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Cars: Accelerating the Modern World

Engineer Karl Benz’s Patent Motorwagen was the first production automobile ever made. Debuted in the summer of 1886, with an engine that could barely muster 16km/h, the car proved its mettle in 1888 when Benz’s wife Bertha took the Motorwagen Nr. 3 for the first ever long-distance drive – covering almost 60 miles. Shortly thereafter racing over long distances became an increasingly popular sport, one that put a car’s reliability to the test, as much as its speed.
Photo of the Benz patent motor car, model no. 3, 1888. Image courtesy of Daimler (V&A Museum)

In pictures: 'History of cars' exhibition celebrates '20th century's most important object'

A new exhibition celebrating the history of cars will chart the evolution of ‘the 20th century’s most important object’.

‘Cars: Accelerating the Modern World’ will document 130 years of motoring history when it opens at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum later this year.

Showcasing 15 cars and 250 objects across three main sections, the exhibition examines how the car changed our relationship to speed, how it changed the way we make and sell, and how it altered the landscape around us, from countryside to cityscape.

Brendan Cormier, a senior design curator at the V&A, said it was a particularly timely moment to exhibit cars given their potentially uncertain future.

He said: “We’ve been talking to a lot of car manufacturers who say they can’t imagine what a car might look like in 10 years, even two years is difficult to imagine. We’re at this incredible fork in the road.”

Cars: Accelerating the Modern World will be at the V&A from 23 November to 19 April 2020.