Marcus Car, 1888/1889

Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Traffic & Transport
Road Traffic
1850 - 1899
The oldest automobile in the world? The Marcus Car features many remarkable technical achievements, a fact that was (almost) lost in the debate surrounding its dating.

Siegfried Marcus (1831-1898) was an exceptionally versatile engineer and inventor. He was born in Malchin, Mecklenburg, Germany, and moved to Vienna in 1852. He began by developing telegraphic apparatus and experimenting with ignition devices before turning to engine design.

Marcus filed several patents. In 1883 he received the concession for a “magneto-electric ignition device for internal combustion engines”. And in 1887 and 1888, concessions for the construction and improvement of internal combustion engines.

The Marcus Car had a capacity of 1570 cm3 and an output of approx. 0.75 hp, generating a speed of around 6 – 8 km/h. The heavy vehicle made of wood and iron was unsuited to uneven tracks or even inclines. The patented magneto-electric ignition used on the four-stroke engine was extremely convenient and advanced for the day. Another sophisticated invention by Siegfried Marcus was the spray brush carburettor, in which brushes dispersed the fuel through abrasion. By contrast the belt drive posed a number of problems.

In 1898 the organisers of the “Collective Exhibition of Austrian Automobile Constructors” showcased the Marcus Car as their industry’s greatest achievement. The vehicle dated 1877 at the time was said to have been designed “10 years before the first French & German petrol automobiles”. The precise dating of the Marcus Car has been the subject of much debate ever since.

Experts now believe that the Marcus Car was actually built later. The engine built by the company Märky, Bromovsky & Schulz was delivered in 1888. The Marcus Car is therefore thought to date from 1888/1889. So the Viennese engineer Siegfried Marcus was experimenting with an automobile with internal combustion engine concurrently with other automobile pioneers such as Carl Benz.

Inv.Nr. 1404/1

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