Last updated on October 8th, 2023 at 02:54 am

In 1885, Karl Benz invented the world’s first car, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, pioneering the era of automobiles and transforming the way we travel.

In today’s world, cars or vehicles, in general, have become a necessity in everyone’s lives. It is hard even to get to work without taking the help of a transport system.

While riding the modern car built with top-class technologies and advanced equipment, have you ever imagined what the first car ever invented was like?

Let’s discuss the inventor of the first car ever and look at some of the earliest car models produced. In the 18th and 19th centuries, many car inventors came up with their own designs.

Who Invented The Car And When It Was Made?

Karl Friedrich Benz was a German automotive engineer and engine designer who invented the first practical automobile, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, in 1985.

In 1978, Benz started creating a reliable petrol two-stroke engine, finished in 1979.

After the engine was finished, Benz soon patented the ignition using sparks with battery, the spark plug, speed regulation system, clutch, gear shift, and the water radiator.

Benz’s company Benz & Cie. (known today as Mercedes-Benz), based in Mannheim, was the world’s largest automobile plant in its time.

Karl Benz is widely known as the “father of the automobile industry” and “The father of the car.”

Benz-Patent Motorwagen (1885)

The Benz Patent-Motorwagen is the world’s first automobile built in 1885 by Karl Benz. This self-proclaimed vehicle carried people and was the first car put into series production.

The Patent Motorwagen was unveiled in 1886 with an original cost of 600 German imperial marks, around 150 US dollars, equivalent to $4,321 in 2020.

It only operated on three wheels and was powered by an internal combustion 954cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine, which produced 0.75 horsepower. The engine was placed horizontally at the rear end.

As for the car details, it included a controlled exhaust valve, an automatic intake slide, water/thermosiphon evaporation cooling, and high-voltage electrical vibrator ignition along with a spark plug.

Woodwork and steel were used to build the car’s structure and panels. The steering controlled the movement of the front wheels.

In January 1886, Benz applied for a patent for the car “vehicle powered by a gas engine,” which is regarded as the birth certificate for the automobile.

As reported by the newspapers, the three-wheeled Benz Patent Motor car had its first public outing in July 1886. The first model of the car faced a collision in one of its public demonstrations.

Benz Patent Motorwagen Model 2 (1888)

The Benz-Patent Motorwagen did not stop and in 1888, an improved version of the car model came out, manufactured by the same manufacturer.

Benz’s wife Bertha and their 2 sons Eugen and Richard went on the first long-distance journey using the improved version and without her husband’s knowledge, in August 1988.

The route was actually from Mannheim to Pforzheim and included a few detours. The journey was for 180 km, including the return trip, and with this, Bertha Benz proved the practicality of the motor vehicle to the world.

This resulted in the expansion of knowledge for the need for motor vehicles. Bertha Benz’s daring helped with the growth of Benz & Cie. in Mannheim and eventually became one of the world’s largest automobile plants.

Benz-Patent Motorwagen Model 3 (1891-1897)

The Model 3 was a more improved version of the model 2 and had the double-pivot steering system patented in 1893, which solved one of the most significant issues of the automobile.

The first Benz with the double-pivot steering system was the 3 hp or 2.2 kW Victoria in 1893, and slightly more significant numbers with different body designs were built.

The world’s first car production was the Benz Velo of 1894; 1200 units were built. It was a durable, lightweight, and inexpensive compact car.

1897 witnessed the development of a “twin-engine” consisting of two horizontal single-cylinder units placed parallelly, but this was proved unsatisfactory later.

The parallelly set engines were changed for a better design “contra engine” where the cylinders were arranged opposite. This was the start of the horizontally-opposed piston engine.

Peugeot Type 2 (1891)

The Peugeot Type 2 was the French automaker Peugeot’s first petrol or gasoline-powered motor vehicle at their Valentigney plant in 1891.

This car was a four-wheeled machine with a V-twin engine, rear-mounted, which controlled the rear wheels with a chain.

The vehicle was powered by a 2-cylinder four-stroke V-format petrol or gasoline engine. A maximum speed of 18 km/h or 11 mph could be acquired from Peugeot Type 2.

The width and height of the car were 1350 mm and 1450 mm, respectively. It had a wheelbase of approximately 1400 mm, which supported a vehicle of length 2300 mm.

