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