From the beginning of the 19th century till 1815 continental Europe was kept under Napoleon`s thumb. Like before,Germany is split into many different states with up to 38 customs barriers. The power that will unify it in the end is still having hard times. From 1835 on the railway plays an important role in unification. Suppliers develop everywhere, mechanical engineering starts to bloom. Adding to it are unification attempts under as far as possible democratic conditions (Frankfurt Paul's church in 1848). There is no respective success for the moment, but the customs barriers fall bit by bit...
The locomotive factory as practical experience for future automotive inventors
Karl Benz was born in 1844 in Karlsruhe. For generations, his ancestors were blacksmiths, also his uncle and his father. The latter, in contrast to his brother, leaves the village. He is drawn to the world, to take advantage of - for example - the future prospects of a new railway. He ends up as a train driver, in a locomotive that is at that time still relatively unprotected against weather conditions. This fact will be his doom. After strenuous and unsparing cleaning up works after an accident, he has to endure the weather during the onward journey, not protected by additional clothing.
This leads to his death from pneumonia and Karl Benz becomes a half-orphan at the tender age of two years. So the mother remains responsible for the upbringing of the boy to his full age and he often emphasized how much she suffered because of this task. Her husband has left her with a small pension and some additional money. Amazing, how pronounced the father lives on in the young boy, even though he had to leave him at the age of two years. The railway seems to be the fascination, the passion, passed on from the father to the son. Or we can say with regard to his future success story - the horseless drive.
The mother has very different, more solid plans for him so she sets the wheels in motion to send the boy to secondary school. She could not know at that time that this path is also good for inventing. In other respects, mother and son spend their (probably inexpensive) holidays in the seclusion of the Black Forest at the family of the father.
No, one does not learn much about locomotives at the secondary school at that time. Latin and the humanistic ideal of education are much more called for. Unlike other inventors of automotive engineering, Karl is a rather good student, albeit more so in mathematics, physics and chemistry rather than in Latin. These sciences inspire him so much that he carries out experiments in his own small laboratory, financed labouriously by the mother who still wants him to become a well-off official.
The wide spectrum of skills of the young Benz is astonishing. He bustles about not only in physics and chemistry, he also makes some money with photography, which is still at the very beginning of development at that time. By the way, he shares the patience needed for repairing watches with another pioneer of automotive engineering, Henry Ford. Obviously in those days, it is practice and a certain accuracy - instead of books - that are the key to success as an inventor.
The plans of the mother must eventually give way to those of the son, and since at that time the secondary school begins at the age of nine, he begins his education at a polytechnic at the age of seventeen. It seems that the young Karl Benz is exactly in the right place here. The Polytechnic in Karlsruhe is one of the first technical universities in Germany. It is modelled on the engineer education system in Paris. In the mechanical engineering area, it is attempted to think outside the box of the steam engine, but the only results as for now are the theoretical product specifications of the new generation of drives.
Benz's study at the Polytechnic (college) school along with his internship is highly praised. There, he experiences one stirring teacher, but also the next generation of dazzling theorists who believe it is no longer necessary to present students with clearness by using elaborate visual illustration. Even as an intern, he is very satisfied with this learning period, and maybe even more so, because the approach during the internship is much more practical and much less theoretical.
After so much training, Benz decides to start a normal everyday life of a blue collar worker in a locomotive factory, 11 hours a day plus 1 hour lunch break. He describes the work there as very hard and not only strenuous for the body but also for the eyes, because of the dim light. An additional reason for taking this job is probably easing the financial burden of his mother. After all, so far he has almost only generated cost for her, and that even much longer than most of his peers.
Despite the hard work, he takes the time to actually work on his dreams. And perhaps the first ideas and drawings for the later tricycle arise during this time. After two and a half years, he moves to Mannheim to get a job that is more appropriate for an engineer. Had he stayed only three years longer, the paths of Benz and Daimler would have possibly crossed here. In reallity they never met.
Apprenticeship and journeyman years between Mannheim and Pforzheim.
So now, Karl Benz moves to Mannheim, to the company Schweizer, which, among other things, also produces wagon weighing scales. After six months, they let him become the technical draughtsman. After another six months, he has to move to Pforzheim, but he is slowly moving up the ladder and getting more managerial duties. And he always keeps in mind the idea of ??the horseless carriage. In this respect, he differs significantly from Daimler, who is more interested in an easy drive at itself. Interesting is also the intermediate solution by Benz in the form of a bicycle, which in turn takes us to the future career of the Opel brothers.
The bicycle of Benz is from the early days and much bulkier and heavier. Nevertheless, he manages to ride it from Mannheim to Pforzheim, which will be later repeated by his wife for the first time with the legendary tricycle. By the way, Benz also makes this journey, as he applies for a position at his next employer at the brothers Benckiser. Here, he meets the already mentioned Berta, at the time with her maiden name Ringer.
The first company established by inventors usually fails.
He will need this woman it in this increasingly volatile life that, after the hardships and despondencies of the beginnings, still holds in store for him some knock-downs for the later business life. Benz dares to open his own company, using his private savings, in 1871 in Mannheim. The wedding follows in 1872. The starting point for future production is the Lenoir engine, which, however, as Benz believes, can accomplish only 10 minutes of flawless engine run.
