Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz were born in southern Germany about 10 years and 60 miles apart. Although it’s doubtful these two boys ever met or even knew what the other was doing, they were both fascinated by machines. Daimler was the first man to create a recognized internal combustion vehicle and the first to incorporate a practical transmission system. Shortly after the patent for this combustion motor was applied for, Carl Benz was granted a German patent covering a three-wheel motor car. In 1866 Daimler built a four-wheeler Victoria-type motor driven carriage. By 1890 the demands for this engine made expansion necessary. A corporation was formed, the Daimler Motor Company. Benz and several associates were also forming a corporation, the Benz & Company, in Mannheim, Germany. In the first recorded auto race sponsored by the Petit-Journal of Paris in 1894, Daimler built engines were the first three winning cars. Over the years the Daimler built cars continually gained prestige for their high-speed performance. Daimler continued his automotive research and was credited with many inventions prior to his death in 1900. He left control of his company to his chief engineer Wilhelm Mayback. Emil Jellinek of Vienna, a wealthy banker-sportsman, was very impressed by the success of the Daimler motor in racing competition. In the early 1890’s he purchased controlling stock interest in Daimler. Jellinek encouraged Daimler to create what was to be the most powerful car of its day. In 1900 the 4-cylinder Daimler was completed. The car was christened in honor of Emil Jellinek’s beautiful daughter, Mercedes. The new car was an immediate sensation. Following the war, the social unrest and a falling economy made automobile production increasingly disastrous. After a few attempts to merge Benz and Company with Daimler Motor Company an agreement was made and the two companies merged on June 28, 1926.
Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz were born only 60 miles apart in southern Germany. Daimler was born March 17, 1834. A decade later, on November 25, Carl Benz was born. Although they grew up with little in common, both boys were fascinated by machines from an early age. Because their approach to building cars was quite different, it is doubtful, though, that they met or even knew what the other was doing. In 1886, Carl Benz built a motorized tricycle. His first four-wheeler, the Victoria, was built in 1893. The first production car was the 1894 Benz Velo which participated in the first recorded car race, the Paris-Rouen race. In 1895, Benz built his first truck. In 1886, Gottlieb Daimler literally built a horseless carriage. In 1888 Daimler made a business deal with William Steinway (of piano fame) to produce Daimler’s products in the US. From 1904 until a fire in 1907, Steinway produced Mercedes passenger cars, Daimler’s light trucks, and his engines on Long Island. Ironically, history says Daimler, generally considered to be the father of modern automobiles never liked to drive, if, indeed he ever learned to drive. On March 6, 1990, Daimler died, leaving control of his company to his chief engineer Wilhelm Mayback. By November 22 of that year, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschat had produced a special car for Emil Jellinek. Jellinek named the car after his ten-year-old daughter Mercedes. Lighter and smaller, the new Mercedes had 35 hp and a top speed of 55 mph! The 1903 Parsifil was Benz’s answer to Mercedes. A two cylinder vertical engine produced a top speed of 37 mph in this car. Aware of the promotional potential of racing, both Daimler and Benz entered many of them. However, up until 1908, Daimler had overshadowed Benz in racing endeavors. At the 1908 French Grand Prix, Benz took second and third place behind Lautenschlager driving a Mercedes. From that point on, both Benz and Daimler did well in racing. At the beginning of the first world war, both factories were converted into production sites for war materials, although both resumed producing cars after the war.
