Happy Birthday to the Automobile!

It all started with a kiss. Wait, no. A Benz. Not a kiss.

For those of you unaware, today is the day that many would consider the birthday of the automobile. Today, January 29, is the date that Karl Benz patented his original three-wheeled motorcar, the Patent Motorwagen, back in 1886.
By modern standards, of course, the Patent Motorwagen was an almost amazingly simple machine. Most ride-on lawnmowers are thousands of times more complex, and indeed children today would make more complicated go-karts. But this is not meant as derision; rather, it is because of this invention, this wonderful creation of Karl Benz, that we have the hobby we have today.
Let’s face it, all these car sites would be pretty boring if there weren’t any cars.

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  1. muthalovin Avatar

    Happy birthday autocar. I sure do enjoy not walking!

  2. jeremy![™] Avatar

    i need to make one of those.

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      You know, it really wouldn't be that hard, considering the hardest part for him was building the engine from scratch. These days, we can go get a diesel V-twin at Princess Auto for $99 and call it done.

  3. P161911 Avatar

    So which Hemmings Calendar do you have?
    Tomorrow Rambler American debuts, 1958.


    What Douchebag went and ruined that piece of history by putting those 42" spoker rims on it?

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      That would have been Karl. He designed them himself! Always ahead of the trends, that Karl.

  5. skitter Avatar

    I wonder what letter is smaller than A? Have there been any purely pictorial or symbolic make or model names? Also, Rune, Kanji, Phoenician, and Hieroglyphic would make an excellent model line. Cadillac or Infinity seem like good candidates.
    /hat tip to the tags

  6. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    "all these car sites would be pretty boring if there weren’t any cars"
    I can think of at least one that wouldn't have any trouble coming up with content….

  7. lilwillie Avatar

    Wow…..that explains a lot about my life.

  8. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    From a great writeup by Dan Neil:
    "If it sounds as if it would take an expert machinist to operate it, well, Benz might have thought so too, until his wife borrowed the family car without telling him. On a summer morning in August 1888, Bertha Benz got up early, loaded her sons Eugen and Richard on board and set out in the Motorwagen for her mother's house in Pforzheim, a journey of some 50 miles. Karl Benz awoke to find a note his wife had left saying she was going to visit Grandma. He must have been panicked. The Motorwagen had never been tested for more than a few miles.
    That evening, Bertha wired Karl to say they had arrived safely. But not, as it turned out, without incident. Bertha was obliged to clean out a clogged fuel line with her hatpin and mend an ignition wire with one of her garters. When the brake shoe started to give way, she stopped at a farrier's in Bauschlott for a block of leather to replace it. In Wiesloch, she stopped at an apothecary to fill up on benzene (this pharmacy still bills itself as the world's first filling station). And so it happened that the world's first motorist was, in fact, a woman."

    1. Thrashy Avatar

      From the sound of it, she was also the world's first shadetree mechanic, and a pretty good one at that. Karl chose well!

  9. CptSevere Avatar

    I think that it's unspeakably cool that the first car is still around and in working condition. I make my living interpreting what it was like to live in the Victorian Era, the 1880's, and it's amazing nowadays to consider what things were like back then. The level of technology, considering what we have to work with now, was at the same time outrageously crude but mechanically subtle in ways. This was a time right before electricity came into vogue, and technology was all thermodynamics and mechanical linkages. Fire, steam, things going back and forth and other things spinning in circles. Guys beating on red hot shit with hammers, building wonderful things that still work and exist today. We really have no idea what these people went through on a daily basis, the resilience, ingenuity, and just plain toughness.
    I work in a mine that dates back to this era, show people around down there. I know the technology, and lack thereof, that they had at their disposal. Basically, hardly anything, and they accomplished more then with what they had at the time than anybody now could ever dream of doing, given the same resources. They accomplished amazing things back then, with what we'd think of now with absolutely nothing, and it was just routine to them. Blows me away. The first car here is a rolling example of that, and Mad Science's reference to that story gives you an idea of what we were like back then.
    End rant. Thanks for this great post, it's right up my alley. History just blows me away.

  10. engineerd Avatar

    Strange. Obama told me America invented the automobile.

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  12. Maria Avatar

    Please can you help me. My daughter has to do a project on the automobile. when it all started and how it is today. They ask questions like :
    The first invention : how was the motor car invented, why was it invented, what material did they use to make it, how did this invention change how people lived
    Present day : why was there a need to improve the first car, how was it improved, what material do they use today, how has this invention changed how people live today, what is the negative impace of the modern car