19 March 1999
1886 BENZ HP TWO SEATER TRICYCLE REPLICA
Green frame, natural wood finish and black upholstery
Engine: single horizontal cylinder, four stroke, 970cc giving hp; Transmission: belt primary drive and chain final drive; Suspension; rear leaf springs; Brake: transmission only. Center tiller steering.
While many historians have argued about the maker of the first motor car driven by an internal combustion engine, there is no dispute that the creator of the first truly successful car which led to the first practical car production in the world was Karl Benz. As early as 1880, he made a working two-stroke engine and a few years later he set up a new company with friends called Benz und Cie: Rheinische Gasmotorenfabrik at Mannheim. By 1885 he had produced a single cylinder four stroke gas engine and fitted one of these to a tubular framed three wheeled carriage that he designed specifically for his engine, rather than trying to motorize existing vehicles, as several other pioneers such as Gottleib Daimler were attempting.
The exact date this vehicle took to the road is unknown, but it is certainly known to have been tested in trials during 1885. While this first vehicle was somewhat primitive in design, it did incorporate many advanced features that were ahead of their time and were not utilized by many car makers for years to come. Many of these innovative features are, in fact, still used today in car manufacturing. These features included electric ignition, a mechanically operated inlet valve and a differential gear. The first car was a three wheeler with two driven rear wheels. The engine was a horizontal single cylinder with a vertical crankshaft, which had a large horizontal flywheel. The engine developed hp and a speed of 8mph is recorded for one of the very first trial runs. Karl Benz took out a patent for his car on January 30, 1886. By the spring of that year, the Benz had ventured onto the streets of Mannheim as recorded in the local paper. During 1886 and 1887 Benz spent a great deal of his time developing and improving his design. His first real sale occurred in 1887 when he sold a tricycle to Emile Roger, a Parisian bicycle-maker who already sold Benz stationary engines. By 1888 the car was well proven and indeed in this year the car was awarded the Gold Medal at the Munich International Exhibition, to which Benz had driven his tricycle the 200 miles to attend. Shortly before the trip to Munich, Benz's wife drove the car on a 102 mile round trip between Mannheim and Prforzheim accompanied by her two teenage sons. The first car still exists and was given by Benz to the Deutsches Museum in Munich.
A few replicas of this highly significant car have been built. Many of the early ones were made rather crudely and are now in different museums. This example is a full scale working replica of recent manufacture produced by the prominent UK firm, John Bentley Engineering, and is considered to be an extremely authentic replica of the first working designs of Benz. These superb Bentley replicas were made between 1986 and 1997. As a testament to their acceptance in the car world, the last batch produced was acquired by Mercedes-Benz of Stuttgart. No serious museum or collection should be without one of these 1886 Benz replicas to demonstrate and display the true dawn of motoring production. Bill Lassiter acquired this pristine example directly from the manufacturer in October 1988 and it has been on display in the collection ever since. It is in full running order.
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