When was the first automobile built?

Daimler and
Benz are traditionally credited with building the first cars in 1886, but the French claim it was first built in 1884 by Delamare-Deboutteville. Still others claim it was built in 1860. It all depends on your definition of a car. Contrary to popular belief, Henry Ford did not invent the automobile. He wasn't even close. What Ford did was perfect the assembly-line technique, well after the turn of the century. This allowed him to lower the cost of the automobile drastically, bringing a rich man's plaything within reach of the masses, thereby changing Western society. Reason enough to be famous. In 1860 a Frenchman, Edouard DelamareDeboutteville, did some experiments and filed some patents for a self-propelled car. In 1884 France built the world's first car. However the first self-propelled automobile existed long before 1884. Steam-powered stage coaches were in regular service between many towns in Britain from 1820 to 1840. They were built by such men as Goldsworthy Gurney, Walter Hancock, Ogle & Summers, Squire & Macerone, John Scott Russell and others. Charles Dietz and his sons ran steam-driven road tractors hauling passenger carriages on routes around Paris and Bordeaux prior to 1850. And in

Heir to a bell foundry at Le Mans.. Use of steam power for road vehicles can be traced back to 1769. and Leon. La Mancelle. built in 1878. The boiler was carried behind the passenger compartment. Amedee Bollee Sr. when a French artillery engineer. steam coaches were built in the 1860 to '80 period by Harrison Dyer of Boston. Amedee Sr. Amedee Jr. . James of New York City. was the most remarkable of the steam-car pioneers. but his sense of vehicle architecture was superb. constructed a three-wheeled military tractor at the Paris Arsenal.America. His sons. Bollee built a series of steam carriages with romantic names like Rapide and L'Obeissante (the Obedient One). and William T. but it was nearly uncontrollable and crashed into a stone wall during a demonstration. Conn. steering wheel on a vertical shaft and driver's seat behind the engine. he added mechanical workshops and built a series of advanced-design vehicles from 1873 to 1883. also invented an independent front-wheel suspension system with upper and lower transverse leaf springs in 1878. Joseph Dixon of Lynn. There was nothing particularly new or refined in his steam power systems.. Mass. chain drive to the rear wheels. both became makers of gasoline-powered cars. It ran at a speed of 2 1/2 mph. Nicolas Joseph Cugnot. Rufus Porter of Hartford. had a front-mounted engine. shaft drive to the differential.

It was shown to the press in a threewheeled cart in 1860. . speed or what? When Daimler-Benz (makers of Mercedes-Benz cars) says that the automobile was invented in 1886 by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler. seating capacity. was built in 1862 and installed in a three-wheeled wagon early in 1863. the company ignores Daimler's gas-powered motorcycle of 1885. type of engine. But even by that definition. who settled in Paris and became a naturalized French citizen. with a primitive carburetor. but the engine ran on stove gas and had no compression. It is on record that it successfully covered the 11. The Cugnot vehicle can be regarded as the first automobile in the world. In doing so.2 miles from Paris to Joinville-le-Pont and back. How should it be defined? By fuel.Was this the birth of the car? It depends. He used electric spark ignition. it's basing its claim on its own definition: a light carriage for personal transport with three or four wheels. powered by a liquid-fueled internal combustion engine. the French have a prior claim: Belgian-born Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir. if the definition is broad enough. drive system. invented his gas engine in 1858 and patented it in 1860. securing its place in history as the first spark-ignition petroleumfuel car to demonstrate its roadworthiness. A liquid-fuel version.

Since both were buying their engines from Daimler when production began. In the meantime. That's what Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler did. You must persevere. and your experiments must lead to actual car production. namely. The French companies made each new car a little bit different from its predecessor for years. So we (and Daimler-Benz) can make the Lenoir claim void by narrowing the definition further. The first true production model was the Benz Velo of 1894. Benz built 134 cars to the exact same specification during 1895. Panhard & Levassor in 1889. It doesn't count as a car if you gave up. vital participation by the motor makers of Germany is implicit. At that time.But Lenoir did not continue his work on cars. followed by Peugeot in 1891. Daimler was more interested in royalties and licensing fees for his engines than he was in actually building cars. Daimler-Benz concedes that the first car manufacturers in the world were French. Or did they? From the experimental cars of Daimler and Benz it was indeed a short step to industrial production -but not in Germany. a group of wealthy enthusiasts . the French had invented motor racing: The Parisian daily newspaper Le Petit Journal sponsored a run from Paris to Rouen in 1894. The following year.

