That quote at the top from Karl Benz gives us some insight into his personality. I like him already. Read on to see how the the automobile actually got its start. The photo of the man and his little girl is Emil Jellinek with his daughter Mercedes. Next to them are Karl Benz with the awesome moustache and Gottlieb Daimler with the awesome head. Below that group is Bertha Benz at the wheel (or stick) of the first motorized carriage. And below her is Karl Benz (in light suit) with family and friends on an outing in one of his automobiles, c. 1894. Next is one of the first Mercedes with all the guys on board. Then there is the evolution of the Mercedes logo. They’re okay but I like my logo better. Below the logos are a race car, concept truck and a concept electric race car. Whaaaaaat?? So, ever since that first car, driving has been something we’ve all looked forward to. The excitement of getting your first driver’s license, your first car, taking your first road trip. Is it even possible to imagine getting around on a horse or a buggy like way back in the day????
As an early riser, I like to get on the road to work before most people even wake up. I enjoy the early morning sunrise and the freedom of the open road. Zipping along in my “heat” mobile, I was passed by another adventurous business owner in a newer model Mercedes Benz automobile. The SLS AMG gullwing’s have always been my favorite! I got to thinking about not only the early morning zeal of that business person, but also the name of the car maker. Where did the Mercedes Benz name come from and why is it such a remarkable brand? Off to the internet I went, only to discover an amazing story of invention, determination and creativity in solving multiple PIA (Pain in the @%$) Jobs! by the founder and designer of the company. Enjoy this history timeline, and next time you are passed on the road by a “benz” you can think of Karl, his wife, his passion for automobiles and the first motorwagon patent. Enjoy and thanks to Wikipedia for the detailed history.
Karl Benz was born Karl Friedrich Michael Vaillant, on November 25, 1844 in Mühlburg, now a borough of Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, which is part of modern Germany. His parents were Josephine Vaillant and a locomotive driver Johann Georg Benz, whom she married a few months later. When he was two years old, his father died of pneumonia, and his name was changed to Karl Friedrich Benz in remembrance of his father.
Despite living in near poverty, his mother strove to give him a good education. Benz attended the local grammar school in Karlsruhe and was a prodigious student. In 1853, at the age of nine he started at the scientifically oriented Lyceum and went on to study at the Poly-Technical University under the instruction of Ferdinand Redtenbacher.
Benz had originally focused his studies on locksmithing, but he eventually followed his father’s steps toward locomotive engineering. On September 30, 1860, at age 15, he passed the entrance exam for mechanical engineering at the University of Karlsruhe, which he subsequently attended and then went on to graduate at age 19.
Following his formal education, Benz had seven years of professional training in several companies but did not fit well in any of them.
In 1871, at the age of twenty-seven, Karl Benz joined August Ritter in launching the Iron Foundry and Mechanical Workshop in Mannheim, later renamed Factory for Machines for Sheet-metal Working. The enterprise’s first year went very badly. Ritter turned out to be unreliable, and the business’s tools were impounded. The difficulty was overcome when Benz’s fiancée, Bertha Ringer, bought out Ritter’s share in the company using her dowry.
On 20 July 1872, Karl Benz and Bertha Ringer married and went on to have five children: Eugen (1873), Richard (1874), Clara (1877), Thilde (1882), and Ellen (1890).
Despite the business misfortunes, Karl Benz led in the development of new engines in the early factory he and his wife owned. To get more revenues, in 1878 he began to work on new patents. First, he concentrated all his efforts on creating a reliable petrol two-stroke engine. Benz finished his two-stroke engine on December 31, 1879, New Year’s Eve, and was granted a patent for it on 28 June 1880.
Karl Benz showed his real genius, however, through his successive inventions registered while designing what would become the production standard for his two-stroke engine. Benz soon patented the speed regulation system, the ignition using sparks with battery, the spark plug, the carburetor, the clutch, the gear shift, and the water radiator – all common features of automobiles still today.
Benz’s lifelong hobby brought him to a bicycle repair shop in Mannheim owned by Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Eßlinger. In 1883, the three founded a new company producing industrial machines: Benz & Companie Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik, usually referred to as Benz & Cie. Quickly growing to twenty-five employees, it soon began to produce static gas engines.
The success of the company gave Benz the opportunity to indulge in his old passion of designing a horseless carriage. Based on his experience with, and fondness for, bicycles, he used similar technology when he created an automobile. It featured wire wheels, unlike carriages’ wooden ones, with a four-stroke engine of his own design between the rear wheels, a very advanced coil ignition and evaporative cooling rather than a radiator. Power was transmitted by means of two roller chains to the rear axle. Karl Benz finished his creation in 1885 and named it “Benz Patent Motorwagen”.
It was the first automobile entirely designed as such to generate its own power, not simply a motorized stagecoach or horse carriage, which is why Karl Benz was granted his patent and is regarded as its inventor.
The Motorwagen was patented on January 29, 1886 (that was 135 years ago if you are counting!) as DRP-37435: “automobile fueled by gas”. The 1885 version was difficult to control, leading to a collision with a wall during a public demonstration. The first successful tests on public roads were carried out in the early summer of 1886. The next year Benz created the Motorwagen Model 2, which had several modifications, and in 1889, the definitive Model 3 with wooden wheels was introduced, showing at the Paris Expo the same year.
Benz began to sell the vehicle (advertising it as “Benz Patent Motorwagen”) in the late summer of 1888, making it the first commercially available automobile in history. The second customer of the Motorwagen was a Parisian bicycle manufacturer Emile Roger, who had already been building Benz engines under license from Karl Benz for several years. Roger added the Benz automobiles (many built in France) to the line he carried in Paris and initially most were sold there.
