Benz Patent Motor Wagen



On November 2, 1886, in Mannheim, Germany, Karl Benz was granted patent 37435 for his Motorwagen, earning it recognition as the first self-propelled, four-stroke, internal combustion engine-powered, self-contained motor vehicle. Along with the Duryea in America and Gottlieb Daimler’s four-wheeled carriage, the Motorwagen represents the dawn of motoring as we know it today.

Being the first scratch-built, gasoline-powered automobile, Benz incorporated many significant attributes to the design. It featured a “high speed” engine, operating at the then-unheard-of speed of 400 rpm when developing its three-quarter horsepower output. The rear axle incorporated a differential, the engine had mechanically operated valves and the rack-and-pinion steering it employed has proven its efficiency and accuracy throughout the history of the automobile. Other than generating electricity, the Patent-Motorwagen designed by Karl Benz had all the characteristics of an automobile built today, albeit reduced to their minimal essentials.

Karl Benz’s marvelous invention gained much-needed publicity when his wife Bertha, acting as driver, navigator and mechanic, set off in a Patent-Motorwagen with her two sons to visit her hometown of Pforzheim, some 50 miles away; the outbound leg of the trip took a full day. Upon her return to Mannheim, word of her groundbreaking accomplishment spread, and about two dozen three-wheeled Patent- Motorwagens were sold to customers before being succeeded by the first large-scale production car – the four-wheeled Benz “Velo.”

After 125 years of automotive history, it is clear that the Patent-Motorwagen demonstrated the value and practicality of powered mobility. It was one of the foundations of the largest single industry in the world and of one of the world’s most important industrial companies.