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 something much bigger, in all senses of the word, attraction — the grand opening of the Eiffel Tower. However, Gottlieb did not want to be outshined, so he lined his booth with 30 light bulbs powered by a daimler engine connected to an electricity generator in order to attract people to his booth. At this point, electric lighting was something quite new to the world, as was the automobile, so it is fair to say people were quite shocked by his set up.

His vehicle, known as the Paris wire-wheel car, featured an engineering feat, a twin cylinder V-engine that is reminiscent of motors used  today. The car was also equipped with another new invention, a four speed manual gearbox. 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 manufacture for years to come.

It should be noted that 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 his 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” were in France than in its home country, Germany.

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