We’ve come a long way since the first ever car, to the point where engineers are breaking top speeds every year and car vending machines actually exist. So where did it all begin, and how did it get to this level of innovation? As far as the pioneers of automobile manufacturing goes, we have to look right back. Cast your thoughts beyond classics cars like the 1931 Pierce Arrow, and even further beyond the vintage cars such as the 1919 Ford Model-T. We’re talking about the oldest cars to have ever existed, and here are some of the most pioneering of the bunch.
The Oldest Steam Car: Steam Dray (1770)
The Steam Dray, or ‘fardier à vapeur’, is the oldest steam powered car in existence, and was invented in 1770 by the Frenchman Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot. As a military prototype designed for transporting cargo, it was intended to carry up to 4 tons at 7.8km per hour, however never did achieve these stats. Ultimately, and for these reasons, the project was abandoned but the creation of the vehicle was pioneering nevertheless. It was the first ever ‘self-propelled’ carriage, and made headway for further innovation yet to come.
The Oldest Combustion Engine Car: Benz Patent-Motorwagen (1886)
If you regard an car as being a vehicle propelled by an internal combustion engine, then the Benz Patent-Motorwagen would be the first official automobile. Karl Benz built the car in 1885 with its first ever driver being his wife Bertha Benz, however did not manage to get it patented and unveiled to the public until 1886. He developed a gasoline-powered two-stroke piston engine seven years later, and in the subsequent decade continued to develop on motorized automobiles. In total, 25 Patent-Motorwagens were ever manufactured, and Karl Benz remains an iconic figure in the innovation of the combustion engine with his legacy living on through Mercedes-Benz.
Special Mention For The Most Innovative Car: The Stahlradwagen (1889)
The Stahlradwagen is included in this list because it changed the face of car design forever. Made by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1889, it was the first car with an engine that wasn’t adapted from a horse-drawn carriage. Although the design still resembles a carriage of some sort, it is important to remember that this was the first true innovation that did not simply build on another manufacturer’s model. Daimler and Maybach were unfortunately not able to produce their new invention in their home country of Germany, however it was licensed for manufacturing in France and debuted at the Paris Exhibition of 1889. They then went on to meet great success, establishing Dailmer Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) and selling their first automobile in 1892.
It all had to start somewhere, and contemporary manufacturers are indebted to the work of these pioneers of automobile design. Right from the 1800s, people were engineering vehicles that would set out the blueprints for every car thereafter. Innovation was ripe in the air we have pioneers like Benz, Daimler and Cugnot to thank for the amazing world and diversity of cars we have today.
Written by Jackie Williams