Mercedes-Benz Classics produced from 1930 – 1970.
|Mercedes Benz Type||Production: Years||Length: Inches||Weight: Pounds|
|Mercedes-Benz 770 Grosser||1930-37||210||6000+|
|Mercedes-Benz 770 Grosser||1938-1940||246||7600-8100|
|Mercedes-Benz Type 300||1951-1962||195||3860-4400|
|Mercedes-Benz Type 300S/Sc||1952-1958||186||3600|
|Mercedes-Benz Type 600||1963-1980||218-246||5445-5820|
|Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3||1967-1972||196.9||4010|
|It all started with two different ideas from two different men with two different cars. Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz each created their own companies, manufacturing their own cars. Their companies produced brilliant automobiles as rivals for about 30 years, until economic ties caused their two respectful companies to merge and create what today is the greatest automobile in the world. Here is a brief history of the Mercedes Benz from it’s early days as a motor cycle engine to today’s ground breaking automobile.|
|1871, at the age of 27, Karl Benz got together with a partner August Ritter in Mannheim to form his first company, the “Iron Foundry and Machine Shop”. Not long after, the two partners went their separate ways and Karl Benz started a company of his own. By 1879/80, eight years after his company was founded, Karl Benz had developed his first working two-stroke engine.|
|1885. The first motor cycle. Gottlieb Daimler makes further improvements to the four-stroke single-cylinder engine. and fits it in a two-wheeler which he had designed himself.|
|1886. The Daimler Motor Carriage. Gottlieb Daimler orders a four-wheeler carriage from coach makers Wimpff & Sohn into which he fitted his 1.1 hp engine. On January 29, 1886 the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin granted Karl Benz German Patent No. 37435 for the world’s first motor car. Its 0.7 hp engine was mounted horizontally at the rear of a three-wheeler carriage. The motor car was born The early 1890’s brought the breakthrough for Karl Benz. With new partners and 50 employees, he now concentrated entirely on designing motor vehicles.|
|1893. The Benz Velo was the first cheap, mass-produced car in the world. It came onto the market in 1893.|
|1896. The first delivery vehicle was developed by Karl Benz on the chassis of a Viktoria car model. It was supplied to the Paris department store “Bon Marché”|
|1898. The name Mercedes. In 1898, Emil Jellinek, who bought and sold Daimler products, took part in the Nice-Magagnon-Nice rally under the pseudonym Mercedes, his daughter’s name. He won the race in a Daimler.|
|1909. Daimler’s star. The suggestion to use the star as a trademark came from Gottlieb Daimler’s sons. Their father had once sent his wife a postcard with a star marking out the house where he was living in Deutz. “One day this star will shine down on my work”, he said. In 1909 a trademark was taken out on the star. Its three points symbolizes the three branches of motorization: on land, on water and in the air.|
|1903. The year of the Parsifal. The new Parsifal was the first Benz with a vertical two-cylinder engine. It was also the first Benz with modern propeller shaft drive.|
|1919. Peacetime production. Drawing on experience gained with aero engines in the First World War, it was now decided to use supercharging in vehicle engines too.|
|1921. The first luxury models. In 1921 Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft presented two new vehicle models at the Berlin Motor Show. These were the first luxury cars of the post-war era.|
|1923. The Benz Drop-Shaped Car of 1923 was unusual in its basic layout and can be regarded as the first mid-engine racing car in the world..The drop-shaped car’s greatest moment was in the Monza European Grand Prix.|
|1924.The Merger. After winning a combined 269 races, Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft and Benz & Cie. co-ordinate their production activities and two years later merged into present day Mercedes Benz.|
|1926. . Shortly after the merger, Daimler-Benz create the legendary “K Type” supercharged model. It had a top speed of 145 km/h, making it the fastest touring car in the world.|
|1929. The new medium-sized cars. One of the first models to appear after the merger was the “Stuttgart”, a six-cylinder unsupercharged model, producing 38 hp.|
|1934-1936. The dream cars of the 30’s. In the 30’s cars such as the 500 K and the 540 K were among the most sought after cars. Cars like the 540 K sports car are among the all-time showpieces of automotive engineering.|
|1934. A new racing formula led Daimler-Benz to develop a completely new car known as the W 25. Over the weight limit to enter races at first, a sand down on the paint allowed the Silver Arrow to win countless series.|
