Benz emerged from a childhood spent mostly in poverty to become a highly educated mechanical engineer. Though his early businesses were unsuccessful and he had trouble finding a job that was a good fit, Benz never lost passion for his hobbies of riding his bicycle and thinking up designs for the horseless carriage.
After years of dreaming and designing, Benz finally patented the Benz Patent Motorwagen on January 29, 1886. It was the world's first true automobile, as it powered itself and was not merely a motorized horse-drawn carriage or stagecoach.
The Motorwagen employed Benz's four-stroke engine and a coil ignition. The rear wheels -- which were made out of wire and not common wood -- were powered by roller chains. The car was quite unsafe to drive and difficult to control at first. It wasn't until summer of 1886 that the car had its first successful road test.
Benz began selling the Motorwagen in 1888, making it the first commercially sold automobile. After several different designs and iterations, the Motorwagen, along with Benz's engines, grew in popularity and his company became quite successful.
Over the years, Benz continued to contribute to the growing automobile industry. He designed the world's first truck, which later became the first bus, the first flat engine, which is still used in more modern iterations by Porsche and Subaru today and designed a car that participated in the world's first automobile race.