The One About Bertha Benz Driving Innovation at Benz

Pre-dawn. August 5th 1888 Bertha Benz broke laws, social conventions and marriage vows and changed the automobile industry forever.

3 years before, her husband, Karl Benz invented the first ever gas powered motor vehicle. But it was Bertha who proved the Benz Motorwagen’s potential.

August 5, Bertha and her 2 boys, Eugen and Richard opened the garage doors and took Benz’s newly constructed Patent Motorwagen No. 3 automobile on a 106 km drive from Mannheim to her parent’s home in Pforzheim.

Her major goal was to prove to her perfectionist husband that his machine was ready for the market.

Driving motor powered vehicles in Germany on roads was illegal. The only roads were wagon trails.

Her drive led to hugely impactful innovations; roadside refueling, non-metal (leather) brake lining, and a third gear, for steep inclines.

On the trip, she solved mechanical problems. She cleaned a blocked fuel line with her hat pin and used her garter to insulate a wire. She had to have a loose chain mended and top up on coolant water regularly.

Benz reached Pforzheim somewhat after dusk, notifying Karl of her achievement by telegram.

Today, the event is celebrated every two years in Germany with The Bertha Benz antique automobile rally which follows the Bertha Benz Memorial Route

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