What came first – The car or the wheel?


It is very easy to overlook how much value a car can bring into your life – it lets you explore, and opens you up to a new world of freedom.

But, rewind a couple hundred years, and the idea of a car that we know today would be mind-blowing. In fact, you’d probably be considered crazy if you spoke about it – whilst people rode by, tutting, and turning their nose up at you.

Now, the attention has shifted to who first built the car – it’s one of the most hotly debated conversations in the automotive world.

But, with so much confusion around, we wanted to help set the record straight.

So, when was the first car built?


Who thought of the car first?

Who knows who first thought of the idea of a car? So, this is where we look to the history books for some help.

On a warm summer night (probably) in Italy, sometime in the 1500’s, Leonardo Da Vinci drew something on a piece of paper – it was a mechanised cart. The idea was not followed through, but maybe he couldn’t find the right name, who knows.

So, whilst we would love to give the credit to Leo, this was far from the modern-car we know today…

It wasn’t really until the internal combustion engine that we started getting serious.


Who built the first modern-day engine?

It took a little while longer for us to get off horseback and plant out feet on the floor…or pedals.

But who did that?

In the year 1680, Christiaan Huygens came up with a wonderful idea of mixing gunpowder with an internal combustion engine. As scary as it may sound, the idea was actually very solid, but alas, it was never built.

Shame. But luckily, people were there to pick up the reigns. A gentleman named Samuel Brown did just that – he adapted a traditional steam engine, but decided to stick some gasoline in there as fuel.

Eureka. Or maybe not in the eyes of this next chap…

Some 28 years later, Jean Joseph-Etienne Lenior patented an engine that captured the gas from coal, to use as a propellant. This became a fairly popular device, even more so when it was adapted to petroleum.


But, who built the first modern-day car?

The million-dollar question… or something like that!

Ever heard of Karl Benz – well maybe just the second part of that name?

Well, the name Mercedes Benz may sound more familiar.

Whilst he was a little late to the party, Benz was the inventor of the car we know today. His two-gear Motorwagen had become a hit and went on to be the first commercially available automobile in history.

This innovation in automotive vehicles worked much better than its predecessors (before 1886), which helped propel it to great success. Funnily enough, it’s thought that the world’s first speeding ticket was actually given out to a driver of this groundbreaking car.

It also was the Benz family who took the first-ever road trip[1] – who would’ve thought?

So, Karl Benz was the first inventor of the modern-day car.

But things are changing in the car industry – maybe for the better – well ecologically indeed.

Did somebody say electric?


Who first built the electric car?

You may think that Elon Musk was the revolutionary behind the electric car…

It’s true, he definitely helped launch the idea off the ground, but the reality is that electric cars have been around for hundreds of years before Mr. Musk was even born.

In fact, it was a different man altogether, in a completely different part of the world.

Scotland, 1832 – a man named Robert Anderson developed the first crude electric carriage using galvanic cells – but this was very far from the car we know today.

The reality is, it took another 52 years for an English fella to combine the electric motor built by a Hungarian engineer, Anyos Jedlik and the rechargeable lead batteries pioneered by Fresh physicist Gaston plane[2].

Thomas Parker was the man to achieve this feat, building the first-ever production electric car in London (1884).

It may not drive itself, or have insane 0-60mph speed – but it was the step forward in electric vehicles that advanced the field of electric cars.


Whether you are searching for this answer to help you win a pub quiz or genuinely have an interest in the automotive world, then we hope we have given you more clarity.

It may have taken a while to get there, but eventually, Karl Benz invented the modern-day car we know today.

He innovated how we use cars and helped us get out of the saddle and into the driving seat.



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[1] https://www.daimler.com/company/tradition/company-history/1885-1886.html
[2] https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/electric-cars/101002/history-of-the-ev-from-the-first-electric-car-to-the-present-day