|1945. A fresh start. After the War, the bombed out Untertürkheim plant put production of cars on hold, and for the first few months, the factory’s output included trailers for bicycles.|
|1946. Car business resumes At the Sindelfingen plant, . which survived damage, production continued except it only produced as a pick-up, because the Allied Control Council, prohibited Germany from manufacturing personal cars.|
|1949. The first new post-war developments May of this year saw the first new post-war development: a diesel version of the 170, which soon became a best-seller.|
|1955. A new roadster. The 190 SL was a “popular” version of the 300 SL. The cost of the 190 SL was only half that of the 300 SL. The roadster was fitted with a 4-cylinder engine from the 190 saloon, upgraded to 105 hp. More than 26,000 190 SL’s were sold around the world.|
|1958. Launch of the SE series. The 220 E series was more economical the a 300 SL. With better flexibility, higher power output and substantially improved pulling power, it consumed approximately half a liter less fuel per hundred kilometers than the 220 S.|
|1961. More safety for Mercedes-Benz drivers. Daimler-Benz researches were always convinced in the safety of the seat belt. They had been optionally available since 1957, however in 1961, the company started to fit the anchorage points for seat belts as standard.|
|1963. A new “Grand Mercedes”. In 1963, Daimler-Benz presented a new model: the 600, a car of superlatives in every way and fitted out with a wide array of electrical, pneumatic, hydraulic and vacuum-operated systems. 2,600 were sold through 1981.|
|1974. New convertibles. The seventies too had their SL. The running gear of the new convertibles was taken from the /8 series. Even more than their predecessors, they emphasized elegance rather than spottiness.|
|1977. A completely new Mercedes. The W 123 T-models presented in 1977 were a new departure in the Mercedes model range. The letter “T” stands for “tourism” and “transport”.|
|1979. The new S-class makes its debut. Gone was the chrome trim of the predecessor. Instead, bumpers and broad side plastic moldings bore witness to a functional design philosophy. The drag coefficient of 0.36 was low for the times.|
|1982. Mercedes in a new format. In late 1982, the new W 201 series saw the light of day. With their new body and running gear, these compact vehicles sparked lively discussion.|
|1984. Daimler-Benz introduced a new “mid-series” car, the W 124, incorporating further advances in passive safety. It featured belt-tensioners for driver and front passenger as standard equipment and a steering wheel airbag was optionally available.|
|1989. Silver Arrows return to the stage. Before the first event in Suzuka, the Mercedes C 9’s were replaced in silver. The Silver Arrows made a comeback worthy of the proud tradition. The Silver Arrows won 7 out of 8 races including a double win in the Le Mans 24 Hours race.|
|1993. Mercedes-Benz was the first manufacturer in the world to fit a four-valve diesel engine in a car. The new engine, fitted in the new E-class models – offering enhanced performance and smoothness, along with extreme longevity.|
|1994. The renaissance of the roadster. The SLK study for a small convertible was given a rapturous welcome when it was unveiled at the Turin Motor Show. SLK stands for “sportlich”, “leicht” and “kurz = short”. The two-seater from Stuttgart is the most exciting Mercedes in years. Fitted with the latest safety technology and offered with a 4-cylinder in-line engine with or without supercharger, it develops a maximum output of 150 or 250 hp. This new dream car will start to leave the Mercedes plant in Bremen as early as 1996. It will write a new chapter in the company’s long and remarkable roadster tradition.|
| You may know Stuttgart, Germany for its art museums, opera, ballet, gourmet food and trendy shopping. Stuttgart is also the home of the Mercedes plant, Mercedes Museum and the Mercedes Classic Car Center. In a town that uses Mercedes taxi cabs as transport, and spawns a large percentage of University graduates who go to work for the company, Mercedes is practically a household word. Even if you’re not a Mercedes lover, the experience is something that you won’t forget.The MERCEDES-BENZ MUSEUM
“Classic cars are very emotional you don’t hear people complain about the smell of oil,” noted Ulrich Loechner, manager of the Mercedes Benz museum, as he began a recent tour of the property. The museum which houses 80 vintage cars marks the history of the three main players of the company — Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, Emil Jellinek and Wilhelm Maybach and the vehicles they created.
