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Cruisin': Where did it all start?
In Dec. 18 Issue
Russell County News
By Ron Cowell, Columnist

Last week we talked about the driverless car of the future but when did the first automobile come into existence? Who invented the first automobile? I decided to do a little research on those very questions and was really amazed and what I discovered.

The answer to who invented the first automobile can be a bit up in the air, considering that there are quite a few contenders for the top spot. The first steam powered automobile was invented in 1672, the first electric automobile was introduced between 1832 and 1839 and, the first automobile with a gasoline engine was invented in 1885.

In 1672, Ferdinand Verbiest built a steam powered automobile as a toy for the emperor of China. The vehicle was relatively small in size, and could not be ridden in by anyone. Though a toy, it was regarded as the first working automobile in the history of the first automobile. Almost 100 years later, in 1769, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot designed and built a self propelled road vehicle for the services of the French Army. The three wheeled vehicle, could reach a speed 2.5 miles per hour, became famous with the army for the years to follow.

Somewhere between 1832 and 1839, the first electric automobile was built by Robert Anderson of Scotland. It was a crude design which was powered by non-rechargeable primary cells. The cost incurred on building and maintenance of these cars was quite very expensive, but they were much more efficient than the steam powered car. As time passed, the popularity of these vehicles powered by electric continued to grow, however, their popularity received a major setback when vehicles with internal combustion engines were introduced in the 1880s.

The first automobile with an internal combustion engine was invented by Karl Benz in 1885, and patented in 1886. Karl Benz got the patent for this vehicle under the name of his company Benz & Cie. This three-wheeled automobile had a four-stroke cycle gasoline motor which was invented by Benz himself.

The invention was a new concept based on several new technological concepts. Being a new concept, it was quite easy for Benz to get the product patented within a year from its invention. This vehicle was introduced in the market for sale in 1888.

In 1885, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach came up with the Daimler-Maybach engine which was smaller, lighter and more efficient than its traditional counterparts.

In 1886, Daimler modified the stagecoach built by Wilhelm Wimpff & Sohn by adding the Daimler-Maybach engine to it, and invented the first ever four wheeled automobile.

Three years later in 1889, Daimler and Maybach invented the first automobile by coming up with their own design instead of continuing with the traditional practice of modifying some existing vehicle which was originally built for a totally different purpose. This vehicle had a four-speed transmission engine and had the ability to clock a speed of 10 miles per hour, that's a lot of speed when compared with other vehicles of that time.

The word automobile is a combination of two words - the Greek word auto meaning 'self' and the Latin word 'mobilis' meaning movable. Taking that into consideration, the answer to who invented the first automobile would naturally be Ferdinand Verbiest who invented the toy steam powered automobile for the Chinese emperor. However, that vehicle didn't quite make it to the market and the first vehicle to do so on a commercial front was Karl Benz's automobile with the internal combustion engine. With so many vehicles on the list, it becomes difficult to say as to who should be given the credit for being the inventor of the first automobile. The fact of the matter, however, remains that the invention of the automobile was a combined effort of all these men, who built, modified and adapted various designs to give us what we refer to as the modern automobile today.

With that in mind have a wonderful Holiday Season.

If your club or organization is having a car show, cruise in or function you would like to let folks know about send me all the information to me at  djron47@yahoo.com, or if you know someone you would like to see featured in the article contact me at the same address.

All information has to be to me at least two weeks before the event.

Till next time, "Keep Cruisin."

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The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
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P.O. Box 190
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Russell Springs KY 42642
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Russell County News is a weekly newspaper issued on Saturdays, and is mailed free to every address in Russell County, Ky. It was first published on February 1, 1913.
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