The automobile was invented in 1886 by Mr. Daimler and Benz. This is the generally accepted version, although similar technology was probably being worked on in many countries. However, the first cars sold only slowly and were an expensive toy for the well-heeled.

In 1894, the pioneering Benz Motor-Velociped with its lightweight construction was a turning point for the automotive industry. "This vehicle was literally snatched out of our hands. What we made of it was sold." This is how automobile inventor Carl Benz remembers it in an interview in 1909. From 1894 to 1902, a total of around 1,200 vehicles of this type family of compact Benz automobiles were produced at the Benz plant in Mannheim.

Gallery: Benz Motor-Velociped (1894)

A huge number by the standards of the time. The model, known as the "Velo" for short, was the first series-produced passenger car in history. Benz & Cie. wrote the following about the drive power of the successful automobile in 1894: "This Velociped has an engine with 1 ½ horsepower."

Two years later, the catalogue stated the maximum speed and driving characteristics: "The Velociped covers around 20 kilometres per hour and climbs gradients of up to 10% on good roads." It cost 2,000 marks "complete with the finest fittings and lanterns", still a generous sum at the time.

Benz Motor-Velociped (1894)
Benz Motor-Velociped (1894)

The pace of innovation was high. From 1896, Benz offered more powerful engines and additional equipment options. The Benz Comfortable appeared as a luxury version of the motorised velociped with a longer body, a third gear available for an extra charge, more elaborate seat upholstery, a child's seat installed against the direction of travel and a starting crank for easier starting. Optional extras include pneumatic tyres for better handling.

The vehicle concept was produced as the Benz Motor-Velociped until 1900 and as the Benz Comfortable until 1902 and was continuously developed further. In particular, the power of the horizontally mounted 1-litre single-cylinder engine with vertical flywheel increased from 1.5 PS) in the first Benz Velo from 1894 to 4.5 PS in the Benz Comfortable from 1902, with an impressive 28.5 percent increase in power from 1901 3.5 PS to 1902 alone.

The model family was also successful in export. This is shown by the trilingual catalogue in German, English and French from 1901. In France, the "Velo" is offered as the "Éclair" ("Lightning"). In 1895, Benz granted a licence to produce the motorised velocipede to the British mechanical engineer Arnold. The "Arnold Motor Carriage" is one of the first British automobiles.