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Karl Benz, the Man who Invented the Automobile

Karl Benz    benz

Most historians regard the Benz Patent-Motorwagen as the first modern automobile. It was the first passenger car driven by its own internal combustion engine. German patent number 37,435 was awarded to Karl Benz for his Motorwagen on January 29th, 1886: That date is regarded as the birthday of the modern automobile. Karl Benz grew up poverty-stricken but worked hard in school with encouragement from his mother. He eventually got a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Karlsruhe. Riding his bicycle to and from class gave him the idea to invent the “horseless carriage.”

In 1871 he opened a shop called the Iron Foundry and Mechanical Workshop in Mannheim. The business, which was later renamed the Factory for Machines for Sheet-metal Working, did terribly in its first year of business. A large part of the initial failure was due to a flaky business partner of Benz’s. Karl Benz’s wife, Bertha, used her dowry to buy out his partner and fund the business a while longer. The business began doing well when his inventions began garnering attention. In 1879 he patented the two-stroke engine. After that he received patents for the spark plug, carburetor, clutch, gearshift and the water-cooled radiator. The modern engine was truly invented in his shop. Benz was a genius inventor who was ahead of his time.

Many companies began using his inventions and paid him a fee. Companies like Daimler and Maybach, Peugot, Oldsmobile and Ford began to pop up before WWI and changed the world. Ford’s company is famous for the rate at which he could produce vehicles and is often wrongfully credited with the invention of the automobile. What Ford did was automate the process of making vehicles, and invented the modern assembly line. By 1914, Ford was able to make a black Model T every 93 minutes. The Model T was the first car that was affordable to the common man and Ford famously paid his employees high wages and demanded high efficiency in return. An assembly line worker at the Ford Motor Company could buy a Model T with four months pay.


For Karl Benz, his dreams of designing automobiles stopped when he Design Management in 1903. Before that, his 1894 Benz Velo became the world’s first inexpensive, mass-produced car.

To experience the Benz tradition for craftsmanship and excellence, and to see the latest Benz vehicles, visit Mercedes-Benz of Tucson.

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