The setting is a hi-tech-looking lofty space with floor to ceiling windows and racetracks (ramps) that gracefully wind up to different levels and different eras in the world of automobiles.
Starting on the main floor, there’s the first motorcycle from 1886, with a wooden riding saddle. This was also known as the first heated seat, yet only by default. The open flame of a Bunsen burner (part of the power system) was unfortunately positioned directly beneath the saddle. Story has it that Gottlieb Daimler (as in DaimlerChrysler) had to jump off several times while testing the two-wheeler.
Loechner also told us that the first motor-driven buggy from 1888 was tested by the wife of Carl Benz (as in Mercedes-Benz). She packed up her two boys and left home for a day. When she needed to stop for gasoline she got it at the local pharmacy.
The museum’s first floor also features the Simplex, considered the first Mercedes that was built in 1901. Designed by Wilhelm Maybach it had 35hp and stood long and low to the ground. Emil Jellinek, an Austrian businessman, was instrumental in the development of the vehicle. When he commissioned this sports car, he exclaimed, “I don’t want the car of today or the car of tomorrow, but the car of the day after tomorrow.”
Jellinek bought a fleet of 36 and named them Mercedes (in Spanish this means grace) after his young daughter.
What Mercedes calls its DNA is exhibited in meticulously hand-painted buggies with details including built-in candleholders and bars, exquisite leather interiors with megaphones to talk with the drivers. Several ones had seats facing backwards (with footsteps to get into them) called “mother-in-law” seats.
Traveling up the ramp, the low, lean and chrome-plated sports cars of the 20’s and 30’s (rumble seats included) are the famous Silver Arrow of 1939 and Hirohito’s car — the 770, or the “grosse Mercedes” with armored plating and a V8 engine.
It’s about this point that even if you never said the word horsepower in your life you become a car lover. I was having visions of myself in buggies wearing kid gloves and structured white suits with tall ankle-wrapped heels, or tooling around in a 30’s roadster with a long chiffon scarf. The designs are inspiring.
For instance, there’s the 300SL Gullwing from the 50’s with
The New Mercedes-Benz museum, which has design elements of New York’s Guggenheim, will open the spring of 2006 along with the world soccer championships in Germany. This museum will hold up to 250 classic cars.
To note: Use the headsets for the Museum tour so you can hear the stories behind the vehicles.
THE GOTTLIEB DAIMLER MEMORIAL
Set on the park grounds of Gottlieb Daimler’s former home, the greenhouse holds original tools and drawings of Gottlieb and Wilhelm Maybach. This is where it all began.
Daimler and Maybach worked 24/7 in absolute secrecy creating their first engine. Even Daimler’s family and staff didn’t have a clue to the goings on. At one point a suspicious gardener contacted the police claiming that the greenhouse was a money-counterfeiting workshop. When they found only tools and engine components during their nighttime search, the inventors were left alone to work. In 1885 they received a patent on an upright engine which they named “grandfather clock”, a singlecylinder engine light and compact enough to fit into a two-wheeler “riding car”. This was the first motorcycle that you see at the museum.
In the summer of 1886 the pair mounted the engine into a horseless carriage and drove around town much to the shock of observers. People were so spooked by the technology that Daimler and Maybach decided to do future testing on the Neckar River. Thus, they mounted the motor in a boat and the Neckar
It might be fun to rent a car for the day and travel just outside the city to Fellback. Take the route via the Autobahn where there are no speed limits.
The Classic Center sells 30-50 rare cars a year so the vehicles are always changing. We saw the Mercedes that Jackie Onassis drove and a gorgeous chocolate brown 1935 Mercedes 500 K from the years valued at $3.8 million.
