Meet the First Person to Buy & Own a Car in Kenya

  • De Dion Bouton, the first car to be imported to Kenya
    De Dion Bouton, the first car to be imported to Kenya
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  • Kenya got its first automobile over a century ago, in 1903, during the early years of British colonial rule.

    Kenya's first car was owned by Australian Road Engineer, George Wilson, who imported the vehicle from France into the country through the Mombasa Port.

    The car model was a De Dion Bouton, which at the time was one of the most popular cars in the world.

    De Dion Bouton model car
    De Dion Bouton model car
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    Wilson's car became a status symbol and an engineering marvel in Kenya and the entire East African region.

    George was among the Civil Engineers who were tasked with the responsibility of constructing Kenyan highways stretching from Mombasa to Mumias.

    The car had a one-cylinder engine that drove the machine at a costly maintenance value. 

    The interior design required passengers to sit in the front seats while facing the driver, who sat in the rear body rest.

    While the car commenced a technological boom in Kenya, it encountered an array of challenges.

    Firstly, George Wilson though a road engineer, did not know how to drive his imported automobile.

    Luckily for Wilson, the French auto company making company had given him a manual on how to drive and maintain the car.

    Wilson also faced fuel challenges since the country did not have cars, as such, there were no petrol stations at the time.

    The engineer was forced to travel with jerrycans of fuel strapped at the back of his car.

    Lastly, the existing roads had not been made for cars, making it hard for Wilson to drive on the ragged roads.

    It took Wilson 26 years to make a maiden road trip from Mombasa to Nairobi, but at that time, Kenyans were already making the trip using the railway line.

    The first Kenyan car making maiden trip to Nairobi from Mombasa in 1929
    The first Kenyan car making maiden trip to Nairobi from Mombasa in 1929
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