You may have thought that Henry Ford made the first car in the U.S., or Duryea, or Olds. However, the first patent on an internal combustion on a 4 wheel vehicle was filed in 1879, and issued in 1897. George Selden was a civil war veteran, with skills and interests in engineering and law. After the Civil War, he entered engineering school, but had to drop out. He later took up law, and filed his patent. He knew that he would not be manufacturing cars before the term of the patent expired, so he did all he could to delay its issuance. It finally issued in 1897, at a time that other car makers were in production.
He licensed his patent, and the company that owned the rights to it licensed it to the other car makers. Selden also began making cars, the Selden Motor Car.
Henry Ford refused to pay the license fee on the Selden Patent, and lost an infringement lawsuit. He appealed the decision, and won. The Selden patent was accused of not being "enabling". To determine if the patent enabled one skilled in the art to build it, a mechanic used the Selden patent as the blueprint to build a car, the first Selden car ever built. It ran, barely, but Selden's patent was determined to cover only the three cylinder, two stroke engine that it disclosed. Ford and all the other car makers used a four stroke engine, and so were not infringing. When the lawsuit was over, the Selden patent only had one year to go before it expired anyway. Over the years, licensing the Selden patent had been a real money maker for Selden. Selden later made automobiles, then trucks, and his company lasted as the Selden Truck Sales Company into the 1930s.
Ford also had another car built from a patent, a gasoline car patented by Lenior in 1860, a Belgian. Ford's goal was to show that Selden's patent was invalid, because a car had been patented earlier. Both Lenoir and Selden were only the first gasoline powered cars, because earlier steam cars had been built by Evans in the U.S. in 1805 , Gurney in the U.K. in 1829, Bollee in France in 1875 and Cugnot in France in 1768. The Duryea Brothers car was the first production car, first designed in 1893,