As far as automobiles go, the 1886 Patent Motorwagen is considered by most as the genesis of the automobile. Developed in 1885 by Carl Benz and field-tested by Carl’s wife, Bertha Benz, the Motorwagen’s simple concept consisted on installing a gasoline-powered, two-stroke piston engine in the back of a tricycle with large spoke wheels —a true horseless carriage.
The comical contraption produced nearly 1hp, had elliptic springs, solid rubber tyres, an evaporative carburetor, and wooden brakes. A tiller, similar to the one in a boat, steered the car through a toothed rack, and a single-speed belt-driven transmission ensured the torque was adequately supplied to the chain-driven rear wheels. Top speed never exceeded 20 kilometres per hour, yet it proved a historical first for the internal combustion engine.
In 1888, Bertha Benz ventured on a 106-kilometre road trip with her two children, spanning the distance between Manheim and Pforzheim, in Germany. Along the way, she refueled at the local apothecaries, cleaned her carburettor with her hat pin, reinsulated a fuel line with her garter, pushed the car up hills, and had a local cobbler reinforce the wooden brakes with a leather liner —a world first. The adventurous road trip was not only a research test to help improve the Motorwagen’s weaknesses, but the very beginning of internal combustion travel —an experience that would cement an entire industrial and cultural movement: the automobile.
In 1986, a century after the first Patent-Motorwagen, John Bentley Engineering (UK) started a series 100 exacting replicas, considered as the finest of their kind. The high quality of build secure these recreations a place amongst many renowned collections and museums across the world, as static pieces or operational machines taken to historical events.
This particular car is one of the John Bentley Engineering run of 100 pieces, and has remained a static display piece all its life. All leather, metal and wooden surfaces have no wear from age or use. As it is, this fascinating piece of early automotive engineering is ready to grace any discerning collector’s stable, and not only be a fun conversation piece, but a physical bookmark of the origins of an entire industry.
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