Daimler and Benz did not work in a vacuum. they were aware of many experiments going on at the time y y y Alphonse Beau de Rochas was a self-taught civil engineer working in a laboratory in Paris. 1877. He had a four-stroke engine running in 1870. He received French patent No. where Gottlieb Daimler later worked as chief engineer. he also invented charge-stratification. Realizing the value of compression. Between 1870 and 1875. the first of its kind. he is reported to have installed such an engine .founded the Automobile Club de France. 532) is dated Aug.593. His small shop grew into Gasmotorenfabrik Deutz. He had an atmospheric gas engine running in Cologne in 1862 and began production.but he never built an engine. Nikolaus August Otto was a merchant who dropped out of business to experiment with gas engines at the age of 22. and his patent (No. he was the first to spell out the sequence of the four-stroke cycle and provide a theoretical pressure diagram -. using some sort of petroleum fuel and a 2-foot-high carburetor. 4. dated Jan. In 1861. Siegfried Marcus was a prolific inventor living in Vienna. His first experimental four-stroke engine ran in 1876. selling about 50 units a year. 52. 16. 1862.

it needed two outside pumping cylinders. But for compression of the charge. Although he had never built a car. The flywheel was its rear wheel.. a famous court suit followed. Mass. Under the liberal patent laws of the time. Essential details in Selden's patents had been left deliberately vague. he was allowed to back date his patent to 1877 and to amend and expand it frequently. running on light petroleum fuel. three-cylinder carriage with a transverse engine..y y in a small wagon converted into a cart by removing the rear axle. a shrewd patent attorney from Rochester. the owners of Selden's patent were finally forced to build a vehicle in 1904. Selden used his patents to extract royalties from early American manufacturers on every auto they built. When it was finally issued in 1895 it covered a front-drive. A four-wheeled Marcus vehicle is thought to date from 1875. When Henry Ford refused to pay royalties. developed an engine with pre-compression. George Brayton of Boston. filed a patent for a "road engine" in 1879. The Marcus vehicle in the Vienna Technical Museum is dated 1888. and the car built in 1904 had much . N.Y. in 1874 and it is considered the first safe and practical oil engine made. George B. but conforms to descriptions of the 1875 vehicle. During the long trial. Selden.

A year later. The outstanding things about his engine were: y y y Coil-and-battery ignition. He was aware of the patents of Beau de Rochas and Lenoir. with a sparkplug. milling. The patent was finally shot down in 1911. the "1877" Selden barely ran. in 1884. built early in 1883. Despite all these loopholes. High compression ratio. The trouble is that now the French want the world to believe it was Edouard Delamare-Deboutteville who invented the automobile. Mechanically operated overhead intake and exhaust valves. he invented a universal machine capable of cutting. drilling. and secondarily for propelling road vehicles. but Deboutteville had also created a carburetor for running on liquid (petroleum) fuels. and turning. in 1879.benefit from then-current technology. His first engine was a single-cylinder four-stroke unit. . He became interested in the internal combustion engine primarily as a source of power to run the machinery in factories. and also knew of Otto's patent. Deboutteville was 22 years old when he went to work in his brother's textile plant just outside Rouen. It ran on stove gas. Those are uncontested facts.

He became a manufacturer of industrial engines. You'll look in vain for any mention of a test drive in local newspapers. He had solutions to all the basic problems. Deboutteville's patent went unnoticed. This design figures in the 1884 patent. but the evidence that it ever ran is weak. Instead of developing the car. . Undaunted.or water-heating of the carburetor Air. A great pity. but he had to give up his experiments to concentrate on making a living. Deboutteville built a four-wheeled car with a twocylinder engine.or water-cooling of the cylinders Speed control on the intake manifold Exhaust muffler Progressive clutch It is certain that the car was built. but had nothing more to do with automobiles. for Deboutteville's proposed car was extremely well thought out.This engine was put in a three-wheeled vehicle that was destroyed in an accident. but the new engine was noteworthy for the following: y y y y y y Pistons with rings Provision for air. It was never exploited at all. he removed its engine and put it to use in the factory. The vehicle was a modified horse-drawn wagon.

. The single-cylinder Benz engine had 954-cc displacement and delivered 0. Benz did not build a four-wheeled car until 1891.1 hp at 650 rpm. 1887. for their first vehicles were very primitive in several regards. but installed it in a horse carriage with a centrally pivoted front axle. The first test drive took place on Mar. which first ran on the streets of Mannheim in June 1886. delivering 1.Both Daimler and Benz could have gained by reading the 1884 patent. It had a suction-operated intake valve and hot-tube ignition. 4.67 hp at 250 rpm. and the speed control was a butterfly valve mounted on the exhaust pipe. The mixture was produced in a surface carburetor. It had an evaporative "surface" carburetor. Wilhelm Maybach. It was only after seeing the success of Peugeot and Panhard & Levassor that Daimler and his assistant. And it did not run in 1886. Daimler's engine from 1885 was a vertical single-cylinder of 462-cc displacement. He did not design a car for it. The "car" Benz designed around the engine was a light three-wheeler with belt drive. He put a slide valve on the intake port and fired its sparkplug from a hightension coil. began to think in terms of complete cars rather than just engines. Karl Benz spent many years developing the twostroke engine before turning his attention to the four-stroke cycle in 1885. and he put a speed governor on the intake side.

of inventions. systems and parts. for the car is an ever-changing assembly of ideas. if not thousands. In truth. One thing to bear in mind is that the car is not one invention but a mechanical creation composed of hundreds.Was the automobile invented in France or Germany? The argument may never be resolved to the satisfaction of both sides. . we are still inventing the car. In the past 100 years. the French contribution to its advance has been as significant as that of the Germans.

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