First motorized boat: The amazing story of the world’s oldest motorboat

137 years ago, Lürssen Yachts built what is widely considered to be the world's first motorized boat...

Called Rems, the world’s first motorized boat was commissioned by inventor and engine manufacturer Gottlieb Daimler. He wanted something that could really test his engines, and approached Friedrich Lürssen, founder of Lürssen Yachts.

When Friedrich Lürssen completed his training as a boat builder, his father feared that the boatyard where he worked wouldn’t be able to support the two Lürssen families. He encouraged Friedrich to open his own workshop and so, in 1875, Lürssen Yachts was born.

The firm began manufacturing and selling sport rowing boats to a market that was blossoming. The first boats built displayed such originality and quality that it wasn’t long until the boatbuilder was selling boats across the whole of Germany.

It’s said that the motorboat built by Lürssen Yachts in 1886 was the world’s first. She was commissioned by inventor and engine manufacturer Gottlieb Daimler, who wanted to put his engine through its paces.

The engine powering the world’s first motorized boat had a cylinder capacity volume of 0.462 litres, weighed 60kg and had an output of 1.5hp at 700rpm. When Daimler made his first attempt at a trial run, a group of irate locals stopped him from taking the motorboat on the water.

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Rumours of someone testing a boat whose power was generated by explosions had spread through the community. The local people worried the tests would be a life threatening pursuit.

In 1896 the 12m motorboat Daimler was delivered. She helped to establish Lürssen Yachts as one of the most prominent motorboat builders in the then Imperial Germany.

The first motorboat race took place off the coast of Monaco. Lürssen Yachts attracted a lot of attention as a new competitor, gaining the company a significant amount of attention from the motorboating community across the world.

It was the founder’s son who had the passion for fast racing boats. In 1905 Otto Lürssen developed racing speedboat Donnerwetter. She reached nearly 35 knots with a 40hp engine, which was remarkable for the time. Otto became a partner at Lürssen yachts two years later.

In 1911 Otto competed in a motorboat race at Monaco in one of his boats, the Lürssen-Daimler. Owned by Daimler, built by Lürssen Yachts and fitted with a Daimler petrol engine with 102hp that could run at around 50km/h, she won four awards at the show.

When Friedrich Lürssen, the founder of Lürssen Yachts, died unexpectedly aged 65, the business was passed on to his son Otto. It remains in the Lürssen family, passing through the generations, and is now the builder of some of the world’s largest superyachts.

First published on in 2011