Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum
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The Curious Case of Mrs. Benz
In 1886, Carl Benz filed a patent application for a “vehicle operated by a gas engine.” He constructed his Benz Patentwagen, the first gasoline powered car in the world, out of bicycle parts and a 1-cyclinder engine. Top speed was 7.5 miles per hour. These are the kind of things you learn at The Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum in Munich, dedicated to the history of transportation. While Benz might have been a genius engineer, he was a bit of a slouch at marketing. Enter the wife. Bertha Benz wanted to see some kind of return on the family’s significant time and investment spent on the 3-wheel contraption. So without the knowledge of her husband or the authorities, she grabbed the couple’s two teenage sons and drove them 66 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim. Thus, she became the first person ever to drive a vehicle over any considerable distance, and the resulting fanfare immediately created a market for gasoline powered travel. The Benz Patentwagen is just one of thousands of exhibits inside the Deutsches Museum, and there’s something here that will turn anyone’s head. I like the 1925 BMW R32, for example, the first motorcycle ever produced by BMW. Others fawn over the elegant 1928 Bugatti Coupe Type 40—the pride of the Gatsby era.
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