The world marks the 125th anniversary of the invention of the automobile on Jan. 29. Karl Benz filed a patent for a three-wheeled vehicle driven by a gasoline engine in Mannheim, Germany, on that day in 1886, the same year Gottlieb Daimler completed his motorized carriage in Cannstatt, Germany. The world's first two automobiles came into being barely 93 miles from each other, built by men who had not previously met but whose names became synonymous with the development of the automobile: Daimler-Benz.
Daimler and his collaborator Wilhelm Maybach invented the world's first high-speed gasoline engine in 1883, while Benz was the first to combine an internal-combustion engine with an integrated chassis.
The Benz Patent motor car was a three-wheeled device with two tall wheels flanking the rear-mounted single-cylinder engine that drove the wheels by a leather belt and chain drive. A steering tiller directed the single front wheel.
Gottlieb Daimler's motorized carriage was the world's first four-wheeled automobile. It was a conventional carriage into which Daimler and Maybach installed their small high-speed engine. Daimler and Maybach continued their development of the automobile with the motorized quadricycle that was displayed at the 1889 World Exhibition in Paris.
The 1893 Benz Victoria was Karl Benz's first four-wheeled automobile and the first to use a horizontally opposed piston engine. The 1896 Daimler Vis-à-Vis was the first automobile produced in any quantity, with about 150 examples. This car featured Maybach's invention of the spray-nozzle carburetor and placed the driver and passengers in seats facing each another.
Daimler also innovated motorized trucks, creating a drive system combining an industrial leather belt and flywheel connected to gears driving both rear wheels directly.
Daimler and Maybach built the first four-cylinder gasoline engines as early as 1890, a 12-hp engine of 371 cubic inches displacement and a smaller 6-hp engine of 147 cubic inches. Both were used first in powerboats and were not installed in road-going vehicles before 1898. The Daimler Phoenix was the first road vehicle with a four-cylinder engine. Daimler and Maybach also built their first two-cylinder engine with the cylinders arranged in a V.
The 1900 Daimler Phoenix Rennwagen was a 23-hp race car that suffered from a high center of gravity, a 600-pound engine and a short wheelbase that was difficult to control. Following a serious accident at the La Turbie race in Nice, France, Maybach set about building a new racing car, which became the first Mercedes in 1901.