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The Man Who Brought The First Vehicle To Kenya

The first motor car in Kenya was a De Dion Bouton which was lowered from a steamship in December 1903 in Mombasa, into the hands of its proud owner George Wilson, an Australian road engineer.

At the time, the De Dion Bouton was the best selling motor car worldwide, producing 400 cars and 3,200 engines in 1900. Built in France, the car was propelled by an 8cv single cylinder four stroke petrol engine.

Received with much applause in Mombasa, there were just a few niggling problems. The car could not be started for two days as there was no petrol or petrol stations to supply the combustible fluid.

Its petrol had to be offloaded from the ship, in four- gallon tins, similar to the kerosene debes that were the vogue at the time.

In the meantime, Wilson, ably assisted by his wife, had to study an instructions manual to discover where to put the oil and grease and how to adjust the various brass levers on the steering wheel to get the spark and fuel mixture just right.

It soon became evident that Kenya had only one major road or, more accurately, a glorified ox-cart track between Mombasa and Mumia (today’s Mumias).

There were no garages and the car was notoriously unreliable, breaking down with unparalleled frequency.

There is something about men and machines, especially of the chariot variety — an insatiable desire to go faster and farther than the chap next door. The greater the challenge, the more man is driven to outdo his adversary.

Kenya, with its hostile terrain and lack of infrastructure provided just the right challenge and it was in this environment that the motor industry developed.

More earth roads were built chiefly between administrative centres notably, Nairobi-Fort Hall (Murang’a), Lumbwa-Kericho, Voi-Taveta and Machakos-Athi River.

To demonstrate the road’s attraction to early motorists is the fact that it took another 23 years, after the arrival of the first car, before a petrol vehicle completed the journey from Mombasa to Nairobi.

Content created and supplied by: Babitu (via Opera News )

Australian De Dion Bouton France Kenya Mombasa


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