Meet the Adventurous Mother of Motoring | Inspire
Meet the Adventurous Mother of Motoring
MercedesLove
MercedesLove

Meet the Adventurous Mother of Motoring

It took a hatpin, a garter and steely determination. Almost 130 years ago, a visionary wife and mother put an incredible invention – the car – on the road to real success.

Carl Benz may be considered the father of the modern automobile, but it was his stoic and devoted wife Bertha Benz who introduced his invention to the world.

In the early hours of one August morning in 1888, Bertha left a note for her husband on the kitchen table, explaining that she and their teenage sons Eugen and Richard were off to see family members 106 kilometres away. And off they set – in Carl's three-wheeler Model III Patent Motorwagen – after they'd pushed the contraption with its single-cylinder, 1.6-litre engine out of earshot.

Carl and Bertha Benz were considered the power couple of 1800s motoring. Although Carl was a brilliant inventor, the same could not be said of his business acumen. His lack of confidence in his extraordinary piece of machinery prompted Bertha to step in and take the wheel (or rather, the steering rack) to keep him motivated. She single-mindedly set out to prove the potential of the private petroleum-powered motorcar – by taking it on the world's first documented long-distance journey – from Mannheim to Pforzheim in Germany.

It was no simple journey. Following a path of wagon trails, the adventurous party stopped at the local pharmacy to buy the benzine needed to power the engine. Mechanical problems were solved with ingenuity: a hatpin was used to clear a blocked fuel line, and a garter was used to insulate exposed ignition wiring. The two boys pushed the car up inclines when the two-speed transmission was unable to power them up.

As night fell in Pforzheim, Bertha sent a telegram to her husband to confirm their safe arrival. After roughly 15 hours, she had completed what is now recognised as one of the most important car journeys in history. And now, almost 130 years later, it's this independent determination and drive for autonomy that continues to inform the spirit of motoring. Carl Benz later wrote in his memoirs that it was Bertha's courage that enabled him to find new hope – and make a significant contribution to the role of the car in our modern lives.

• Mercedes-Benz was the first motor manufacturer to demonstrate autonomous driving on both interurban and urban routes when it sent its S 500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle along Bertha's historic route in August 2013.

• Feeling inspired? Book a test drive in your dream Mercedes-Benz model today!



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