Ok, kids… this time we're going to turn the automotive wayback machine waaaaay back… back to the dawn of the automobile. This is a model of what many people recognize as the first "true" automobile (depending on whether or not you define a "true" automobile as a self-propelled, internal combustion powered, four wheeled passenger vehicle). The car is the 1886 Daimler Motorkutsche (German for "motor coach" or "motor carriage"). Here's a photo of a modern-day reproduction (the original doesn't exist anymore):
A short history lesson:
Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz, who had never met and knew nothing of each other's efforts, pretty much simultaneously invented the first automobile, working only 60 miles apart from each other, Daimler in Stuttgart and Benz in Mannheim, Germany.
In 1885, Gottlieb Daimler had built the first-ever motorcycle, powered by a single-cylinder gasoline powered internal combustion engine that he and his friend Wilhelm Maybach had designed. Daimler wanted to use this engine in a variety of applications.
In 1886, Karl Benz built his three-wheeled Benz "Patent Motorwagen," which is one of the two "first" automobiles. Meanwhile, just 60 miles away, Daimler installed a revised version of the engine he had used in his 1885 motorcycle onto a horse-drawn wagon, creating his "Motorkutsche," and basically creating the other "first" automobile. This model is that 1886 Daimler Motorkutsche. The kit is 1/16 scale, and has been issued under various brand names over the years. This is the Minicraft edition:
While this is technically a "big scale" kit, it's only 6" long. The kit is very basic, highly simplified, and just plain wrong in so many places. If built "box stock" it looks more like a kid's toy than a realistic scale model. Just look at the model on the box cover and you'll see what I mean. And speaking of mistakes, they start on the box cover, which calls this a "Daimler Benz." In reality Karl Benz not only had nothing to do with the development or production of this car, but at the time it came out he had never even met Daimler! I used the kit only as a starting point, adding a ton of scratchbuilt detail that was either wrong or completely missing in the kit. Since apparently no two of the modern-day recreations are exactly alike, I had to fake a few things by sort of "averaging out" the details I saw in the various reference photos I collected. Hey, if the pros couldn't decide on the details, I'm not going to worry too much!
Among just a few of the dozens of changes I made to the kit: I removed the molded-in floorboards with a razor saw and built new ones of real wood. Ditto the dashboard. The grab handles on the corners of the dash are made of brass wire. I added the hinged door detail under the driver's seat, the door handle being formed of a piece of thin solder and sprayed "brass."
The engine in the kit is only a very crude approximation of the real thing, so most of what you see here is scratchbuilt of styrene stock and brass rod. The entire undercarriage "cradle" that the crankcase is bolted to was not in the kit–the crankcase just hung there, swaying in the breeze and connected to nothing (sort of like a "magic floating alternator!")… so I had to add all that structure using styrene strip and structural stock. The muffler is a long horizontal tube located under the passenger seat. I added the "canvas" curtain that hides the muffler, it is cut from a piece of paper and painted with acrylic craft paint.
The car doesn't have a water pump that I could see. I assume the hot coolant rose and flowed to the radiator via the upper tube, trickled down through the individual copper cooling slats, and the cooled water flowed back to the engine via the lower hose, the circulation of the water depending not on a mechanical pump, but on thermal principals. That's just a guess on my part, but since I couldn't see anything that looked like a mechanical pump, I'm going with that! Out back, the kit radiator was useless. It is a solid rectangular hunk of styrene with a vague pattern of ribs engraved on it. The real car's radiator was made of individual copper cooling ribs connected to a horizontal brass tank top and bottom, and you could see right through the spaces between the individual copper slats. I had to scratchbuild the radiator to get it to look like the real thing, using styrene strip and square styrene rod, painted copper and brass. The radiator lines are brass rod, the "rubber" elbows are made of hollow rubber tubing I found in the jewelry making aisle of Hobby Lobby… it just happens to be the exact right diameter to slip over the brass rod, and the hose clamps are thin strips of aluminum duct tape.
The car was powered by twin belts that were driven by a horizontal shaft coming off the crankcase. I'm no engineer, but I have to assume that the two belts (which powered two different-size pulleys on the rear drive axle) were a crude two-speed "transmission," and in order to "shift gears" there was some sort of splined sliding mechanism that either engaged or disengaged the drive pulley of one belt or the other from the front driveshaft (which was also missing from the kit and had to be scratchbuilt). Note that the drive belts have a half twist, like a Moebius strip, meaning they reverse the rotation off the engine to the small drive gears in back that engage the large gears mounted to each drive wheel. Since the engine rotates clockwise (looking at it from the right side of the car) and the large drive gears on the back wheel have to also rotate clockwise, or "forward," the small pinion gears that drove the large drive gears had to rotate the opposite way in order to propel the car forward… hence the twist in the drive belts that accomplished that reversal of rotation. I made the belts out of strips of plain old paper.
The car has a "steering wheel" comprised of four handles mounted on a vertical steering column. Under the floorboard, at the end of the column is a small pinion gear that engages a large semicircular rack gear attached to the center-pivoting front axle… the first example of "rack and pinion" steering–although the wheels themselves do not pivot like on a modern car… the whole front axle assembly pivots as a unit, like on a horse-drawn wagon, which is what this car actually is… literally a motorized horse-drawn wagon! The steering on the model really works via the gears. I added the missing steering column bracket.
For some unknown reason, the upholstery for the seats was on the brass plated parts tree! Not only that, but the engraved pattern was all wrong, so even if I painted the brass plated "upholstery," it would still be wrong… so I scratchbuilt seat cushions in a diamond-tuft pattern (according to my reference photos) using real foam padding, a vinyl "leather" material from the sewing department of Hobby Lobby that I painted flat black, and the buttons made of sewing pins. The thin seatback cushions were carved from strips of basswood and sanded to shape.
As usual for model kits of cars from the "brass age," the brass parts have that mirror-like "chrome" brass plating, which looks ok on a show car, but not on a real everyday car. Most of the kit's brass plated parts aren't supposed to be brass anyway (like the seat upholstery, for example!), so I painted all the brass plated parts that aren't supposed to be brass black, and toned down all the brass parts that are supposed to be brass to give then the look of natural, unpolished brass.