May 6, 1889 – First car in Paris is outshone by Eiffel Tower opening

On this day in 1889, Gottlieb Daimler debuted the first motorcar in Paris, France, at the onset of the Paris World Exhibition. This event is well known for a much bigger, in all senses of the word, attraction: the grand opening of the Eiffel Tower. Not to be outdone, Daimler enhanced his display by lining it with 30 light bulbs powered by a Daimler engine connected to generator. At the time electric lighting was revolutionary, as was the automobile. It’s fair to assume his display was shocking to most. However, the car didn’t garner as much attention as he wished.

His vehicle, known as the Paris wire-wheel car, featured a twin cylinder V-engine reminiscent of modern motors. A four speed manual gearbox, the first of its kind, put power to the wheels. First gear allowed the vehicle to travel at up to 5 km/h, while fourth provided a top speed of 16 km/h. The design would become the model for most transmissions used in automobile manufacturing for years to come.

Gottlieb helped build the world’s first four wheeled automobile just three years earlier in partnership with Wilhelm Maybach. While the car was less than sensational at the Paris debut, something else happened there that would stoke growth in the French auto industry. Gottlieb Daimler secured a business partnership with Louise Sarazin, the widow of Daimler’s long-standing French business colleague, Edouard Sarazin. Their agreement allowed her to acquire the licensing rights to Daimler engines, but only if they bore the name “Daimler.” This move would result in a massive boost to the French auto industry. Before long, more cars equipped with “moteurs système Daimler” drove along French roads those those in Daimler’s native Germany.

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