person in history to make a long distance automobile trip, but the journey wasn't without its adventures. She had to locate fuel at pharmacies along the way because the engine ran on the solvent Ligroin, and so the Wiesloch pharmacy near Heidelberg became the first ever filling station in the history of motor car!

Bertha Benz's trip obtained publicity for her husband’s invention and he soon began to take into consideration the possibility of producing and selling it on a small scale. His wife suggested to add an extra gear to help the car in going uphill. In 1888 Benz sold his first car to Emile Roger, a bicycle manufacturer from Paris. In 1889 25 Motorwagen (model 3) machines were built.

The victoria of Karl benz, 1893
The Victoria (1893). The first four-wheeled Benz automobile

New investors were attracted by Benz, who could spend more time to design new machines. In 1893 he presented the Victoria, a two passengers vehicle with 4 wheels, after he had finally solved the problem of making the front steer by means of a pivotal axle, the reason why the previous experiments had only been with three wheels. The company was ready to expand its market quickly.