Illustration of Automobile

1885 Automobile

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Karl Benz mechanics thermodynamics Illustration of Automobile


In 1885, Karl Benz was the first to assemble most of the necessary components for an automobile even though his first attempt was a single-cylinder tricycle without any brakes. This tiny two-seater had rack and pinion steering connected to a tiller, a clutch, a gear shift, differential rear-end gears, and evaporative cooling. Benz created a single-cylinder, four-stroke internal-combustion engine that ran on gasolene fed by an evaporative carburetor with trembler-coil ignition using spark plugs powered by a battery and regulated using a sleeve valve generating less than one horsepower and providing a maxium speed of about 10 MPH.


Later, Benz added brakes and the carburetor. His wife, Bertha Benz, invented leather brake linings. In 1894, he added a fourth wheel.

The spirit of the car

Windows open, coasting down a hill, the car is a servant to the wind in your hair. With a hand on the wheel, a foot on the pedal, and a smile to frighten demons, the driver receives freedom of place, freedom of time, freedom of will. For the will that says it’s time to move, the will that shows moving is breathing, for the heart that burns in all cylinders, and for treads that never tire, the car is life itself.

Karl Benz’s first automobile was unsafe, underpowered, and inefficient; however, he and others were able to build upon its success to sell safer, more powerful, and more efficient horseless carriages.

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