The First Car Produced By Karl Benz: The Benz Patent-Motorwagen

The First Car Produced By Karl Benz: The Benz Patent-Motorwagen

Karl Benz is an icon of engineering who is regarded by many as the designer and builder of the very first automobile. In truth there were other automobiles being built and sold before Karl Benz began selling the Benz Patent-Motorwagen but this car was the first automobile to be commercially sold with an internal combustion engine. Prior to the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, automobiles available for purchase ran on steam engines. Aside from the innovation of the four stroke engine being used in the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, it was the first automobile designed and built from the ground up differing it from earlier automobiles which were converted from stagecoaches. In this article I am going to discuss the details surrounding the Benz Patent-Motorwagen.

When was the Benz Patent-Motorwagen Invented?

I previously wrote an article about Karl Benz, covering his life, the Benz & Cie company, and how Karl Benz went on to become one of the founders of Daimler-Benz which was the company producing the earliest Mercedes-Benz and a prominent company in today’s auto industry. Karl Benz founded Benz & Cie in 1883 along with two partners. In 1885 Karl Benz built the first Benz Patent Motorwagen. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen is also referred to as the Benz Patent Motorcar. In 1886, Karl Benz was granted the patent for the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. In the following years, several new models of the Benz Patent-Motorwagen were introduced each with improvements upon the previous models.

Benz Patent-Motorwagen Specifications

While the Benz Patent-Motorwagen contained no luxurious features, safety features or even some components considered essential today, many of the components within the Benz Patent-Motorwagen are still essential in today’s automobiles. These components include

The Benz Patent-Motorwagen was made from steel tubing and wooden panels. The wheels had wooden spokes and rubber tires. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen had three wheels, one in the front and two in the back. The engine was horizontally installed in the rear and the automobile was rear wheel drive. The automobile was steered via a toothed rack which was able to pivot the front wheel. The driver was able to accelerate the automobile by manipulating a sleeve valve located under the driver’s seat. There was a handbrake which acted on the countershaft belt pulley. The engine was kept at a constant temperature through the evaporation of water. The engine specifications of the Model 1 Benz Patent-Motorwagen are as follows.

Benz Patent-Motorwagen Model 1 Specifications

Engine Weight: about 220 pounds

Horsepower: 0.75 hp

Displacement: 954 cc

Rotations Per Minute: 400 rpm

In model 2 and model of the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the horsepower of the engine was increased. The model 2 had 1.5 hp and model 3 had 2 hp which allowed the Benz Patent-Motorwagen to reach 10 mph. Other features were also improved in subsequent models. These improvements include a manually operated shoe brake operating on the rear wheels, wooden spoke wheels, and a gas tank. Karl Benz also obtained a patent for a fire-proof carburetor.

Sales of the Benz Patent-Motorwagen

The first Benz Patent-Motorwagen was listed for sale in 1886. The Benz Patent-Motorwagens sold for $1,000 at that time which converts to roughly $25,000 USD in today’s currency. To own a Benz Patent-Motorwagen or any automobile at that time was considered an expensive luxury. Between 1886 and 1893 roughly 25 Benz Patent-Motorwagens were built.

Buying a Benz Patent-Motorwagen Today

If you looking for a Benz Patent-Motorwagen to add to your personal collection today, that is a tall order. Very few original models exist today and those few that do find museums as their homes. There is one on display in the German Museum of Engineering. There is also a story of the Henry Ford museum selling an original Benz Patent-Motorwagen by accident in the 1990s. I’m not sure if there’s truth to this story but they supposedly sold the historic vehicle for only $50,000 USD. If you are looking to buy a functioning replica of the Benz Patent-Motorwagen they are not very difficult to find on the private market with price tags of around $60,000. Mercedes-Benz themselves sell replicas of this historic vehicle.


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