First workshop of Carl Benz in Mannheim. Drawing dates from ca. 1871

Carl Benz workshop in Mannheim.

In 1871 Carl Benz, together with his partner August Ritter, set up his first firm, "Mechanical Engineering Workshop", in Mannheim. But as it soon turned out, August Ritter was not a reliable partner. Carl Benz therefore bought him out using the dowry of his fiancé, Bertha Ringer.

Carl Benz now established his own firm, which he called "Karl Benz T 6, 11, Iron Foundry and Engineering Workshop". He had no time, and even less money, for experiments. So Benz produced iron fittings for the building trade on his small property on square T 6, 11, calling his firm "Metalworking Machine Factory".

An engine for stationary applications

When the economy lost its momentum, orders were cancelled and building projects were stopped, Carl Benz's business too did markedly poorer. Things went from bad to worse, as Benz soon was unable to pay and had to witness the seizure of his tools. Only his workshop was left to him. He very quickly had to offer something with a future and began development work on an engine for stationary applications. At the turn of the year 1880 the engine was operating smoothly. He had managed a first breakthrough – the engine was recognised under patent law in France and Britain.

"Mannheim Gas Engine Factory"

With new financial backers and partners – Mannheim court photographer Emil Bühler and his brother – and with the financial support of the banks the company was changed into a stock company in 1882 and named "Mannheim Gas Engine Factory". Carl Benz merely held a five percent share, however, and functioned only as director and not as ideas man.

"Benz & Co. Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik"

When his partners increasingly sought to exert influence on his designs, Carl Benz left the company in 1883. In October of the same year Benz again received financial support. With Max Kaspar Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Esslinger he set up the firm "Benz & Co. Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik".

The "Benz Patent Motor Car"

The company soon had a workforce of 25 and could grant licences for the manufacture of gas engines. Benz now could devote himself without interruption to the development of his vehicle engine. With financial backing he now began to construct a whole vehicle in which his four-stroke petrol engine was integrated.

In 1886 he received Patent No. 37 435 for the vehicle and presented his first "Benz Patent Motor Car" to the public. In 1886 the production facilities became too small because of the steadily growing demand for stationary engines, and "Benz & Co. Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik" moved into larger production buildings on Waldhofstrasse where until 1908 motor vehicles also were produced.

In 1890 new shareholders, Friedrich von Fischer and Julius Ganss, joined the company, and the rise of "Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik" to Germany's second largest engine factory began.

The "Velo"

At Benz & Co., from 1894 to 1901 the "Velo" was built – a well-priced, lightweight car for two persons which brought the breakthrough to higher unit sales figures. With a total output of around 1200 units, this vehicle can be called the first volume-built automobile. By the turn of the century Benz & Co. had developed into the world's leading motor manufacturer. Conversion into a stock company, "Benz & Cie. Rheinische Gasmotoren AG", took place in 1899. More than 2300 vehicles in all were built up to the turn of the century. The breakthrough appeared to have been achieved.

In 1903 Carl Benz ceased active work for the company and became a member of the Supervisory Board. Together with Carl Benz, Benz's sons Eugen and Richard also left. In 1904 Richard returned to Mannheim as plant manager for passenger car production.

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