First Auto??

Musings and thoughts on the First Automobiles
Published by: All Car Central Publishing
Date published: 08/11/2013
Available in Ebook

Benz Patent-Motorwagon 1886
Mercedes-Benz Museum 2012



Who made the first automobile ? The question that has been debated since the turn of the last century and as yet seems to be as elusive as ever. Now you would think it's a simple question but, like so many other claims it takes a lot of time to confirm. First what is the definition of Automobile? Are we talking about a horseless carriage, a stem engine, an electric conveyance? Or something else? There were electric trolleys as early as the 1880''s running on crude batteries that took items from one location to another. The famous London underground system started this way transporting goods underground to various retail outlets. Steam engines for use on the roads were around as early as 1872 throughout Europe. So we are now left with what became known as the internal combustion power unit, an engine that could be used to move containers, people or both.

Maybach highspeed gaseoline engine 1883;
Mercedes-Benz Museum 2012


Daimler and Benz are names associated with the development of the Motor Car but I would not suggest that they were alone in 1885, when the first car was reported as running under its own power in the gardens of Mr. Daimlers home. A year later a four wheeler was designed by Daimler, while just a mere 100 kilometers away Mr. Karl Benz was creating his own propelled vehicle utilizing a gas generated engine. The serious problem that both men found was how do you ignite the mixture of air and fuel? Daimler had developed a hot tube ignition which represented a tube in the cylinders that once heated would maintain enough heat to fire the fuel mixture. This heat was provided by the hot exhaust from the engine... OK I know what you are asking... How do you get this devise hot enough to get the engine working.

Answer is simple; you have a man heat it up before your desire to use the vehicle. He did this utilizing a number of techniques but the most efficient was the painter blow torch. His given name was "Chauffer" after the French word "Chaud" meaning HEAT. Within a few years the electric system had been developed for these vehicles pioneered by Dr Bosh in Germany and eventually accepted as ideal throughout the motor manufacturing world.

If you could get a vehicle to start with an eclectic spark from a magneto how about a flying machine or a boat or whatever? The first recorded successful boat driven by an internal gas engine was in Russia in 1901, followed by Germany the next year. As for flying machines Brazil claims that first achievement before the success of the Wright Brothers in the USA. However, I am inclined to accept the US achievement if only because we have visual conformation. By the early 1900's airplanes as they had become known throughout the world were flying and breaking records almost every month.

The famous Brooklands race track in Britain staged air displays almost every summer weekend with aircraft held together with cloth glue and string giving displays of aerobatics to a weekend crowd from 1911 onwards. The deal was simple if you had a string bag and wanted to keep it somewhere Brooklands would build you a shed just big enough to house the plane and a camp bed with a oil stove to cook your breakfast etc. In return you gave dare devil demonstrations to the weekend crowd. This brought the people into the facility and of course apart from the aircraft there was car racing on the famous Brooklands track. The idea was soon copied in America with the famous Indianapolis race track.

In America as early as 1910 there were flying machine displays at county fairs and other community events and of course later we had the famous Barn Stompers who earned a modest living doing the same thing... In 1900 Benz and Daimler joined forces and chose the Trade name of Mercedes Benz. It is said that this was the name of the daughter of their principle sales agent and of course that may be correct, whatever it's certainly an attractive name for an equally attractive motor car. Returning to the original question who made the first free standing Motor Vehicle? My suggestion is several people in various locations around the world, whose contributions enabled Mr. Benz to successfully develop his motor carriage.
Geoff Wheatley©

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