When Bertha Benz set off on a journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim in her Patent Motor Car one morning in August 1888, she didn’t know what sort of adventure she was embarking upon. Every 20 kilometres the coolant needed to be topped up. As there was no fuel tank yet, petrol needed to be purchased by the litre at the chemist’s. At times the vehicle needed to be pushed along over greater distances due to the fact that the engine was still weak.
And it wasn’t just the task of forward progress that held so many surprises. Stopping was also no simple matter. Braking was achieved using the thin leather lining on the brakes. This began to smoulder on the first journey and then finally broke apart. Fortunately the village cobbler came to the rescue with a strip of leather – probably the first replacement part in automotive history.