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The Fascinating History of Who Invented the First Ever Car

There is a lot of ambiguity on who invented the first car. Some claim that Flemish missionary Ferdinand Verbiest made a toy car for a Chinese emperor, while others credit Karl Benz for making the first automobile.


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Right from the Ford Model T to Rolls-Royce Phantom to Volkswagen Tiguan, cars have always fascinated us. Developments in technology lead to the production of new models of cars every year. If you were asked, who invented cars, you might promptly reply Ford or Benz. However, the history of automobiles goes back to the eighteenth century.

The invention of the Car

Before we find the precise answer to this query, it should be noted that the term ‘car’ can refer to the modern type of car, variations of which we find today, and also the earlier models like the Stanley Steamer. For the note, the word ‘automobile’ comes from the combination of the French word ‘auto,’ which means self, and the Latin word ‘mobilize,’ which means moving. Let us first discuss the early automobiles in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Early Cars

All the earlier cars were powered by steam and were mostly used as toys. Ferdinand Verbiest invented the first car in the year 1672. It was the first-ever car invented and was powered by steam. Verbiest was an experimentalist and a missionary to China. He built his car in China as a toy for the Chinese Emperor. Hence, you could rightly say the first-ever car was made in China. Later on, in 1769, the first self-propelled car was designed and built by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot. His model of car was a three-wheeler. The replica of this model can be found in the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in Paris. Although the invention was much ahead of time, the model was impractical, and hence, the production was discontinued.

Several models of steam-powered automobiles were made by William Murdoch, Josef Božek, Amédée Bollée, etc., in the years between 1784 to 1873. François Isaac de Rivaz, a Swiss inventor, designed and invented the first-ever car with an internal combustion engine. This car engine was fueled with a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. However, this design was not a success. The car models designed and built by Samuel Brown, Samuel Morey, and Étienne Lenoir didn’t take off either. It was found that the concept of having a steam-powered automobile was inconvenient and impractical. At the same time, the concept of using petrol-powered engines was gaining a lot of prominences. Hence, by the late 19th and early 20th century, steam-powered automobiles were nearly outdated.

Modern Cars

In 1881, Gustave Trouvé designed and invented the first ever car powered by electricity and demonstrated the functioning of this automobile at an International Exhibition of Electricity in Paris. Four years later, in 1885, Karl Benz designed and built a car powered by gasoline. This car was made in Germany. This was the first-ever car to be granted a patent in 1886. The world acknowledged Karl Benz as the “Inventor of the modern automobile.” He also invented the first-ever car with an internal combustion flat engine in 1896.

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Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach created the first four-stroke four-wheeled automobile. George Selden was granted the first-ever patent for manufacturing automobiles. In 1893, brothers Frank and Charles Duryea founded the Duryea Motor Wagon Company in the United States of America. Henry Ford is credited for making cars affordable to the commoner. The rest is history! There have been dramatic changes in mechanical engineering, which have given us personal transportation automobiles in the form of hybrid cars. The modern car has undergone many changes, both functional and cosmetic. These have been due to many different inventors and designers’ relentless efforts for more than a century. Therefore, right from Verbiest to Benz, all are credited for the invention of the four-wheeled luxury, which has become quite necessary over the years.

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Extreme tv nerd. Analyst. Typical web lover. Food guru. Pop culture ninja. Twitter fanatic. Set new standards for licensing accordians with no outside help. Garnered an industry award while writing about country music in Prescott, AZ. Earned praise for creating marketing channels for action figures in Los Angeles, CA. Earned praise for analyzing glucose in Suffolk, NY. Had some great experience developing strategies for Roombas in Ohio. Won several awards for working on dolls in the aftermarket.
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