Modern Times

Inventors. Manufacturers, and nations vied with one another, claiming to be first.

Others consider Carl Benz's 1885 hp tricycle, patent DRP 37435 of January 29, 1886, to be the first true automobile: it’s combustion engine (by contrast with electric and steam engines) and was entirely designed for this purpose.

See the Historical Corner of the EAEC Newsletter no. 2, 2010, for a comparison these two rivals.


The famous 1900 Lohner-Porsche , nicknamed la Toujours Contente , initially used two-wheel drive.

It later became a four-wheel drive vehicle to improve performance on slopes given that it had a 1.8 ton lead battery. A thermal engine was later added to increase autonomy. This was the first hybrid series automobile.

Adding a hub motor simplified the transmission and resolved the problem of compatibility with the suspension.

porsche motor wheel


We can find here a US 4WD history in the 20th century first years.


Starting from 1896, Arthur Krebs invented and patended mainly as general manager at Panhard-Levassor many vital devices:

  • the front axle with trail (see hereunder)
  • the steering wheel
  • the non-reversible steering
  • the progressive hydraulic shock absorber
  • the rubber elastic coupling Flector
  • the multidisc clutch
  • the automatic carburator membrane
  • the electric brake for engine test bench
  • the worm gear differential
  • the 4 cylinders engine balancing
  • the 3 point engine suspension
  • the electro-magnetic gearbox
  • without forgotting others noticeable inventions for submarine and dirigibles...
  • He had participated to many vehicule design, including the 1911 Chatillon-Panhard tractor, with 4 wheel drive and steering.
  • He was also one of the actors of the SELDEN case in New-York (1905-1911) aside Henry Ford in a huge patents validity action
  • Last, he has inspired to Jules Verne his Robur the Conqueror character


the famous "la Jamais Contente", first car at 100 km/h in 1901, rear live axle with two electric motors, reconstituated by Venturi at Mondial 2010.


30 passengers with two horses, and 40 with 3, nice energetical performances for the Paris tram around 1905.


In 1907, Pierre Souvestre wrote a magnificent 800-page History of the Automobile.

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