Norwegian text by Harald Tønnesen, translated by Sigmund Rønneberg
Few people really realize the importance the Stavanger district played in the development of motorized travel in Norway. The pioneering days of Norwegian auto history dates back to the later part of the 1800’s up to 1909 when the first car exhibition was held in this country. And in this (historical) development, Stavanger plays a central part.
In 1996 we celebrate the 100 year jubilee of the first car to arrive in Norway, a Benz Phantom that was used in the area of Gjøvik in the summer of 1896. But also visionary men of Stavanger, were early (in the use of the auto).
The second car to arrive in Norway, came in 1898. “This one also from the Benz factory in Germany. It was the first car in Stavanger, and the first car that rolled on the streets of the capitol. In the “Stavanger Avis” (Stavanger’s newspaper) of Oct. 6, 1898 you could read the following: “One can now happen to see a motor vehicle in Stavanger. Factory owner Mr. T. Rønneberg has ordered one that is on its way from Germany to Stavanger. It runs on benzene, and can be managed and steered easier than any horse team. It can move quickly or slowly depending on what you desire, uphill or downhill, yield and turn. The wagon Mr. Rønneberg has bought, is a very light wagon. It has room for three people, and can be driven at varying speeds. The wagon was hand picked by Mr. Rønneberg, and tested by himself and his brother.
“The motor vehicle was sent from Germany on the 18th of October, and arrived in Stavanger three days later, with a demonstration the following day.
“This afternoon the wagon was taken on its first trip. It was excellent. The three of us jumped in and went for a ride in it, several times up and down Jernbaneveien (Railroad street), taking the turns with no effort whatsoever. It felt a little heavy going up the hill from Jernbaneveien to Ladegårdsveien (Ladegård road), but it made it easily passed the theater. With a little practice it should be easier to turn around than any horse. On a flat road, it takes off for real.
“A few days later it drove all the way to Solakrossen, and from Randaberg church the trip took 20 minutes.
Rønneberg became the Benz agent, and on Nov. 8th he traveled to the capitol (Christiana then, Oslo now) to demonstrate this wonder. Both the chief of the police and the city engineer were present at the first demonstration. Later also the crown prince went for a test drive.
In the newspaper “Morgenbladet” of Nov. 15th, the following was written: “We have now, on several occasions, mentioned the motor vehicle imported by Mr. Rønneberg of Stavanger which is now seen in our city.”
“We met Rønneberg down at Festningsplassen (the plaza of the fort), and were immediately invited for a ride. The wagon achieved a frightening speed. One is tempted to believe there is witchcraft involved in steering and speed regulation, but it all proved to be quite simple.
“The Stavanger writer, Theodor Dahl, also writes about “the red car” in his book “The town and its people”. They went south to Jæren to visit and had a great new thing to show – a motorboat.
The red wonder stayed in Stavanger a couple of years, but then the engine was taken out and fitted in a boat, and the body was sold to a farmer.