The four-stroke engine by Otto is protected by a patent valid still for a long time. That leaves only the development of two-stroke engines, but it seems to slowly consume all resources. They operate on the principle of Lenoir and Otto's two-stroke engines without compression. Maybe hence the difficulty to elicit a regular running of the engine from the former one.
Legendary is the story of the end of the year 1878, when after many attempts and nearly no means left, the motor starts continuous movement with constant ignition just on New Year's Eve, and is after more than one hour accompanied by church bells. The engine is only a source of income on the way to the horseless vehicle. With this construction, it is still to weak to drive it.
Two-stroke engine as the first successful product
But as stationary motor, it makes career, originally with one, later with more horsepower. The company is growing quickly, perhaps too quickly. Because that is precisely the problem. Capital is necessary, banks and other lenders are decision makers and their decisions have usually nothing to do with expertise but rather with profit. The company of Benz is forced to become the Mannheimer Gasmotorenfabrik (Mannheim Gas Engine Works), a joint-stock company with a growing number of employees.
Karl Benz is not able to convince the decision making majority of the need for further development. Apparently no one wants to put money into the utopia of the horseless carriage. An thus, the first independent venture ends in fiasco. The couple can be happy to save at least the buildings. Thanks to the participation of a friend businessman, the second founding of a company can be accomplished, the Benz & Co. Rheinische Gasmotorenfabrik Mannheim.
They make a deal with this friend that only after the successful start of production of stationary engines they will begin the development of a motor vehicle. And so the inventor gets down to work and designs a two-stroke engine that will be the most frugal ever and even bestowed upon with awards. Yet, frugal does not mean suitable as a vehicle drive. So it takes time for this engine to bring enough profit so that the chief engineer can devote himself to his real subject of interest.
Several workshops get separated in order to maintain secrecy and there, the final plans are implemented into practice now. But it is more complicated that you can imagine. Today, when a new car is constructed, only parts of it are really new and much is subcontracted. Benz has neither a model nor subcontractors. He must make even the ignition by himself, for example he must roll up the lacquered wire for inductor coils with the help of his wife.
Gradually, the single-cylinder engine gets an already electric ignition, a carburettor, and even the much-needed cooling, even if it is not yet the water-saving circulation system. When the four-stroke engine finally runs, Benz must attend to the power transmission as well as take care of the wheels unequally quickly rotating when turning. But there is still one thing he has not accomplished in his firstling: the two steering wheels on the front axle.
Now, we must not think that the first maiden voyage was long and successful. It was limited to the yard area and after that, 100 meters down the road was already a lot. Often Benz and his wife must push the vehicle back home, because once again a part has failed. Only gradually one can dare to go slightly longer routes.
There is also a certain shyness about driving in public. Sure, at first you might be envied of sitting behind the wheel. But if something breaks a small crowd quickly gathers and they do not keep their comments for themselves. Thus, the inventor has not only a technical but also a human problem. No one can help him, but many talk about it.
No, no one except the Benz couple truly believes that there could be a good use for a motorised vehicle. The imagination of people is stuck at horse and carriage. Moreover, the defects seem to prove that it does not really work. But Benz keeps trying and in early 1886 it is time for the patent registration.
However the problem of sceptical people should not be underestimated. You still must find a few potential buyers among them, otherwise the invention will die faster than it came to life. Benz changes his strategy, he now test drives only during the day and no longer in the twilight or darkness. And also he drives in the city so the new car can be noticed.
At least the reports in newspapers are quite positive. Benz benefits from the fact that he already operates a successful factory with stationary engines, which means he is not just some weirdo. Then the authorities step in, demanding speed limitation in the city to 6 km/h, although the car can go faster. Using trickery, Benz overcomes also this obstacle and gets the first certificate interpretable as a driving license.
In the first half of the year, several new three-wheelers are added to the first one. One of them is used for this legendary voyage of the mother Benz with their two sons. Finally we learn the story from the viewpoint of the father. He was led around by the nose. It was early in the morning while he was still asleep when the vehicle was rolled out from the yard. Eugen is sitting next to his mother, Richard on the backward-facing seat. As long as the area is flat, all goes well. The vehicle is fuelled by 10 litres of ligroin bought in a pharmacy in Wiesloch.
The leather cover on the block brake must be replaced frequently. The fuel inflow is actually repaired with Mother's hat pin. Drive chains lengthen and require readjustment. After all, the route is more than 100 km long, the vehicle has never been nearly as far away from home. Accordingly, the amazement of the people, especially in the countryside. Is the car now regarded as not so much the devil's handiwork because it is driven by two boys and their mother?
The mountains on the way to Pforzheim can not be avoided. The smaller brother steers the vehicle that is pushed by hand. Without light and in complete darkness they eventually reach the destination only to be gazed at in amazement again. The three must have looked not exactly fresh as a daisy, and must have fallen relatively quickly into a well-deserved sleep. The vehicle has certainly proved its "long-distance" capability.
That was probably the reason, why the three have done it. They wanted to show the world the benefits of such a vehicle. With the famousness that this tour has to date, this goal seems to be achieved. And the vehicle, although with a completely new chain, made it home under its own power. The father Benz has now a new task: to make the vehicle suitable for mountainous terrain by adding a cross-country reduction gear. 10/12