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Meet the World’s Oldest Luxury Automobile, the 130-Year-Old Daimler Motor Car
Back when the American West was still wild and horses were the primary means of transportation all across the globe, a small German company was building one of the world’s first luxury automobiles.

Meet the World’s Oldest Luxury Automobile, the 130-Year-Old Daimler Motor Car

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These days, there’s no shortage of luxury cars. From blistering fast hypercars like those on Bugatti’s menu to ultra-comfortable sedans or SUVs built by the likes of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Cadillac, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz, there’s a four-wheeled masterpiece that can live up to the expectations of the most demanding customers.

Although not as many, series production luxury models from the aforementioned manufacturers were around 50, 60, or even 100 years ago, but have you ever wondered which was the very first?

That distinction goes to the Daimler Motor Car, a vehicle developed in Germany by Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) back in 1892, a year when legendary Old West outlaw Butch Cassidy was still alive and up to no good.

Founded two years earlier by engineering pioneers Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, the company would go on to produce cars under the Mercedes brand in 1901, so the Motor Car was not just the first luxury automobile, but also laid the foundation for the history of Mercedes-Benz.

Sitting on four wooden wheels, the boxy vehicle with its single bench seat looks more like a carriage than a car to us modern folk, and “luxurious” is one of the last adjectives one would use to describe it. However, 130 years ago, the mere fact that it didn’t need horses to move made it one of the most opulent means of transportation available.

Conceived by DMG’s chief designer, Max Schroedter, the car was based on Daimler’s and Maybach’s 1889 steel-wheeled prototype. Considered black magic by most of the people of the era, the secret to its propulsion was an innovative contraption called the internal combustion engine. Integrated into the body which was built by Stuttgart coachbuilder Otto Nägele, the two-cylinder displaced 1,060 ccs (64.6 ci) and produced no more than 2 hp at 700 rpm. Yes, these days we have lawnmowers with more power but back then, a self-propelled vehicle with the power of two horses and no actual animals pulling it was probably more groundbreaking than a self-driving Tesla is today.

The engine delivered its power to the rear wheels through a three-speed gearbox and a rear-axle differential. The former was much more difficult to operate than our contemporary manuals. It also featured a basic braking system which consisted of two external blocks that pressed against the solid rubber tires of the rear axle when the driver needed to stop.

The Motor Car’s top speed didn’t exceed 11 mph (18 kph) and its range was abysmal. Moreover, gas stations as we know them today were nonexistent at the time. The lucky few who could afford an automobile had to go to a pharmacy to get their fuel. Taking all that into account, the luxury car was far less efficient than a horse-drawn carriage yet owning one of these technological marvels was the ultimate statement of wealth.

According to the company’s records, the first Motor Car to be sold to a private customer was shipped to North Africa. The lucky owner’s name was Mawlay Hassan bin Mohammed, better known as Hassan I, the sultan of Morocco.

Since it was literally fit for a king, the DMG automobile received several unique customizations which included a velvet top ornated with gold-thread tassels, genuine ebony trims, and a bench upholstered in the finest leather that the Germans could source. The sultan was so pleased with the quality of the car that he also ordered a bespoke, motorboat from DMG that year.

From 1892 to 1895, DMG built twelve Motor Cars. None were as flamboyant as the one commissioned by the sultan, but some came with optional features like a foldable leather top. One of the few which survived can be admired at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart where it’s displayed alongside two 770 “Grand Mercedes” models (W 07) from the 1930s, another cornerstone of the company’s luxury line history.

If you can’t make it to Germany, don’t worry, you can take a virtual tour of the incredible museum thanks to the folks at Wanderlust Travel Videos.

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