On January 29, 1886, Carl Benz filed a patent application in Berlin, Germany, for his three wheeled motorcar. Called the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the unsafe-at-any-speed conveyance is considered by most historians to be the very first automobile. At the same time, Gottlieb Daimler was working on a four wheeled motor carriage; ultimately, the partnership between Benz and Daimler would become Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes Benz. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen was a long way from today’s Mercedes S Class, however.
Officially unveiled to the public in Mannheim, Germany, on July 3, 1886, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen was powered by a four stroke, 954cc single cylinder engine developed by Benz. The first version featured a carburetor that relied on fuel evaporating from soaked cotton fibers, and was good for just 2/3 of a horsepower. Subsequent versions rapidly grew in both technology and horsepower; model number 2 put out 1.5 horsepower and model number 3 raised the bar to 2 horsepower, giving it a top speed of ten miles per hour. By 1887, Benz had added wooden spoke wheels and a leather shoe brake to the rear wheels.
In August of 1888, Bertha Benz (wife of Carl Benz) committed the first grand theft auto joyride. Borrowing Patent-Motorwagen Number 3 without her husband’s knowledge, Bertha drove with her teenaged sons from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back, a trip of some 121 miles. Along the way, Bertha was forced to make carburetor repairs with a hat pin and electrical repairs with a garter. When the brake shoes wore down, she had a local shoemaker create new leather brake linings, thus inventing a significant part of the modern automobile (replaceable brake pads). The journey drew considerable attention to Benz’s Patent-Motorwagen, and proved that it could become a viable means of long distance transport.
Source: Mercedes Benz