Classic Cars News

The Benz Velocipede Ruled the Automotive World 125 Years Ago

The Velo went on to become the first mass-production automobile.

The Velo went on to become the first mass-production automobile.

Way before the Ford Model T crawled out of the primordial ooze—and way, way before Ford’s Raptor churned that ooze into paste—and even before Benz had a Mercedes, Benz & Company introduced the world’s first mass-produced car: the Benz Motor Velocipede, which debuted 125 years ago in April 1894. By the time it was discontinued just after the dawn of the 20th century, some 1,200 Benz Velos were puttering around Germany, England, and France.

At launch, the Velocipede weighed approximately 617 pounds (280 kg), was powered by a single-cylinder engine making 1.5 horsepower, and had a top speed of 12 mph (19 km/h). A two-stage belt transmission allowed it to cruise up small grades of up to 10 percent. These days, an electric Bird scooter could easily smoke it in a race.

The four-wheeled vehicle had a lantern to light the way and featured a double-pivot steering system developed by Karl Benz. Later, a Comfortable model was introduced with a 2.75-hp engine that was made optional on the basic Velo. In 1899, both were marketed with a 3-hp powerplant, and the car’s final year in 1902 saw the Comfortable become the only model. By then it made 4.5 horsepower and offered a top speed of 22 mph (35 km/h) (about even race with that Bird scooter). Additional extra-cost features included a sun guard/umbrella, an upholstered bench seat, and a child seat for adventurous families like the Benzes shown above.