HomeCar CultureCommentaryMovie celebrates Bertha Benz’ heroic first drive

Movie celebrates Bertha Benz’ heroic first drive


“She was more daring than I,” Carl Benz said of his wife, Bertha, who introduced his invention, his self-propelled three-wheeled Patent-Motorwagen No. 3, to the world by taking it and their two teenaged sons on a 121-mile roundtrip to visit her parents in Pforzheim. 

Bertha’s dowry had financed Carl Benz’ invention, and on the trip, she was her own mechanic, at one point having to clean the carburetor with a hat pin and insulating a wire with a garter. She refueled the car with ligroin, a petroleum product, she purchased from a pharmacy in Wiesloch, making it the world’s first filling station. She also had a shoemaker nail leather to the worn brake blocks.

With March 8 being International Women’s Day, Daimler has released a four-minute movie, Bertha Benz: The journey that changed everything.

Crowd watches as Bertha Benz gets the car running again

“As the inventor of the automobile, he revolutionized the mobility of the 19th Century,” the company said of Carl Benz. However, “This success that changed the world would have been barely conceivable without Bertha Benz, her indomitable optimism and her ability to find a way out of difficult situations.

Bertha Benz in 1870 | Daimler photos

“When the public were still skeptical about the new horseless carriage that was moved by ‘mysterious’ forces, she took a snap decision and embarked on a then rather difficult journey to Pforzheim with her two sons Eugen and Richard. Also on board was a firm belief in her husband’s invention and in herself.”

“It was important to my team to depict Bertha Benz as a strong woman and timeless role model,” Bettina Fetzer, vice president for marketing of Mercedes-Benz Cars, is quoted in the film’s news release.” Bertha was a pioneer and our first test driver. Her courage and her will not to give up too easily inspire me very much. 

“With our film we want to motivate people to go through life with a similarly positive, hands-on approach and to tackle challenges with confidence.”

Short 4-minute movie celebrates Berta Benz’ daring

A radio play about Bertha Benz will be presented May 3-5 at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Germany.

Elsewhere in Europe this weekend, the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile in Torino, Italy, offers special Women’s Day tours on March 9. Featured on the tour will be ways in which fashion, advertising and design were done to accommodate women motorists. 

Streamlined cars featured at Studebaker museum 

The National Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Indiana, has opened its newest exhibit “Streamlined: Style in Motion” features not only a 1937 Delage D8 Aerosport and one of only five 1933 Pierce Arrow Silver Arrow show cars, but also a Chrysler Airflow, Cord 810, 1936 Hupmobile, a 1935 Stout Scarab and a 1948 Tatra T87.

The exhibit runs through August.

LeMay-AMC seeks Cadillacs for exhibit

“Cadillac — The Standard of the World” is the theme for an exhibit scheduled to open May 11 at the LeMay — America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington, and the museum has issued a call to Cadillac owners interested in including their vehicles in the exhibit.

Cadillac — The Standard of the World will tell the story of the brand’s inception and vaunted reputation for designing and building some of the finest, and most desirable automobiles in the world,” the museum said, noting that Cadillac founder Henry Leland apprenticed under gunsmith Samuel Colt and thus learned the importance of precision engineering, which he brought to the automobile industry.

Interested car owners are asked to email [email protected] by April 15 with information about their vehicles.

‘Bullitt’ Mustang visit extended

The LeMay — America’s Car Museum also announced that the Bullitt Mustang movie hero car’s visit has been extended through July 14. The car, driven in the movie by Steve McQueen, will be absent from its spot in the museum from May 28 through June 4 so it can participate in the Friends of Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show in California.

Corvette museum to visit national parks

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, has opened registration for its Museum in Motion tour of National Parks. The tour takes place September 22-28 and will visit national parks in Utah and Arizona, including the Grand Canyon and Zion.

Special events this weekend

The Seal Cove Auto Museum in Maine hots its Brass Club speakeasy gala on March 9 from 7 until 9 p.m.

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia hosts the second model car show staged by the Philadelphia Area Car Modelers from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on March 9. The theme for the show will be “Welcome to Woodstock! — It’s all about VW’s, Man!” a story made up of conquests because emancipation included driving a car.

Also on March 9, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum will stage one of its Demo Days. The theme for this one is “So Cal — Sports Car Racing in California” with a 1954 Ferrari 375MM Pinin Farina Spyder, 1956 Maserati 300S, 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa and 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe being exercised in one of the museum’s parking lots.

Muscle Car City in Punta Gorda, Florida, hosts its 10th anniversary car show March 9 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The National Corvette Museum’s NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, offers a program March 10 from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. for those getting started in the sport of high-performance driving. There will be classroom and on-track instruction.

Mark your calendar

The 31st induction ceremony at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Daytona Beach, Florida, takes place March 11-12. Inductees will be Augie Duesenberg, Dario Franchitti, Phil Remington, Don Schumacher, Kevin Schwantz, Tony Stewart and Linda Vaughn.