Quadricycle (1896)

The Quadricycle is a four-wheeled vehicle built by the founder of Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford, in 1896. The car made its first trial run on the streets of Detroit.

Quadricycle had a 49-inch wheelbase and was 79 inches long overall. It had a curb weight of 230 kg or 500 lb.

A two-cylinder engine was used for this vehicle which could produce four horsepower. The transmission only had two gears, first for up to 10 mph or 16 km/h and the second for up to 20 mph or 32 km/h.

After various test drives for the Quadricycle, it achieved a top speed of 20 mph or 32 km/h.

Later on, Ford would find the infamous Ford Motor Company and become one of the richest men in the world.

Fiat 4 HP (1899)

The Fiat 4 HP, also known as Fiat 3 ½ HP, was designed by Aristide Faccioli, produced in 1899, and assembled in the Corso Dante plant, Turin, Italy.

It had a 679cc flat-twin engine producing 4.2 horsepower at 800 rpm. The car achieved a top speed of 35 km/h or 22 mph with this engine.

Even though the engine was relatively small, the car used up to 8 liters of fuel per 100 km. Later cars would get a bigger engine of 837cc unit.

The first factory of Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino (FIAT) was opened in 1900, and only 24 cars were produced that year.

Fiat initially started with only 35 employees, and by 1908, it had around 2,700 people on the payroll and could produce 5,000 cars each year.

Oldsmobile Curved-Dash Runabout or Model R (1901)

The Curved Dash Runabout was manufactured by Oldsmobile in 1901 and was also known as the Model R. 

The car had a flat-mounted, single-cylinder, water-cooled engine located at the very center of the vehicle, which would produce 5 horsepower.

The transmission system on this vehicle had a semi-automatic design with one reverse and two forward speeds. The reverse gear system and low-speed forward is a planetary type.

The car weighed around 350 kg or 850 lb and had a top speed of 20 mph or 32 km/h.

Curved Dash Oldsmobile was sold for $650, which is equivalent to $19,120 in today’s money value fluctuation. Over 19,000 units of the model had been built by 1906.

Rolls-Royce 10 hp (1904)

The Rolls-Royce 10 hp was designed by Sir Henry Royce and produced in December of 1904, which was then badged as a Rolls-Royce.

The engine is a twin-cylinder, water-cooled 1800cc engine later enlarged to 1995cc. Power output was 12 horsepower at 1000 rpm.

The transmission brake was fitted behind the gearbox and operated by a foot pedal. The car had a top speed of 39 mph or 63 km/h.

10 hp is a small car with a wheelbase of only 75 inches and a track of 48 inches.

Rolls Royce had planned to produce 20 of this model, but only 16 were made. Production was cut short as a twin-cylinder engine was inappropriate for the model.

Lancia Alfa 12 hp (1907)

The Lancia Alfa 12 hp, also known as Tip 51 or 12 hp, was produced by Vincent Lancia in 1906, and road tests began in 1907. The car was disclosed to the public at the Turin Motor Show in 1908.

As soon as Vincenzo Lancia’s first car was ready for trials in 1907, before leaving the workshop, the factory burned down along with the vehicle, drawings, and Lancia’s tools. Seven months later, Lancia built a new car from scratch.

Lancia Alfa had a 2544cc side valve 4-straight engine, which produced 28 horsepower at 1800 rpm, and a 4-speed manual transmission.

The car weighed only 700 kg, which allowed it to achieve a top speed of around 90 km/h.

The model was well-known for its reliability and build quality and stayed in production till 1909 when it was replaced by the new model, the Lancia Beta/ Lancia Type 54.

Final Thoughts

There are different automobiles – electric, steam, and gasoline – in countless styles. Specifically, who invented the first car model is a matter of opinion.

Knowledge of the invention of the actual automobile continues to evolve. From Germany, earlier accounts usually credited Karl Benz for inventing the first automobile in 1885-1886.

The history of the automobile invention has been augmented with various other figures who played a role in its journey.

In today’s time, vehicles have become so accessible and easy to manufacture that we often forget about when these did not exist and were considered a luxury to have them.

It truly makes one wonder how it must have felt when the first-ever vehicle was invented and revealed to the public.

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