April 3, 1885: Daimler Patents the Gasoline Engine

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 A Brief History

On April 3, 1885, German engineer Gottlieb Daimler had his internal combustion engine that was fueled by gasoline patented, paving the way for the development of what would become the main type of automobile engine. 

Digging Deeper

Only 5 years later, fellow German Rudolf Diesel patented the rugged engine that bears his name, and the second most prevalent automobile engine was born. 

Even before Daimler and Diesel, other Germans had done pioneering work in regard to engines. Siegfried Marcus patented his version of the internal combustion engine in 1864 and later patented a type of magneto used in all subsequent gasoline engines.  Nikolaus Otto patented his “Otto Engine” in 1876, the first practical 4-stroke-cycle engine.  Karl Benz was granted a patent for his two-stroke engine in 1879 and, in 1886, received the first patent for an automobile.  And later, in 1929, Felix Wankel patented his first rotary engine and, in the 1950s, developed it into a useful engine, lighter, smoother and more powerful than conventional engines.  Unfortunately, emissions standards forced changes to the Wankel or rotary engine and kept it from taking a larger chunk of the automobile market.

Although Germans did not invent fuel injection, German engineers certainly developed it further for their aircraft engines during World War II and continued the trend with gasoline-driven cars after the war.

With premier manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz (Daimler-Benz), Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, BMW (For some strange reason, I have run into many folks who think this abbreviation stands for “British Motor Works.”  It does not.  It stands for Bavarian Motor Works or, of course, the German equivalent.), German cars and engineering are generally the most respected and desired in the world.  Opel, another German automaker, has been in business since 1862 and building cars since 1899.  Today it is a subsidiary of General Motors and is designing and building cars that are sold under other GM nameplates such as Buick, Holden and Vauxhall.  The developer of high-speed highways (the autobahn), Germany needs cars capable of safely tripping along at high speeds with the handling to complement the power, and that is exactly what they produce.

Other countries also make powerful cars, and some of these cars even handle fairly well, but no other country makes cars with the panache of the German automakers.  You could buy a fancy Italian sports car for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but will it be as reliable as a Porsche?  Will it be as safe in an accident as a Mercedes?

Okay, I admit I “buy American” and always have, especially given my many family members who have been employed in the American auto industry, but you can be sure that should I ever win the lottery, there will be one or more German cars in my garage!

Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever bought a German car?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

WhiteStar. Legendary German Cars. WhiteStar, 2011.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.