The birth of the automobile is often dated back to January 29th, 1886 when German automobile engineer Carl Benz filed patent no. DRP-37435 for an ‘automobile fueled by gas.’

Carl Benz Patent Motorwagen 1886| Image Source

Carl Benz Patent Motorwagen 1886| Image Source

Propelled by an internal combustion engine, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen (or motorcar) was the first automobile designed to generate its own power. The vehicle had a four-stroke engine and a tubular-frame tricycle giving it a primitive appearance. Snorting loudly and hissing terrifyingly, the newfangled motor car managed to achieve an impressive speed of 8 mph during the trial runs. 

Officially unveiled to the public on July 3, 1886, at the Ringstrasse (Ringstraße) in Mannheim, the vehicle originally costed $1,000 (equivalent to $26,337 in 2016).  Despite the absence of proper road network, workshops, and replacement parts, more than 25 production-version units of the patent motor car were sold with the first actual sale occurring in 1887, when the Paris agent for Benz’s stationary engines bought one for his own use.

Carl Benz is seen at the tiller of the improved model offered for sale in 1887| Image Source

A number of features incorporated in this car can be still found in automobiles today, including the mechanical inlet valves, a differential and electrical ignition. ‘Papa’ Benz donated the original car to the Deutches Museum in Munich in 1906 where it still on display.

First Long Distance Journey by Automobile

Bertha Benz driving the Benz Patent-Motorwagen|Image Source

Bertha Benz, the wife of Karl, chose to publicise the Patent-Motorwagen in a unique manner: She took the Patent-Motorwagen No. 3, supposedly without her husband’s knowledge, and drove it on the first long-distance automobile road trip to demonstrate its feasibility as a means to travel long distances. That trip occurred in early August 1888, as the entrepreneurial lady took her sons Eugen and Richard, fifteen and fourteen years old, respectively, on a ride from Mannheim through Heidelberg, to her maternal hometown of Pforzheim. She made a stop at Wiesloch where she took on ligroin as a fuel at the city pharmacy, making it the first filling station in history.

The trip covered 194 km (121 mi) in total.

Bertha Benz Memorial Route

Official signpost of Bertha Benz Memorial Route

In Germany, a parade of antique automobiles celebrates the historic trip of Bertha Benz every two years. In 2008, the Bertha Benz Memorial Route, which follows Bertha Benz’s tracks of the world’s first long-distance journey by automobile was officially approved as a route of industrial heritage to mankind. The  194 km (121 mi) long  signposted route from Mannheim via Heidelberg to Pforzheim (Black Forest) can be now be traced by anyone wishing to relive the history.

21 Gun Salute International Vintage Car Rally & Concours Show, 2016


The original Benz Patent-Motorwagen was on display at the sixth edition of 21 Gun Salute International Vintage Car Rally & Concours Show in New Delhi . A brain child of Madan Mohan – one of the country’s biggest vintage car collector, the event was flagged off by Chief Minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar and industrialist Ratan Tata.

Full Shot

Apart from Benz’ Motorwagen and Henry Ford’s Quadra cycle, an impressive feet of vintage cars like MAYBACH SW 38 1937, Horch 780 Cabriolet, 1959, Lister Costin Jaguar, 1933 Jaguar SS1 Coupe, JAGUAR XK 120, Mercedes 630 Murphy, and Rolls Royce – Silver Ghost were also showcased.

Travel Secret #276: Inputs: Siddharth Birla