Bertha Benz Makes The World’s First Car Journey

There are a number of visionary pioneers in the automotive industry, and Bertha Benz is one of the most fascinating of them. The wife of Karl Benz, Bertha Benz was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2016 – making her and Karl the first husband and wife team to earn a place on this illustrious list.

We have much to thank her for, as the passion for Mercedes-Benz sports cars has extended into the current age and brought a great love for not only the vehicles, but car calendars which feature images of these machines.

Bertha Benz was an incredible woman whose passion for progress and confidence in her husband shaped the automotive industry. Not only did her money fund the ‘horseless carriage’ invented by Karl Benz, she also contributed to the success of his Patent Motorwagen (motor car) through astonishing technical and marketing initiatives.

Born in Germany in 1849, Bertha Ringer came from a wealthy family. At the age of 21 she invested some of her dowry in a business owned by Karl Benz, who she married two years later, in July 1972. She was not only financially influential and astute; she was also a ‘hands-on’ half of this brilliant partnership with technical ability and a familiarity with her husband’s work. Bertha’s belief in her husband’s invention of the Motorwagen was strong, and her determination to silence the doubters was even stronger. Karl Benz was an incredible engineer but he was not the one to bring the spotlight to his game-changing design – that was Bertha, thanks to an audacious journey.

One morning in August 1888, at their home in Mannheim, Bertha decided it was time to put Karl’s automotive invention to the test and bring it to public attention, under the guise of taking her two oldest children to see her mother. Bertha woke her teenage sons quietly, left a note for her husband informing him of her plan, and set off to her destination, some 60 miles away. With this trip, Bertha Benz embarked on the first ever long-distance automobile journey.

The world is now an infrastructure built for a society that travels by car.
None of the assistance that we take for granted was available to Bertha. There were no road signs, so she had to figure out her route along wagon tracks as best she could and steer the ‘horseless carriage’ in the direction she believed would take her to her mother. The fuel was ligroin and needed be purchased en-route from chemists. Bertha stopped at a pharmacy in Wiesloch for this, making the shop the world’s first fuel station.

There were also some mechanical problems, which were challenges Bertha overcame with ingenuity and determination during her test drive from Mannheim to Pforzhiem and back. She cleared a blocked fuel line with her hat pin, and solved an insulation issue by using her garter. If she couldn’t fix the problem herself, she found a solution and engaged an expert to carry out the necessary work. A blacksmith was persuaded to mend the drive chain on the automobile and a cobbler lined failing brakes with leather to fix that problem (thus inventing brake pads). From pushing the car up inclines with her two teenage boys, Bertha also recognised that hilly terrain caused power issues and so she and Karl implemented a gear system on her return.
Once Bertha arrived at her mother’s, she sent a telegram to Karl to inform him of her success, having completed the first long-distance automotive journey and unlocked the potential of Benz’s Motorwagen, and a new dawn of travel began.

Enjoy images of supercars and dream machines found within the pages of our car calendars. From timeless classics to modern speed mobiles, there is something for everyone including both vintage and cutting edge Mercedes, as well as other brand leaders such as Porche, Aston Martin and Lamborghini to motivate and inspire the dream to drive.

This black Mercedes-Benz 190SL from 1957 is pictured in November 2023 of the Classic Marques Past and Present Calendar and is complemented by the Mercedes AMG GT-C Roadster for current day fanatics looking for a true supercar.

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