Erstes Auto der Welt Carl Benz Wagen


A tricycle brings the breakthrough

A life without a car? Unimaginable for most people. The story of the modern automobile began over 130 years ago with Carl Benz.

The automobile was born on January 29, 1886, when engineer Carl Benz applied for a patent for his “gas-powered vehicle”. It was the first automobile with a gasoline engine. At the heart of the two-seater vehicle was a water-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke engine with a displacement of 954 cubic centimeters and an electric high-voltage ignition system. Together with the transmission, wheels, and brakes, the invention is considered the prototype of every car subsequently built. With its chain drive, wire-spoked wheels, and light steel frame, the motorized car still resembled a bicycle.

An idea becomes roadworthy

The engineer struggled, however, with the steering: “Because I couldn’t get to grips with the steering in theory, I decided to make the vehicle three-wheeled,” he is reported to have said. And so the world’s first automobile only had one front wheel – bearing a strong resemblance to a tricycle like the ones we know from our childhoods.

The engineer had been working on the idea in his Mannheim workshop since 1885. His dream: a vehicle that drives as if by itself. He tinkered with making this dream a reality quietly and in secret, fearing that someone might beat him to it. Over time, his invention became roadworthy. At first, Carl Benz only ventured out at night and close to his factory – Benz & Cie. Rheinische Gasmotorenfabrik – for test drives on the road. Only when he had the patent for his vehicle did he go public. One Sunday in July 1886, he drove along the old Ringwall in Mannheim, accompanied by the puzzled looks of pedestrians – and by his son Eugen, running behind the car to refill it with gasoline. The next day, the whole town was talking about Carl Benz and his extraordinary vehicle. And today, 130 years later? It is impossible to imagine our everyday lives without cars.

(Header: Schepers Photography –

Zeichnung des ersten Benzin-Automobils von Carl Benz
Picture from the patent application

Place of invention

Benz & Cie. Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik, T6 11, 68161 Mannheim