We’re starting our new article series about land speed records and other car-related facts across the history with the beginning, obviously.
Everybody knows that the first car was invented and patented by Karl Benz who was, obviously, German. This happened in 1879. But did you know that the first self propelled mechanical vehicle was invented by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in 1769, 100 years before the German engineer?
Karl Benz’s car was a two stroke one cylinder gas engine and was an immediate success, allowing him to upgrade the invention. By 1885, he made a two seater, three wheeled car powered by a high-speed single-cylinder four-stroke gas engine. The car had a whopping 0.75 horsepower @ 250 rpm. In present days, a modern car engine has an idle rpm of about 700 rpm.
After this huge success, it was Benz’s wife, Bertha, who made the first long-distance journey in the automotive history in 1888. She completed a journey of 180 kilometers and was accompanied by her two teenage sons. It was Bertha who actually proved the world the car’s potential, in a world in which the large-scale mean of human terrestrial transportation was the horse. This proves that it’s in a woman’s DNA to drive.
Even if we don’t imagine a world without cars, humans have known the car only in the last 140 years. To put this into perspective, the oldest human remains ever found are dated to be 3.2 million years old.
Karl Benz’s 0.75 horsepower or 550 W car was an immense engineering feet. Today, the lowest powered vacuum cleaner has 850 W.
Have you ever wondered why a car engine’s power is measured most commonly in horsepower? First of all, the horse was the most important way of traveling and laboring. The term was adopted by Scottish engineer James Watt, who also standardized the term Watt. In the international measuring system, the Watt is actually the measuring unit of power, not the horsepower.
James Watt stated that the power a horse needs to lift 1meter a weight of 75kg in 1 second is equal to 1 horsepower, or roughly 745.7 watts. The weight of 75kg was considered the average body weight back then. That’s why it’s not called donkeypower or bearpower.
The fastest horse in the world, certified by Guiness World Records reached a whopping 70.76 kmph. If you’re reading this in USA, 70.76kmph is equal to 70.76/1,6 mph. Karl Benz’s car reached a top speed of roughly 16 kmph.
The first city to city automotive race was held in 1878 between Green Bay, Wisconsin and Madison. Seven steam-engined car designs entered the race and the fastest one finished the 320 km course in 33 hours and 27 minutes. The average speed of the car was 10 km/h. The average human walking speed is around 5km/h.
Although the modern car is based on Karl Benz’s internal combustion engine car, until World War 1, the king of the road was the steam-engined car.
We’ll see in the next article what the 20th century meant for the car world.