Check Out What Might Be The First Auto Owner's Manual In History

Illustration for article titled Check Out What Might Be The First Auto Owner's Manual In History
Photo: Hulton Archive (Getty Images)

Any time a human being is offered a new piece of technology, chaos is likely to ensue. Imagine trying to use your air fryer for the first time without having read any of the instructions. That’s kind of how folks felt when cars first hit the scene back in the late 1800s. And that’s why we have owner’s manuals. But the Simeone Museum thinks it might be showing off the very first one.


If you’ve never been to the Simeone Museum, you’re missing out. This place is cool as hell. Located just outside of Philadelphia, the Simeone has a gorgeous collection of old sports cars or otherwise awesome examples of burgeoning automotive technology. I had the pleasure of touring the place in early 2018, and I was fascinated by the collection of old memorabilia.

It’s that last part that interests me, because I know there’s tons more that I don’t even know about. The museum has collected tons of old automotive literature, everything from sales receipts to manuals to magazines. That part isn’t open to the public, but I like to imagine what kind of goodies lie in wait.

Including a little peak at the first auto manual.

When Karl Benz came out with his Benz Patent Motor Wagon in 1888, people were confused. How on earth are you supposed to make this weird looking machine move? How do you maintain it? How do you actually make it go from Point A to Point B?

Cars were so drastically new at the time that you needed a tutorial—and maybe even a dedicated helping hand—to get it moving. It wasn’t something people had ever seen before.

I’ll let the Simeone video guide you through, but essentially, the manual lays out in very simple terms what it takes to make the Benz Motor-Wagen go, which includes both instructions and handy little visuals to help you get a sense of where all those components are and what they did.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.



“Peek” :)