Love cars and the stories behind them? Join us on the drive to automotive enlightenment in this week’s edition of Friday Fast Facts! Our fifth edition features the first car and four-wheel drive:
The World’s First Automobile was a Benz
In 1885, German engine designer Karl Benz developed the first patented “vehicle powered by a gas engine.” The Benz Patent-Motorwagen was powered by a 954 cc one-cylinder four-stroke engine and had a top speed of 10 miles per hour. Before he was awarded German patent number 37435 in 1886, Benz also patented the two-stroke gas engine still found in a variety of application including lawn mowers, chain saws and mopeds.
Bertha Benz Took the World’s First Long-Distance Automobile Journey
The first road trip was taken by a Benz, in a Benz. Bertha Benz, wife of the aforementioned Karl, took an improved edition of her husband’s invention on a trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim, Germany. According to the Daimler website, the 121-mile roundtrip journey to Bertha’s birthplace took place without Karl’s knowledge. Mrs. Benz stopped halfway through the trip to refuel with Ligroin, a common laboratory solvent, at a Wiesloch pharmacy, making it the world’s first filling station.
The First Speeding Ticket was Written in 1896
In January of 1896, the speed limit in England was two miles per hour and it was mandatory for the vehicle to “be led by a man on foot waving a red flag at all times,” according to a motor1.com article by Anthony Karr. Enter Walter Arnold, who was spotted by a constable on a bicycle hurtling through the small town of Paddock Wood at four times the speed limit—a blistering eight (8) miles per hour! A five-mile chase ensued ending with Mr. Arnold being cited one shilling for the infraction. Later that year, the requirement for a flag-bearer was abolished and the speed limit was upped to a hair-raising 14 miles per hour.
The Famous Jeep Grill is Actually a Ford Design
Along with the Volkswagen Beetle, World War II spawned another automotive icon: the Jeep. With the United States’ participation in the war looming, the government offered a contract to build go-anywhere vehicles for the American military. The U.S. government ended up awarding contracts to three manufacturers: Willys-Overland, Ford and the American Bantam Car Company. American Bantam was the quickest to production, but Willys ultimately won as they had the strongest motor. During design, they had absorbed the nine-slot grill look from Ford. The company soon reduced that number to seven, due to Ford’s copyright on the nine-slot look.