A high speed engine for cars

Then Lenoir started to modify one of his gas engines for a vehicle on the road. He failed to connect his vehicle to a fixed gas reservoir and then replaced carbon gas with paraffin gas. In 1862-3 several tests were carried out but the inventor was not satisfied and abandoned the idea. However, Lenoir succeeded in building the first vehicle on petroleum. Several other inventors experimented with this type of vehicle, including Marcus, Delamarre Deboutteville, Frederic de la Hault, but none of them reached the commercial production stage.

The first petroleum-powered car to be sold to the public was Karl Benz’s: it was equipped with a low-speed stationary engine in the chassis of a three-wheeler. The vehicle was both homogeneous and feasible. In 1886, the Benz was the first car ever marketed. At the same time another German, Gottlieb Daimler, assisted by Wilhelm Maybach, was working another type of petroleum engine that was completely different from the heavy and slow stationary engines of the time.

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They wanted a light, high speed engine that could be used in all kinds of machines. Strangely enough, this type of engine was used for the first time in France and not in Germany. Panhard-Levassor built it under license of Daimler. Peugeot also bought these engines from Panhard and installed them in the first Peugeots with the engine in the back.

Shortly afterwards, Emile Levassor installed an engine from Panhard Daimler in the first Panhard-Levassor car that foreshadowed what the next generations of cars would look like: an engine at the front with a gearbox behind it that drives the gears (via chains at the time). That’s why we consider Daimler to be the developer of the modern engine and Levassor to be the creator of the layout of the vehicle that would be followed by all cars in the following years. These types of cars running on petrol, steam and electricity were now offered to the public in competition with each other.

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France was at the forefront in this new sector together with Panhard, Peugeot, De Dion Bouton. Germany was a little slower despite its technical lead, as the country was more divided and there were fewer roads, while England suffered from restrictive legislation such as the law which stipulated that every motor vehicle had to be preceded by a man on foot with a red flag – which did not give rise to rapid industrial expansion. In the United States, the motor industry had a slow start due to a lack of roads and also the Selden patent.

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That was the name of a fraudster who claimed to have invented the car and through various legal manoeuvres managed to claim a royalty on every car built or imported.

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