Leonardo da Vinci Car


Leonardo da Vinci Car Invention can be seen as a first in several categories

  • It is the first self propelled vehicle in history
  • It is the first invention of automobile in history
  • It is the first programmable machine in history


Da Vinci Car

Leonardo da Vinci car

Although not strictly a car in our modern sense as it did not have seats for a passenger (although this is a simple modification) it is, by all means, a very well-designed machine. It is so well designed it is unlikely that it could have been built to Leonardo’s specifications for at least a couple of centuries as very detailed machine tooling would be required to build the complex gear systems inside the car.

Invention of the automobile was most likely designed for one of Leonardo’s wealthy patrons, he was regularly employed to create complex showpieces for his patron’s large and exquisite parties, such things would be a way for them to show their wealth to their guests.

Leonardo da Vinci’s car inventions were spring-driven so they had to be wound up before they would move, you can see the spring in the image below. It was also programmable –  pegs were put into small holes to tell the wheels of the car to turn at certain points in time during the journey, it was all controlled internally by complex gearing and cog assemblies, self-propelled car designs and is a car a machine.

Based on the spring diameters and instructions on Leonardo’s design, it is estimated that the machine could move for up to forty meters before needing to recoil.


Leonardo da Vinci automobile invention

Recreation of Leonardo da Vinci Car

In 2004, a team from The Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence decided to try and recreate Leonardo da Vinci self propelled cart. They spent several months designing a 3rd model of Leonardo’s Car based on his designs, once they had that done they CNC Machined all the components from the 5 different types of wood Leonardo outlined in his plan.

Eventually, after a lot of hard work, they succeeded in creating a full-scale working model, and we might learn how to build a self propelled car, here is a video they took of the DaVinci auto in action –

Another fascinating thing about the car invention is that it is also the first known source showing a steering column, it also features a rack & pinion gear system, these are found in the steering assemblies of almost all automobiles made these days, including those with power steering.

Leonardo da Vinci self supporting bridge instructions also exhibit similar features to his self propelled vehicle ideas.

The Leonardo da Vinci Automotive model replicates exactly what he sketched in his original design. This is a snap together model so no gluing is required. Leonardo’s automobile is the first self-propelled machine in history.



Da Vinci self propelling cart

Da Vinci self propelling cart