The movie, A Man and a Woman, which features the Ford GT40, Mustang and French roads, will be shown at 7 p.m. March 13 at the Newport Car Museum in Rhode Island.

The California Automobile Museum in Sacramento opens a new exhibit, Micro Cars, on March 15.

March 16-17 is a hoods-up weekend at the Newport Car Museum in Rhode Island.

The National Corvette Museum’s Motorsports Park will be the site of BingeTokyo on March 16-17. Though it may sound as though only Japanese vehicles are welcome, organizers say all makes and models are welcome in what they believe to be “hands down the cheapest seat time you will get,” seven hours of track time over two days for $500.

LeMay Collections at Marymount participates in the Almost Spring swap meet and car show at the Washington State Fair Events Center in Puyallup, Washington, on March 16-17.

The Miles Through Time Automotive Museum in Toccoa, Georgia, stages a car club cruise-in on March 23.

“RADwood: Cleveland Goes Rad” is the title for an exhibit/experience running through March 24 at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland. Staged in partnership with RADwood car shows, the exhibit will celebrate 1980s and ‘90s car culture and will showcase vehicles, clothing, music “and everything in between.”

The Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile in Torino, Italy, opens a new exhibit on the interaction of passion, graphics and design on March 28.

LeMay Collections at Marymount in Tacoma, Washington, hosts the LeMay Tea Party on March 30.

The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild will stage a reunion and model car exposition April 4-7 at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, where more than 100 of the cars will remain on exhibit through October.

April 5 is the registration deadline for the teen driving day being held in conjunction with the Kentucky Safe Driver Program at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green on April 13.

“USAC Stars: From Dirt Tracks to the Brickyard” is the theme of a panel discussion at 6 p.m. April 9 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum featuring U.S. Auto Club racing champions Brady Bacon, Tyler Courtney, Dave Darland, Justin Grant and Kody Swanson. 

SEMA’s CuS.T.E.M. Car Experience visits the LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington, on April 19. The program introduces middle school students to the automotive customization hobby through STEM education experiences. 

Britain’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu hosts its annual “Simply Audi” car show on April 21.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is organizing a bus trip to the New York International Auto Show on April 27.

“Mario Andretti: ICON” is a special exhibit that opens May 1 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. The exhibit is designed as a comprehensive 50th anniversary celebration of Andretti’s victory in the 1969 Indianapolis 500 race.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, opens a special “RCR 50: Only in America” exhibit featuring 50 years of Richard Childress Racing in May. 

“My dream is longer than the night,” a radio play about Bertha Benz and her influence on the early motorcar, will be performed May 3-5 at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Germany. 

The Simply Ford gathering May 5 at Britain’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu will feature the 60th anniversary of the Ford Anglia 105E and the 50th birthday celebration for the Ford Capri.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, opens two new summer exhibits on May 18 — Studebaker Cool: 114 Years of Innovation, and Harley-Davidson: History, Mythology and Perceptions of America’s Motorcycle. Both exhibits run through October 20.

Britain’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu hosts both its silver-anniversary spring autojumble (swap meet) May 18-19 and a 60th anniversary celebration of the Mini. 

LeMay Collections at Marymount in Tacoma, Washington, offers Model T drivers education classes May 18, June 8, July 7, August 4 and September 8.

The IMS Museum presents the 21st annual Indianapolis Historic Racing Exhibition on May 23-25 when around 70 Indianapolis 500 racing cars are expected to return to the track for exhibition laps and to be displayed in the museum parking lot inside Turn 2. The event is open to cars that raced at Indy between 1911 and 1994.

LeMay Collections stages LeMay Motorcycle Days from June 13-23 with 200 motorcycles on exhibit and with rounds of motorcycle soccer.

The Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California, will stage its annual Father’s Day car show on June 16.

“The Car. The Future. Me” is the title of an exhibit scheduled to open July 13 at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon, UK, to explore “futuristic car design and (to) challenge your idea of how we will interact with the cars for the future,” the museum said. 

The Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan, inducts new members Sergio Marchionne, the late chief executive of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; Janet Guthrie, the first woman to qualify as a driver in the Indianapolis 500; Richard “Dick” Dauch, co-founder of American Axle Manufacturing; and Patrick Ryan, creator of the first auto dealership finance and insurance department, on July 18 in Detroit.

On August 3, the British Motor Museum will be the site of the Classic Mini Mosaic world-record attempt that is expected to draw more than 600 classic Minis. The following day the museum will be the site of the National Metro & Mini Show.

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, inducts racer Briggs Cunningham, Corvette designer Tom Peters, and Dollie Cole, Corvette enthusiast and widow of former GM president Ed Cole, into its hall of fame on August 30.

“Legends of Speed,” a showcase of nearly two dozen historic racing cars, opens November 2 at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Does your local car museum have special events or exhibitions planned? Let us know. Email [email protected].

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
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.


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