Gear Head Tuesday – Bertha Benz and the First Gas Station

Gear Head

Hat tip: “Ol’ Petrol Head”

Hat Tip_2


The Benz Patent Motorwagen

Text adapted from the article about Karl Benz at ThoughtCo.

In 1885, a German mechanical engineer named Karl Benz designed and built the world’s first practical automobile powered by an internal-combustion engine. A year later, Benz received the first patent (DRP No. 37435) for a gas-fueled car on January 29, 1886. It was a three-wheeler called the Motorwagen or Benz Patent Motorcar.

Benz built his first four-wheeled car in 1891. He started Benz & Company and by 1900 became the world’s largest manufacturer of automobiles. He also became the first legally licensed driver in the world, when the Grand Duke of Baden granted him the distinction.

Benz began his work on a two-stroke engine in hopes of establishing a new source of income. He had to invent many parts of the system as he went along, including the throttle, ignition, spark plugs, carburetor, clutch, radiator, and gear shift. He received his first patent in 1879.

In 1883, he founded Benz & Company to produce industrial engines in Mannheim, Germany. He then began designing a motor carriage with a four-stroke engine based on Nicolaus Otto’s patent. Benz designed his engine and the body for the three-wheel vehicle with electric ignition, differential gears, and water-cooling.

In 1885, the car was first driven in Mannheim. It achieved the speed of eight miles per hour during a test drive. After receiving a patent for his gas-fueled automobile (DRP 37435), he began selling his automobile to the public in July of 1886. Parisian bicycle-maker Emile Roger added them to his line of vehicles and sold them as the first commercially-available automobile.

His wife helped promote the Motorwagen by taking it on an historic 66-mile trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim to show its practicality for families. At the time, she had to purchase gasoline at pharmacies, and manually repair several malfunctions herself. For this, an annual antique auto rally called the Bertha Benz Memorial Route is now held annually in her honor. Her experience led to Benz adding gears for climbing hills and brake pads.

It is Bertha Benz’s drive to Pforzheim that is depicted in this fine little 4 minute video:


Here is a mid-’50s descendant of Karl Benz’s Patent Motorwagen bejeweled by Sophia Loren in an image posted by Steven Hayward:

Sophia Loren-MBZ gullwing

Two more Gullwings to lust after:



This one, offered by Bring-A-Trailer , has been bid up to $1,025,000 as of this writing:

MBZ Gullwing-green

Here’s one in a hillclimb. This will get your adrenalin going!




Add yours →

  1. We are still marveling on this one!

    Liked by 1 person

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