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Taking A Spin in The World's First Car

(CNNMoney) How is this for a Thursday Throwback? A man takes a spin on an exact replica of what is generally considered the world's first internal combustion car.

In 1888 Karl Benz invented the Benz Patent Motorwagen. Peter Valdes-Dapena took the replica for a spin.

“It was terrifying,” he said. “It's steered using a small tiller that turns the single front wheel.”

The Patent Motorwagen is harrowing to drive even with a 10-mile-an-hour top speed. Valdes-Dapena sat up high on a shaky bench with only vague speed control. Karl Benz's single cylinder four-stroke engine produces 0.75 horsepower, so tackling even the slightest hill requires building up speed.

To start, you need to let fuel into the system by hand, turn on the lubrication system, and then spin the flywheel by hand. There's no fuel pump. The driver must occasionally stop and feed in more fuel. Speed is controlled with a lever. Pushing it forward tightens a belt around a spinning metal barrel, increasing power to the wheels.

The Motorwagen runs on Hexane, once readily available in drugstores. For today's owners, it can be ordered from the Mercedes parts catalog. The cooling system isn't closed so water also needs to be added regularly as does lubricating oil, which sprays out as the car drives.

Bertha Benz, Karl’s wife, did most of the driving in her husband's invention. She took the kids out for history's first long "road trip" in 1888. While Karl Benz designed and built the cars, Bertha sold them, made on-the-road repairs and even suggested improvements.

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