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Horseless Carriages;
The first ever motor car

In 1770 Nicolas Cugnot, a French inventor built a steam tractor. It was the world’s first powered vehicle, but it was incredibly slow. Although other steam cars were built, it was soon clear by all that steam transport wasn’t suitable for road transport.

In 1860 the problems of building a reliable and road-worthy car were solved. In 1886 Gottlieb Daimler from Germany made the first car fitted with a petrol engine and gave birth to the age of the motor car.

Gottlieb Daimler was a German engineer born in 1834 in Schorndorf. After training as a gunsmith he became an engineer. He worked in Britain, France and Belgium before being appointed technical director to the gas-engine company that Nikolaus Otto founded in Deutz.

Daimler now worked with Otto and another young engineer, Wilhelm Maybach, in an attempt to build the internal combustion engine for road vechiles. After a dispute with Otto in 1882, Daimler and Maybach set up their own company.

The two engineers concentrated their efforts upon producing a lightweight and efficient engine to run on gasoline. They eventually came up with an engine with a surface carburettor that vaporised the petrol and mixed it with air.

In 1889 Daimler and Maybach placed their engine into a horse carriage and drove the car at speeds of 12 miles per hour. They had therefore produced the first four-wheeled automobile. After the men had designed a gearbox and a belt-driven mechanism to steer the wheels, they decided to sell the cars.

In 1890 The Daimler Motor Company was launched. The cars soon developed a reputation for reliability. In the first road race in 1894 only 15 of the 102 cars completed the course; all were Daimler cars.

By 1893 motor cars such as the Benz Velo were built and were sold to motorists around Europe. In 1896 Henry Ford built his first car and this began the use of the production line, a system used to make cars efficiently and cheaply.

Despite Gottlieb Daimler’s death in 1900 Wilhelm continued to work on cars and later developed the Mercedes.