Motor car
May 2019

Who invented the car

Almost everyone knows that Henry Ford invented the Model T, the first commercially available automobile. But to the question of who invented the first car, it really depends whom you ask, and exactly what you mean by 'car'.

Automobiles throughout history have been propelled by various means, such as gasoline, electric, and steam. They have also been invented and built for different purposes. For these reasons there is no straightforward answer.

The World's First Self-Propelled Vehicle Design

To find the first self-propelled vehicle design we have to go way back in time to the fifteenth century. This design was of a cart designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Powered by coiled springs, it had steering and braking capabilities.

Although it wasn't built during Leonardo da Vinci's own time, a museum in Italy turned his design into a working model with the help of a U.S. robotics expert, Mark Rosheim. The model is on display at The Institute and Meseum of the History of Science in Florence. A design way before its time, nevertheless, this vehicle cannot be seen as a car, strictly speaking.

The World's First Fuel-Powered Car

Though there have been numerous designs and inventions since Leonardo da Vinci's using different methods of propulsion and in varying degrees of successes and failures, the first true, modern, practical, petrol-driven automobile was the three-wheeled motor car invented by German engine designer Karl Benz in 1885.

The vehicle featured wire wheels powered by a four-stroke engine that he designed. The engine sat mounted between the rear wheels and equipped with an advanced coil ignition. The engine was not radiator-cooled but made use of an evaporative system. Engine power was transmitted to the wheels by means of two roller chains to the rear axle. Its design was revolutionary and Karl Benz was granted a patent on January 29, 1886 as an "automobile fueled by gas".

Karl Benz and his wife Bertha are honoured for their roles in the history of automobiles.

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