Karl Benz's three-wheeler Motorwagen was the first successful use of the internal combustion-engined motor car. It featured a rear mounted horizontal engine with vertical crankshaft, belt primary drive and final transmission to the rear wheels by side chains. The entire package was placed on a tubular chassis that was suspended in place by three large wheels. The engine displaced 984cc and provided .9 horsepower. Top speed was achieved at 8 mph. It was not a romantic ride; it was loud, smelly and the occupants felt every bump and vibration. It was primitive, but at the same time it was 'state of the art.'
'Papa' Benz donated the original car to the Deutches Museum in Munich in 1906. Since that time, a series of working replicas have been manufactured with considerable attention to detail and accuracy.
The Gifted Karl Benz:
By 1885, Karl Benz had built and tested a four-stroke engine and a tubular-frame tricycle to accept that engine. Despite its primitive appearance, the little vehicle did well in trial runs, achieving a speed of 8 mph. This car actually incorporated a number of features still found in automobiles today, including mechanical inlet valves, a differential and electrical ignition. The horizontal one-lunger used a vertical crankshaft to which a large, horizontal flywheel was attached.
Satisfied with the vehicle's performance, Benz applied for a patent in early 1886, and shortly after, he was seen driving his creation on the streets of Mannheim. Tweaks and improvements followed and the first actual sale of a Benz 'Patentmotorwagen' occurred in 1887, when the Paris agent for Benz's stationary engines bought one for his own use.
In 1888, Benz's car was awarded a Gold Medal at the Munich International Exhibition; in that same year, Karl's wife, Bertha, accompanied by their two sons, successfully completed a 102-mile round between Mannheim and Pfozheim, thus making her the first woman motorist of record.
This first Benz still exists and is on display at the Deutsches Museum in Munich.
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1886 Benz a small number of replicas of this benchmark car were built by the well-respected U.K. firm of John Bentley Engineering between 1986 and 1997. The car show is one such vehicle: a full-scale working replica, done in a completely exact and authentic manner. Indeed, these replicas are so precisely constructed that the final batch was actually purchased by Mercedes-Benz!