He was born November 25, 1844 in Germany with the last name of Vaillant.
His father was a locomotive driver and married his mother a few months after his birth.
His father was killed in a railway accident when he was two years old, and his mother changed his last name in remembrance of the father he would never know.
Despite living in near poverty, his mother strove to give him a good education.
He attended the local Grammar School in Karlsruhe and developed into a prodigious student.
In 1853, at the age of nine he started attending the scientifically oriented Lyceum. Next he studied at the Poly-Technical University under the instruction of Ferdinand Redtenbacher.
He had originally focused his studies on becoming a locksmith, but eventually followed in his father’s footsteps toward locomotive engineering.
On September 30, 1860, at age fifteen, he passed the entrance exam for mechanical engineering at the University of Karlsruhe, from which he subsequently graduated July 9, 1864 at the age of nineteen.
During these years, while riding his bicycle, he started to envision concepts for a vehicle that would eventually become the horseless carriage.
Following his formal education, he had seven years of professional training with several companies, but did not fit well in any of them.
In 1871, at the age of twenty-seven, he joined August Ritter in launching the Iron Foundry and Mechanical Workshop in Mannheim, later renamed the Factory of Machines for Sheet-metal Working.
The enterprise’s first year went very badly. Ritter turned out to be unreliable, and the business’s tools were impounded. The difficulty was overcome when his fiancée, Bertha Ringer, bought out Ritter’s share in the company using her dowry. They were married on July 20, 1872.
Despite many business misfortunes, he led the development of new engines in the factory he and his wife owned.
To get more revenues, in 1878 he began to work on new patents.
First, he concentrated all his efforts on creating a reliable petrol two-stroke engine.
He applied for the patent for his two-stroke gasoline engine on December 31, 1878, New Year’s Eve, and was granted a patent for it early in 1879.
Karl Friedrich Benz showed his real genius, however, through his successive inventions registered while designing what would become the production standard for his two-stroke engine.
Benz soon patented his speed regulation system, the ignition using white power sparks with a battery, a spark plug, a carburetor, a clutch, a gear shift, and a water radiator.
Problems arose again when his bank demanded that Bertha and Karl Benz’s enterprise be incorporated due to the high production costs it maintained.
The Benzes were forced to improvise an association with photographer Emil Bühler and his brother (a cheese merchant), in order to get additional bank support.
The company became a joint-stock company Gasmotoren Fabrik Mannheim in 1882.
After all the necessary incorporation agreements, Benz was unhappy because he was left with merely five percent of the shares and a modest position as director.
Worst of all, his ideas weren’t considered when designing new products, so he withdrew from that corporation just one year later.
Benz’s lifelong hobby had brought him to a bicycle repair shop in Mannheim owned by Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Eßlinger.
In 1883, the three founded a new company producing industrial machines: Benz & Company Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik, usually referred to as, Benz & Cie.
This new company quickly grew to twenty-five employees, and began to produce static gas engines.
The success of the company gave Benz the opportunity to indulge in his old passion of designing a horseless carriage.
Based on his experience with, and fondness for, bicycles, he used similar technology when he created his first automobile.
His new vehicle featured wire wheels (unlike carriages’ wooden ones) with a four-stroke engine of his own design between the rear wheels, and a very advanced coil ignition with an evaporative cooling system rather than a radiator.
He designed the power to be transmitted by means of two roller chains to the rear axle.
Karl Benz finished his creation in 1885 and named it the Benz Patent Motorwagen.
1885 Benz Patent Motorwagen
It was the first automobile entirely designed as such to generate its own power, not simply a motorized-stage coach or horse carriage, which is why Karl Benz was granted his patent and is regarded as its inventor.
The Motorwagen was patented on January 29, 1886 as DRP-37435: “automobile fueled by gas”.
The 1885 version was difficult to control, leading to a collision with a wall during a public demonstration. The first successful tests on public roads were carried out in the early summer of 1886. The next year Benz created the Motorwagen Model 2, which had several modifications, and in 1887, the definitive Model 3 with wooden wheels was introduced at the Paris Expo.
Benz began to sell his vehicle (advertising it as the Benz Patent Motorwagen) in the late summer of 1888, making it the first commercially available automobile in history. The second customer of the Motorwagen was a Parisian bicycle manufacturer Emile Roger who had already been building Benz engines under license from Karl Benz for several years. Roger added the Benz automobiles (many built in France) to the line he carried in Paris and initially most Benz vehicles were sold by Roger.
No Gas – No Gears
An important part in the Benz story is his wife’s first long distance automobile trip, where Bertha Benz supposedly left without the knowledge of her husband, on the morning of August 5, 1888. She took the vehicle (see photo above)on a 106 km (66 mile) trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim to visit her mother, taking their sons Eugen and Richard with her.
Early customers could only buy gasoline from pharmacies that sold small quantities as a cleaning product. In addition to having to locate pharmacies on the way to fuel up, she repaired various technical and mechanical problems herself.
Bertha soon realized this early 1888 version of the Benz Motorwagen had no gears and could not climb hills unaided.
After some longer downhill slopes she ordered a shoemaker to nail leather on the brake blocks, thus inventing the brake lining.
Bertha Benz and her sons finally arrived at nightfall, announcing the achievement to Karl by telegram.
It had been her intention to demonstrate the feasibility of using the Benz Motorwagen for travel and to generate publicity in the manner now referred to as live marketing. Today the event is celebrated every two years in Germany with an antique automobile rally.
In 2008 Bertha Benz Memorial Route was officially approved as a route of the industrial heritage of mankind, because it follows Bertha Benz’s tracks of the world’s first long-distance journey by automobile in 1888.
Bertha suggested the addition of another gear and explained her new brake lining. Karl incorporated these improvements in his new Benz Model 3.
The Benz Model 3 made its wide-scale debut at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.
Karl built about twenty-five Benz Motorwagens between 1886 and 1893.
First Auto Race
1894 Benz Velo
His Benz Velo model participated in the world’s first automobile race in 1894, racing from Paris to Rouen, where Émile Roger finished 14th, after covering the 127 km (79 mi) in 10 hours 01 minute at an average speed of 12.7 km/h (7.9 mph).
In 1895, Benz designed the first truck in history, with some of the units later modified by the first motor bus company: the Netphener, becoming the first motor buses in history.
During the last years of the nineteenth century, Benz was the largest automobile company in the world with 572 units produced in 1899.
In 1912, Karl Benz liquidated all of his shares and left the family-held company in Ladenburg to his sons Eugen and Richard.
During a birthday celebration for him in his home town of Karlsruhe on November 25, 1914, the seventy-year-old Karl Benz was awarded an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, the Karlsruhe University, thereby becoming — Dr. Karl Benz.
1923, was the last production year of the Benz Sons company, with three hundred and fifty units built.
During the following year, Karl Benz built two additional 8/25 hp units of the automobile manufactured by this company, tailored for his personal use, which he never sold; they are still preserved.
On June 28, 1926, a merger created the Daimler-Benz company, baptizing all of its automobiles, Mercedes Benz, honoring the most important model of the DMG automobiles, the 1902 Mercedes 35 hp, along with the Benz name.
Karl Benz became a member of the new Daimler Benz board of management for the remainder of his life.
They created a new logo, consisting of a three pointed star (representing Daimler’s motto: “engines for land, air, and water”) surrounded by traditional laurels from the Benz logo, and the brand of all of its automobiles became labeled Mercedes Benz.
On April 4, 1929, Karl Benz died at his home in Ladenburg at the age of eighty-four from a bronchial inflammation.
Now We know em