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The invention of the car

1885 Benz Patent MotorwagenCarl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler, Wilhelm Maybach. These are men that go down in history as the fathers of the motorcar and motorbike. Benz’s Motorwagen is considered the first car.

Daimler and Maybach take the prize for the first four-wheeled car and also the first motorbike.

However, this is somewhat of a falsity when you look at the big picture. They did indeed invent those machines and made some of the biggest contributions to the field, but their titles should really be somewhat more specific.

A 1771 version of the Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot steam carFrench inventor Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot developed the first useable, yet rudimentary, car powered by steam in 1768. Although there is evidence to suggest a steam car was invented as early as 1672 by Ferdinand Verbiest, a Dutch missionary and mathematician. However, this was likely to be no more small scale toy. Later development of the steam car saw several version of steam carriages, especially in Europe. These were truly the first cars.

Likewise, the electric motor also came into force before internal combustion. Scottish inventor Robert Davidson built a basic electric powered locomotive in 1838. Fellow Scot, Robert Anderson, then came up with what could be considered the first usable electric car at a similar time. By the 1860’s the electric car started to gather more momentum with the invention of a battery which could be recharged.

It wasn’t until 1886 that Karl Benz patented his three-wheeled Motorwagen powered by an internal combustion engine. A couple of months after the Motorwagen was patented by Karl Benz, both Daimler and Maybach created the first four-wheeled motorcar.

Edward Butler's Patent VelocycleHowever, even here, it is often omitted that in 1884 inventor Edward Butler revealed a small, but useable, three-wheeled vehicle at the Stanley Cycle Show in London, powered by an internal combustion engine.

Before this point, numerous inventors and engineers played varying roles in the development of engines and propulsion. It is almost impossible to name each and every one, with many never recorded in history for the part they played.

It is fair to say that Carl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach cannot hold the title for inventing the car, but they justifiably brought the world the first publically recognised, accepted and best developed internal combustion motorcar. We should still hold them is the highest regard, but our classic cars owe much more to many others.

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