Here's a fun factoid that recently arrived courtesy of a Mercedes-Benz press release. On January 29, 1886, Carl Benz filed an application in Berlin, Germany, for a patent on his new three-wheeled motor car. This date, according to Mercedes, has now come to be considered the "official birthday of the automobile."
Like you, I also missed out on a slice of the birthday cake. However, I did personally have the chance to get acquainted with a Benz Motorwagen replica during the 2007 Frankfurt auto show. And in case you don't believe me, check out the photo of the bespectacled fellow driving one here at the Motorwagen's Wikipedia entry: .
Mercedes-Benz has recently produced a limited run of these delicate-looking three-wheelers. Powered by a 0.9-bhp single-cylinder engine and steered via tiller, I soon realized how sturdy those early motorists must have been. Luxuries like anti-lock brakes, a/c and even cup holders (much less a roof!) were a long, long way into the future when this car was new.
Driving the Motorwagen isn't always intimidating, thanks mainly to a 10-mph top speed and the single-speed belt-driven transmission. You can't get into too much trouble when your cruising speed is comparable to a brisk jog. Then again, there's nothing to keep you on your best behavior like a warning that steering too quickly will cause the car to tip over.