Learn the history of the automobile in 36 minutes

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Social distancing measures implemented to slow the spread of coronavirus have forced most museums to close down indefinitely. But the Petersen Automotive Museum is trying to keep things going with a series of videos and livestreams.

If you’re in need of something to distract—and also educate—your kids, the museum has put together a video history of the automobile that runs 36 minutes.

Pinpointing the start of the history of the automobile is a challenge, as there were many false starts. Lecturers note one of them—Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot’s steam-powered artillery tractor of 1769.

But the first true car is generally considered to be the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen, built by Karl Benz.

With its three-wheel configuration and tiller steering, the Benz doesn’t seem to have much in common with a modern car. But it was the first vehicle to combine many key features, including a four-stroke internal-combustion engine, carburetion, spark plugs, and a radiator.

The Benz was also arguably the first practical car, as Karl’s wife Bertha demonstrated in 1888 by driving the vehicle 65 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim, Germany, the first trip of its kind in an automobile.

From there, this automotive history lesson covers over a century of technological development by highlighting about 40 cars—from the Ford Model T to the Volkswagen Microbus.

The full video is worth a look. While its exhibit galleries are closed to the public until March 31, the Petersen Automotive Museum is also offering virtual tours of its secret vault for a $3 fee. It’s an opportunity to see rare cars normally stashed away from public view, and to support the museum during this trying time.

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