Precisely 130 year ago, on 29 January 1886, Carl Benz filed the patent for the world’s first internal combustion engine powered vehicle.
Carl Benz finished the development of his Motorwagen horseless carriage in 1885, but he registered the patent for the “gas-powered vehicle” on 29 January 1886 with the German Imperial Patent Office in Berlin. It was officially the day the automobile was born. The world’s first self-propelled vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine had a high-speed one-cylinder four-stroke engine – with a 954 cc displacement running at 400 rpm with 0.55 kW/0.75 hp output – horizontally fitted between the rear wheels of a coach. This three-wheeled patent motor car had a top speed of 16 km/h. Carl Benz was not the only engineer adventuring in this quest, of building a motorized carriage. Other German contemporaries, Gottlieb Daimler and his partner Wilhelm Maybach, also worked on similar type of invention, but Benz received a patent for his work first.
His patent motor car made its first public appearance on 3 July 1886 on Ringstrasse in Mannheim, yet it was the long-distance journey of more than 100 km from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back in 1888 in the improved Model III version that fully demonstrated the automobile’s suitability for everyday use. This first long distance trip was in important part of the Benz story, a journey undertaken not by Carl Benz himself, but by his wife, Bertha. Accompanied by her sons Eugen and Richard – entirely unbeknown to the inventor – she took to the wheel of the Motorwagen in August 1888. Benz’s Model 3 made its wide-scale debut to the world at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. About twenty-five Motorwagens were built between 1886 and 1893.