As a young designer Carl Benz went through years of mixed fortune. He established his first company with the talented mechanical engineer August Ritter in Mannheim in 1871. The workshop had the typical Mannheim address T 6, 11. But Ritter proved to be a less than reliable partner, and only with financial assistance from his fiancée, Bertha Ringer, did Benz manage to extricate himself from the problem: she used her dowry to buy Ritter out. In 1872 Bertha Ringer and Carl Benz married. His wife was to play a decisive role in the future success of the fledgling company. Not only did she promote his work, she also undertook the world’s first long-distance journey by automobile.
To begin with Carl Benz’s business did not go well. His “Iron Foundry and Mechanical Workshop”, which he later also referred to as a “Factory for Steel Processing Machinery”, was subject to the confiscation of tools. During this time Benz worked intensively on the two-stroke engine in order to set up a new livelihood. After a two-year period of development, he finally got his first stationary engine running to his satisfaction on New Year’s Eve 1879. This was designed in line with the two-stroke principle, since a German Patent had been awarded to the Gasmotorenfabrik Deutz in 1877 for Nikolaus August Otto’s work on the four-stroke engine. Benz was awarded several basic patents as a result of perfecting his two-stroke engine, which he developed to production standard. These included his engine speed regulator and new battery ignition system – a technical advance over Daimler.
Benz’s first engine was still too heavy to be mounted in a road-going vehicle, which was the designer’s ultimate objective. Nevertheless, the engine helped establish the necessary prerequisites. For soon enough his stationary two-stroke engines were considered to be fully developed and found ready buyers, bringing in the revenues necessary for further technological development. In 1880 Benz was granted a patent for a gravity-feed oil device to improve lubrication. In 1883 he developed a gas throttle control, which remains the basis behind modern engine output control. From spring 1884 Benz began equipping his engines with an electric high-voltage ignition.
After a few intermediate steps – as well as setbacks – Benz set up the company
Benz & Co. Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik with two technologically minded businessmen, Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Esslinger on 1 October 1883. Now financially secure, he was at last able to devote himself to developing his car engine and set about designing a complete vehicle equipped with his four-stroke petrol engine. In the autumn of 1885 Benz undertook preliminary test drives. On 29 January 1886 he was awarded German Patent No. 37435 for his three-wheeled Patent Motor Car. This document has become widely recognised as the birth certificate of the automobile.
The Patent Motor Car was equipped with a horizontal single-cylinder four-stroke engine, which developed an output of 0.55 kW at 400 rpm from a displacement of
954 cubic centimetres. The vehicle’s top speed was 16 km/h. The Patent Motor Car followed a holistic approach, in as far as engine, chassis and drive were precisely tuned to one another and formed a single entity. In this, Benz was far ahead of his competitors, who were still incorporating their engines into converted carriage-type vehicles.