We all remember the day we got our first car. Few of us, however, remember the day that the first ever car was received. This day, April 20th,1897, Ernest Estcourt took delivery of the very first production car to be purchased. His Daimler “Phoenix” car, with it’s 6 horsepower two-cylinder engine, was picked up by the owner from the factory in Coventry before being driven home to London. The futuristic whip allowed Estcourt to race home from the factory in a mere 10 and a half hours!
The engine on these early models was Daimler’s first to be front-mounted. Although, the vertical-twin motor, with automatic inlet valves, had been installed in auto-carriages, Daimler trail-blazed by pushing it forward. This step towards automotive standards, was unusual compared to the belt-driven motor carriages of the time. The decision to reuse, rather than develop a whole new power source, was where “phoenix” got its nickname.
Later that same year, Daimler would go on to add the first tubular radiator to these engines. The invention, engineered by Wilhelm Maybach, immediately reduced temperature much more than comparable air-tube coolers. It’s coolant-filled tubes allowed for much greater heat exchange, and would be pivotal in the future of high-performance engines.
Although Estcourt’s big day wasn’t also his 16th birthday, at least his first car is still being remembered as a major milestone in motoring history, all these 123 years later!