September 25, 1725 – Inventor of the first automobile, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, is born

The man who is credited with building the first known working, self-propelled mechanical vehicle capable of carrying a driver was born on this day in 1725. Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot was a French inventor who was trained as a military enginery. He began working in 1765 to develop a steam powered vehicle capable of transporting cannons for the French Army. This led to the 1769 development and running of a small version of a  three-wheeled “fardier a vapeur,” or translated to steam dray. A fardier was a massive two wheeled, horse drawn cart used to transport heavy equipment. In 1770 a full size version was built. On paper it was designed to carry 4 tons and cover 4.8 miles in an hour. The speed was never achieved in practice. The designed featured a third wheel where the horses would normally be which supported the boiler mechanism that powered the vehicle. According to some sources it did move at approximately 2.25 miles per hour. After building a second vehicle in 1771, which supposedly went out of control and knocked over part of an arsenal wall, causing the first automobile accident, the project would be abandoned, as it continued to fall short of necessary expectations. However in 1772 King Louis XV granted Cugnot a pension of 600 livres a year for his innovative work. The vehicle wa kept at the Arsenal until it was moved to the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in 1800, where it can still be seen today. Cugnot died in Paris in 1804. Pic: Cugnot’s 1770 fardier à vapeur, as preserved at the Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris.

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