Which country drives the oldest cars

A brief history of the internal combustion engine

April 18, 2019

On foot, on horseback or in a carriage - mankind's ability to travel overland has barely developed for 4,000 years since the invention of the wheel. That only changed with the tinkerers and inventors at the end of the 19th century. Where the railroad allows people and goods to be transported on a large scale, the internal combustion engine is fundamentally turning private transport upside down. Our brief history of the internal combustion engine tells how it was invented, how it found its way into the car and how the risks of rapid mobility innovation were countered.

On one day in August 1888, the residents of Wiesloch, Bruchsal and Durlach were amazed: a three-wheeled vehicle rolls along the streets of their cities, reminiscent of a cross between a carriage and a bicycle. Horses are not to be seen far and wide, however. And the three passengers, a woman and two teenagers, don't pedal either. The vehicle apparently drives on its own - controlled by a crank that the woman holds in her hand. The woman's name is Bertha Benz, the teenagers are their sons Richard and Eugen, and the vehicle is the Benz Patent Motor Car number 3.

Carl Benz, Bertha's husband, had the first version of the vehicle patented in 1886 and demonstrated it on a public test drive in Mannheim in July of the same year. “There is no doubt that this motorized velocipede will soon make numerous friends,” said the Neue Badische Landeszeitung on June 4, 1886, euphorically. In fact, hardly any buyer can warm up to the “gasoline car” at first, and economic success does not materialize. In order to give her husband courage and to convince contemporaries of the everyday suitability of the vehicle, Bertha Benz decided to take a detailed test drive - but without informing her hesitant husband in advance. Early in the morning she and her sons set out on the 104-kilometer route from Mannheim to her native Pforzheim, which she safely reaches after 12 hours and 57 minutes.

Your tour is considered to be the first long-distance journey in automobile history, which is remembered today by the “Bertha Benz Memorial Route”. How great their advertising impact was at the time is still being discussed among researchers. One thing is certain: After that, the Benz Patent Motor Car will slowly but surely improve economically. By 1893, 69 vehicles were sold, mainly to the USA, England and especially France, where the first car enthusiasts were not shaken that much thanks to good roads. At the turn of the century, Benz & Cie. 1,709 units of the motor vehicle have already been delivered. The number of company employees has risen to over 430 and has thus increased tenfold.