Today is the automobile’s 130th birthday

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Benz Patent-Motorwagen, 1886 (Nachbau). Am 29. Januar 1886 meldete Carl Benz sein "Fahrzeug für Gasmotorenbetrieb" zum Patent an. Bildnachweis: Daimler AG
The original Patent Motor Wagon on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum | Mercedes-Benz photos
The original Patent Motor Wagon on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum | Mercedes-Benz photos

On January 29, 1886, Carl Benz applied for a patent on his “gas-powered vehicle.” In other words, it was 130 years ago today that the automobile was born, though it wouldn’t be until later in that year that Gottlieb Daimler, working independently of Benz, actually built the first motorized carriage.

While Daimler’s vehicle had four wheels, Benz had actually built what was considered the world’s first automobile the previous year when he installed a one-cylinder, four-stroke engine in his three-wheeled “patent motor car.”

Carl Benz and his three-wheeler
Carl Benz and his three-wheeler

Benz’ car was publicly unveiled July 3, 1886, in Mannheim. It was two years later when Benz’ wife, Bertha, demonstrated the everyday practicality of such a vehicle when she and their sons drove from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back in the Model III patent motor car.

The patent
The patent

In a news release marking the anniversary of Benz’ original patent, Mercedes-Benz notes that the “birth certificate” bears the number DRP 37435, the document registered with the German Imperial Patent Office in Berlin. The news release also notes that the patent document is part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Program which also included things such as the Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta and the manuscript for Bach’s Mass in B Minor.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.