Karl Benz

Inducted 1984

Invented and patented the world’s first gasoline-powered automobile in 1886

Received a Gold Medal at the 1888 Munich Engineering Exposition for his car, the Patent Motorwagen

Founded Benz & Cie., which became the world’s largest manufacturer of automobiles in 1900

Karl Benz is widely recognized as the inventor of the gasoline-powered automobile. In 1871, after graduating from a German technical college and working in machine shops, Benz established a machine tool manufacturing company with partner, August Ritter. When Ritter wanted out of their agreement, Benz’s future wife, Bertha, used her dowry to save the company. She was to remain his strongest supporter during 16 years of financial hardship while Benz dedicated himself to the creation of a dependable vehicle. Inspired by Nikolaus Otto’s engine innovations, Benz developed a commercially successful 2-stroke engine. He then designed a three-wheeled vehicle and a 4-stroke engine to power it. Benz patented his car in 1886, but was determined to perfect its design before beginning production. Convinced by Bertha that his car was ready (after making a test drive herself), Benz entered it in the Munich Engineering Exposition in 1888 and received the highest honor. Taking his newly acclaimed vehicle to the streets of Munich, Benz offered test rides and attrached crowds who followed him in breathless awe. One newspaper reported, “Seldom, if ever, have passers-by in the streets of our city seen a more startling sight.”

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Class of 1984

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