If truth be told, before this date there had already been “auto-mobiles” powered by steam or electricity. But not only did Karl Benz hit upon the brilliant idea of using an internal combustion engine as the drive system for a “self-mover”; he was also the first to have the tenacity to secure success for the invention. On 29 January 1886 he presented his stroke of genius at the Imperial Patent Office – the car was born.
His single-cylinder 4-stroke engine with a displacement of 0.954 of a litre anticipated elements still found in every internal combustion engine to this day: a crankshaft with balance weights, electric ignition and water cooling: enough to generate 0.55 kW and a top speed of 16 km/h, virtually corresponding to the power of a whole horse. Snorting loudly and hissing terrifyingly, the newfangled motor car must have seemed like the work of the devil to some back then.
Anyone brave enough to try out Benz’s invention was a true pioneer, for there was no road network, there were no workshops, and they had to forge their own replacement parts. Nevertheless, no less than 25 production-version units of the patent motor car were sold.
Daimler built his “motorised carriage” that same year. Benz initially had a slight edge over Daimler, but then Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft designed a car that was a model for the industry, going down in history as a “Mercedes”.