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Mercedes-Benz Recreates Revolutionary 1888 First Drive by Bertha Benz

In 1888, early automobiles didn’t travel much. First, there weren't so many of them. Secondly, those that were around were considered not to be ready for road use. However, one car was ready, and Bertha Benz, who had helped her husband Karl Benz create it, believed it was suitable for a long-distance journey.
Bertha Benz at the wheel of Model III, on the first cross-county drive ever 7 photos
Photo: YouTube / Mercedes-Benz
Bertha Benz's revolutionary 1988 cross-county drive (recreation)Bertha Benz's revolutionary 1988 cross-county drive (recreation)Bertha Benz's revolutionary 1988 cross-county drive (recreation)Bertha Benz's revolutionary 1988 cross-county drive (recreation)Bertha Benz's revolutionary 1988 cross-county drive (recreation)Bertha Benz's revolutionary 1988 cross-county drive (recreation)
On August 5, 1888, Bertha and her two sons started on a journey that would revolutionize the automotive industry, and becoming in the process the world's First Driver. She did so without permission from the authorities and without her husband’s knowledge, to prove to him and to the world that their Model III was ready for the road.

Mercedes-Benz is honoring Bertha the pioneer with a video recreating this journey, thus introducing her to a section of the public who might not be aware of the history behind the brand. You can find it at the bottom of the page.

Set in black and white, the clip shows Bertha embarking on the trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim in the early hours of morning, ready to face challenges she could only imagine. In the recreation, her sons don’t tag along, but they do help her set the wheels in motion by pushing the car on the road.

Some of the obstacles she encountered on the 106 km (66 mile) journey are shown. She drew looks and criticism, but worse of all, she had to solve malfunctions as they appeared – such as using her garter as insulation.

The real Bertha also had to push the car uphill with her two sons because it didn’t have enough power for the climb. She had to change its wooden brakes for leather ones, and use a hat pin to unclog a fuel line. Water supply needed to cool the engine was also an issue, as was gas, which she could only get from chemists.

Bertha reached her destination that same day, at dusk, letting her husband know of her accomplishment by telegram. She made the trip back home a few days later, and implemented changes for all the issues she had encountered.

So she not only brought attention to Model III, which her husband had failed to do through marketing, but she also further contributed to improving it. “She forged the road ahead, to pave it for us all,” Mercedes-Benz says in a caption to the video. That, she did.

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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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