Two stubborn minds develop the automobile separately, 60 km apart

Karl Benz (Karlsruhe, November 25, 1844 – Ladenburg, April 4, 1929)
Gottlieb Daimler (Schorndorf, March 17, 1834 – Cannstatt, March 6, 1900)

The modern car has two inventors: Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler. Benz came from Baden in Germany and Daimler from neighboring Swabia. From 1880 they both knew exactly which way to go. They lived forty miles apart and refused to visit each other.

They were two hardheads who didn't want to know about each other, they invented the car twice.

Daimler built the first motorcycle in history in 1885, with two wheels and one engine. Benz patented a three-wheel railcar on January 26, 1886, Daimler followed in September of the same year with a four-wheeler. Autohistorians later agreed that the car was born in 1886, and that paternity should be equated to Benz and Daimler.
Daimler was the older of the two. His father was a baker who thought his son should become a gunsmith.

He studied at a higher technical school, visited factories in France and England and was director of an engine factory in Cologne for several years before he started working on his own. Benz's father was one of Germany's first train drivers.

He died very young from pneumonia. Karl Benz founded an iron foundry after his studies and developed a two-stroke gas engine for stationary use.

At first glance, the two inventors showed great differences: Daimler was a man of the world, he had traveled a lot and he had earned money. Benz would never leave his native region and lived most of his life in poverty.

Daimler loved speed races; at Benz they only aroused annoyance. A car was not for racing. Daimler was very quick-tempered, a real hothead. Benz was calmer, he just wanted to build cars.

Daimler wanted more, for him everything had to move: wheels, ships, carriages, balloons, he saw it all much more broadly.

But they also looked alike. They both had boundless ambition, were very purposeful, worked hard and had enormous perseverance. Their life course is an eternal struggle for success. They were just possessed.

When the mother of a technically gifted boy once approached Daimler to ask if he would teach her son how to invent, he replied: 'Then the boy just has to act like me.

I've been up at 5 a.m. every day my whole life and worked until 8 p.m., with a half-hour lunch break.'
Neither of them was struck by a stroke of genius. They worked in very small steps with always new attempts and small improvements. They both liked to get their hands dirty and were always willing to lend a hand in their factories.

If they were angry with their workers, and they often were, the only difference was that Daimler began to roar like mad, while Benz quietly took a hammer and smashed the faulty part in front of the worker.

Both of them also had a support and rock they could count on throughout their lives. For Daimler it was Wilhelm Maybach, a handsome engineer and inventor who continued to work in Daimler's shadow for thirty years. For Benz, this was his wife, Berta Ringer. Berta knew everything about engines and she could also repair them on trial runs. When the fuel supply clogged, she used her hat needle; and when an ignition cable was worn through, she found that it could be easily insulated with her garter.

It was also Berta Benz who, one fine morning in July 1888, without her husband's knowledge, made the long journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim, a hundred and thirty kilometers away, with her fifteen and thirteen-year-old sons on such a three-wheeled motor car. The first long-distance ride in history.

It took her all day. Along the way a blacksmith was involved to repair the drive belt, a shoemaker had to put new leather on the brake pads and two farmers had to give a push on a steep slope.

Along the way, she also called on a pharmacist, the only man in the area who had a small amount of gasoline. It was Berta Benz who was the first to show the world that her husband's invention was more than a bizarre toy.

Or as Karl Benz said: 'I would never have dared.' Brave Berta outlived all the auto pioneers. She died only in 1944, aged 95.


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