Bertha Benz, the First Person to Drive a Car


Bertha Benz

The first person to drive a car and undertake the first road trip


1       Bertha Ringer Benz was the wife of Karl Benz.

2       Karl invented a single cylinder horseless carriage.

3       His first patent was registered in 1886 but it didn’t sell.

4       His wife Bertha was involved in helping him with this inventions

5       They were trialled for short distances with the help of assistants.

6       At 5am on 8th August 1888 from their home in Mannheim, Bertha and her sons Richard (14) and Eugene (15) took the car for a ride without telling her husband. She left him a note while he was sleeping.

7       Bertha went to visit her mother 104 kilometres away in Pforzheim.

8       They stopped at Wieslock to buy fuel from a Dispensing Chemist. She bought all the Ligroin (cleaning fluid) they had in the shop. There was no fuel tank, just a 4.5 litre bowl over the carburettor. Bertha went from chemist to chemist and bought all their stock.

9       Bertha used one of her garters to wrap and insulate a worn electrical wire.

10     When they had trouble getting up hills they enlisted the help of shepherds.

11     They had to make regular stops to allow the single cylinder motor to cool down and to get more water. There was no radiator.

12     Bertha cleared a blocked fuel line with her hat pin.

13     When they arrived at Pforzheim she sent Karl a telegram to say they were at her mother’s place. He asked for the chain to be sent back so he could use it for the 3rd car.

14     The brakes were a problem on the steep hills. Bertha visited a cobbler in Bauschlott to have them lined with leather.

15     Oil had to be poured over the motor at intervals as there was no sump to hold the liquid. A blacksmith in Bruchsal helped mend a chain.

16     3 days later Bertha drove 97 kilometres home on a less hilly route.

17     Many people saw the ‘horseless carriage’. It was popular with the public. The exercise in marketing was also Bertha’s reason for taking the ‘carriage’ out to be seen.

18     After this momentous trip Bertha suggested adding a low gear to allow the car to go up hills. Which he did.

19     Karl Benz was invited to show his patented Benz Patented-Wagen No 37435 in Munich where it was so popular it sold for 3000 Marks in 1888.



Thank you Bertha, Judy Bourke 2019

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