Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Look How Far We’ve Come: The History Behind The World’s First Car

Look How Far We’ve Come: The History Behind The World’s First Car

It’s difficult to imagine a world without cars; they’re such a big part of our daily lives, it’s weird to think of what life would be like without them. Thanks to Karl Benz, inventor of the first car, we’re able to live in a world of such convenience and mobility. If Benz could see the automobiles of today he would surely be in awe; the mighty machines we have today are certainly a far cry from the first “horseless carriages” invented back in 1885, 136 years ago.

Many new ideas and designs came together to make the automobile a reality, and although many inventors came up with early concepts, Benz’s 1885 car is regarded as the first automobile ever made.

Long before Benz’s design, there were a few early automobile designs. The steam age had created many steam-powered vehicles. However, these hoopties proved to be too difficult to handle due to their excessive weight so they were discontinued.

Although the efforts to use steam cars were fruitless, they did pave the way for gas-powered engine cars in the next century.

Flickr / Sicnag

The first automobile: the Benz Patent-Motorwagen

Benz’s design is credited as being one of the first cars in the world to be powered by petroleum. His groundbreaking internal combustion engine would serve as the blueprints for the countless automobiles that would follow.

The design of the car was much like a horse-drawn carriage, only the 220-pound engine served as the horse. Despite the engine’s weight, it was able to generate 0.75 horsepower, becoming one of the more efficient designs of the 19th century. In order to handle hill-like terrains, the two rear wheels were bigger and heavier than the front wheel.

With a structure and panels made out of steel and wood, Benz was more than ready to show his creation to the world. Unfortunately, the prototype actually crashed in its debut public demonstration.

Not one to give up easily, Benz worked tirelessly to improve upon his original design. After extensive experimentation and countless modifications, Benz was able to reliably drive his car for more than 62 miles. To make this victory even sweeter, he brought his wife and two sons along for the ride.

Wikimedia Commons

Benz and his family enjoy a ride in his patented automobile

As the demand for cars rose, Benz proceeded with the commercial production of his invention. He was able to see them at a high price and earned a nice profit due to their popularity. In 1886, Benz began working on getting a patent for his “vehicle powered by a gas engine.”

The patent number, 37435, is often referred to as the birth certificate of the automobile.

From the humble Benz Patent-Motorwagen to the sleek all-electric Teslas of today, the spirit of innovation still lives on.