Cars have come a long way since the late 1880s. You can say the same about people. Our relationship with each other and how we shaped the world is absolute. Let’s take a walk through time!
Cars were really just a novelty item back then, They weren’t mass produced and they were pricey hunks of metal that was far less reliable than a trusty horse. Refined gasoline wasn’t easy to come by and cars were slow. But that was the beauty of it. It was NEW and EXCITING. It inspired awe and that is the genesis for progress.
Bertha up there stole the Model III Patent Motorwagen from her hubby leaving a note that she’s taking the kids to see grandma! Grandma’s cookies was 56 miles away and they got there in roughly 15 hours. Welcome to the first road trip!
Suzanne Lumière is sitting in daddy’s Renault. How many of us can relate? I’ve remember sitting in my father’s 1986 Pontiac 6000 LE when I was just a squirt. It’s that youthful fascination with cars that stirs you. That feeling you had is the same one she had over a century ago.
It didn’t take long for humanities insatiable thirst for speed to take hold. Speed is fun. These early sports cars had a lower slung chassis (compared to the contemporaries) for better handling and had the higher output engines. This Tatra Rennweier “double racer” had a blistering 9 HP and could hit speeds of 50 MPH.
Emil Jelinek is legendary. He’s a self-made businessman and the patron saint of auto enthusiasts. He was also Daimler’s best and most demanding customer. He told Daimler that he’d buy 4 of their cars if it could hit 25 MPH. Daimler was reluctant but with his engineer, they made it happen since that was a very profitable order for the fledgling company to have.
He liked them so much, he bought 6 more and put them in races adopting the Mercedes name for his race cars. The Daimler factory suffered the loss of their namesake Gottlieb Daimler.
They also lost their factory foreman, Wihelm Bauer in a racing accident during Nice Week in 1900. The factory was going to pull out of racing.
Emil, being the auto enthusiast that clearly has oil in his veins essentially said “like hell we’re pulling out of racing.” In reality he told them that if you don’t enter in racers people will draw the conclusion that “you are unable to enter” and that not racing would be “commercial suicide.”
Emil cut them a deal. He said give me faster, lighter and wider car with at least 35 HP and I’ll but 36 of them outright for $130,000 in 1901 which is crazy money. The caveat he asked for was that he have exclusive rights to sell Daimler cars in Austro-hungary, France, Belgium, and the U.S. Also he wanted the cars to be named Mercedes.