From Benz to Hairpins

Karl Benz in 1925 with his first model

Whilst many sources cite Benz as the inventor of the motor car, based on his “Benz Patent-Motorwagen” of 1885, there are others with an earlier claim. In fact the earliest known patent for an internal combustion engine was issued to François Isaac de Rivaz in 1807. Of Franco-Swiss descent, François Isaac de Rivaz lived and worked in the neighbouring Swiss canton of Valais. His patent, no. 731, was issued first in Paris and shortly after he was awarded one in Valais too. In 1808 he fitted one of his engines to an automobile of his own design, nearly 80 years before Benz.

De Rivaz’s first car constructed 1808

François Isaac de Rivaz’s automobile was not a commercial success in the same way as that of Benz, the design was proven to work. A second, larger, vehicle which he completed in 1813 was six metres long with wheels of two metres in diameter. This successfully carried a load of 700 pounds of stone and wood, together with four men up a 9 degree slope at a speed of 3km/hr. No mean feat for the time.