The world’s first ever long-distance automobile trip was undertaken by Bertha Benz using a Model 3. On the morning of August 5, 1888 Bertha – supposedly without the knowledge of her husband – she took the vehicle on a 65 mile trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim to visit her mother, taking her sons Eugen and Richard with her. In addition to having to locate pharmacies along the way to refuel, she repaired various technical and mechanical problems. One of these included the invention of brake lining; after some longer downhill slopes she ordered a shoemaker to nail leather onto the brake blocks.
Bertha Benz and sons finally arrived at nightfall, announcing the achievement to Karl by telegram. It had been her intention to demonstrate the feasibility of using the Benz Motorwagen for travel and to generate publicity in the manner now referred to as live marketing. Today, the event is celebrated every two years in Germany with an antique automobile rally.
In 2008, the Bertha Benz Memorial Route was officially approved as a route of the industrial heritage of mankind, because it follows Bertha Benz’s tracks of the world’s first long-distance journey by automobile in 1888. The public can now follow the 194 km of signposted route from Mannheim via Heidelberg to Pforzheim (Black Forest) and back. The return trip – which didn’t go through Heidelberg – was along a different, slightly shorter route, as shown on the maps of the Bertha Benz Memorial Route.
The great demand for static internal combustion engines forced Karl Benz to enlarge the factory in Mannheim, and in 1886 a new building located on Waldhofstrasse (operating until 1908) was added. Benz & Cie. had grown in the interim from 50 employees in 1889 to 430 in 1899. During the last years of the nineteenth century, Benz was the largest automobile company in the world with 572 units produced in 1899.
In 1896, Karl Benz was granted another patent for his design of the first flat engine. It had horizontally opposed pistons, a design in which the corresponding pistons reach top dead center simultaneously, thus balancing each other with respect to momentum. Flat engines with four or fewer cylinders are most commonly called boxer engines, boxermotor in German, and also are known as horizontally opposed engines. This design is still used by Porsche, Subaru, and some high-performance engines used in racing cars.
Although Gottlieb Daimler died in March 1900—and there is no evidence that Benz and Daimler knew each other nor that they knew about each other’s early achievements—eventually, competition with Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) in Stuttgart began to challenge the leadership of Benz & Cie. In October 1900, the main designer of DMG, Wilhelm Maybach, built the engine that would later be used in the Mercedes-35hp of 1902. The engine was built to the specifications of Emil Jellinek under a contract for him to purchase thirty-six vehicles with the engine, and for him to become a dealer of the special series. Jellinek stipulated the new engine be named Daimler-Mercedes (for his daughter).
Maybach would quit DMG in 1907, but he designed the model and all of the important changes. After testing, the first was delivered to Jellinek in December 1900. Jellinek continued to make suggestions for changes to the model and obtained good results racing the automobile in the next few years, encouraging DMG to engage in commercial production of automobiles, which they did in 1902.
Benz countered with Parsifil, introduced in 1903 with a vertical twin engine that achieved a top speed of 37 mph. Then, without consulting Benz, the other directors hired some French designers.
France was a country with an extensive automobile industry based on Maybach’s creations. Because of this action, after difficult discussions, Karl Benz announced his retirement from design management on January 24, 1903, although he remained as director on the Board of Management through its merger with DMG in 1926 and, remained on the board of the new Daimler-Benz corporation until his death in 1929.
The German economic crisis worsened in 1923, Benz & Cie. produced only 1,382 units in Mannheim, and DMG made only 1,020 in Stuttgart. The average cost of an automobile was 25 million marks because of rapid inflation. Negotiations between the two companies resumed and in 1924 they signed an “Agreement of Mutual Interest” valid until the year 2000. Both enterprises standardized design, production, purchasing, sales, and advertising—marketing their automobile models jointly—although keeping their respective brands.
On 28 June 1926, Benz & Cie. and DMG finally merged as the Daimler-Benz company, baptizing all of its automobiles, Mercedes-Benz, honoring the most important model of the DMG automobiles, the 1902 Mercedes 35 hp, along with the Benz name. The name of that DMG model had been selected after ten-year-old Mercédès Jellinek, the daughter of Emil Jellinek who had set the specifications for the new model.
Karl Benz was a member of the new Daimler-Benz board of management for the remainder of his life. A new logo was created in 1926, consisting of a three-pointed star (representing Daimler’s motto: “engines for land, air, and water”) surrounded by traditional laurels from the Benz logo, and the brand of all of its automobiles was labeled Mercedes-Benz. Model names would follow the brand name in the same convention as today.
The next year, 1927, the number of units sold tripled to 7,918 and the diesel line was launched for truck production. In 1928, the Mercedes-Benz SSK was presented.
On April 4, 1929, Karl Benz died at home in Ladenburg at the age of eighty-four from a bronchial inflammation. Until her death, Bertha Benz continued to reside in their last home. Members of the family resided in the home for thirty more years. The Benz home now has been designated as historic and is used as a scientific meeting facility for a nonprofit foundation, the Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz Foundation, that honors both Bertha and Karl Benz for their roles in the history of automobiles.
Karl was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1984 and the European Automotive Hall of Fame.
What was your first car???
Let me know in an email. Or give me a call.
Here’s an original ad for my first car, a beige AMC Pacer Wagon. Total chic magnet! :))))
Here’s an original ad for my friend Dan’s first car, a white 1960 Chevy Impala Super Sport convertible.
And here’s an original ad for my friend Pete’s first car, a hunter green Datsun 260 z. Clearly, the coolest of the three commercials.