The Classic Center is also where people come to have their classic cars worked on. Over 40,000 spare parts are available through the shop, which purrs with mechanics hand tooling the classics. Unlike any other mechanics shop I have been in, the environment is so clean you could picnic on the floor and so quiet you can hear your own voice. For the collector the Center stocks hard to find shirts, clothes, watches, miniature model cars, and Mercedes books.
In a special garage not open to the public Die Heiligen Hallen (the secret halls) we were witness to the unveiling of several famous cars including Lady Di’s chauffeur driven car and the M-class jeep from the movie Jurassic Park. Someone in our group even thought they spotted the fender of a concept car.
The Sindelfingen plant also just outside of Stuttgart is also open for tours. We visited the stamping facility where 10-16 foot-tall robots use dies to stamp out pieces of the car that eventually end up as door parts or structural members. The parts are then sent to the assembly line where people and robots put the parts together. At the finishing plant there are mostly engineers working hands-on to do tasks that include the stitching of leather seats or refining touches to the instrument panel.
|In 1882, Daimler made himself independent, setting up his first workshop in Cannstatt, today part of Stuttgart.Then he arranged for Wilhelm Maybach to join him from Deutz. Henceforth, Daimler devoted his attention to the four-stroke engine, which had to be made still smaller, lighter and more efficient to increase its field of application and its suitability for mobile use. By 1883, he had taken out Patent No. 28 022 on the first small, light, high-speed combustion engine. Daimler was so successful in improving the engine that in 1885 it was installed for the first time in a”riding car” (the first motorcycle), one year later in a boat and finally, in 1886, in a carriage. In 1890, the Daimler-Motoren Gesellschaft was founded in Cannstatt.With new,wealthy partners, engine building could now be pursued on a larger scale. By the time Gottlieb Daimler died, on 6th March 1900, he had already lived to see his engines prove themselves in practice. .||The Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft was flourishing. Gottlieb Daimler married twice. By his first wife Emma, who died in 1889, he had five children. He married his second wife, Lina, in 1893. This union produced two further children. The Daimler house in TaubenheimstraBe, Cannstatt, was destroyed in the Second World War and the site is now part of the Kurpark.The garden shed in which Daimler and Maybach developed the high-speed engine survived and is today a museum.
|Karl Benz was born on 25th November 1844 in Karlsruhe, the son of an engine driver.The middle of the last century, when Benz was an apprentice, was a time of widespread fascination with the”new technology”. The first railway line in Germany from Nuremberg to Furth had been opened in 1835, only twenty years before, and in the space of just a few decades the railways, steamships and new production processes had ushered in a new era in technology, industry and everyday life. Karl Benz attended the Karlsruhe grammar school and subsequently the Karlsruhe Polytechnic. Between 1864 and 1870, he worked for a number of different firms as a draughtsman, designer and works manager before foundinghis first firm in 1871 in Mannheim, with August Ritter. But little money was to be made in the building materials trade and the economic convulsions of the 1870’s caused difficulties for the young company. Karl Benz now turned to the two-stroke engine, in the hope of finding a new livelihood. After two years’ work, his first engine finally sprang to life on NewYear’s Eve, 1879. He took out various patents on this machine.
Equally important were the contacts with new business associates, with whose assistance Benz founded a gas engine factory in Mannheim. But after only a short time he withdrew from this company since it did not give him a free enough hand for his technical experiments. Benz found two new partners and with them founded “Benz & Co., Rheinische Gasmotorenfabrik” in 1883 in Mannheim, a general partnership. Business was good and soon the production of industrial engines was being stepped up
|With this new financial security, Karl Benz could now set about designing a “motor carriage”, with an engine based on the Otto fourstroke cycle. Unlike Daimler, who installed his engine in an ordinary carriage, Benz designed not only his engine, but the whole vehicle as well. On 29th January 1886, he was granted a patent on it and on 3rd July 1886, he introduced the first automobile in the world to an astonished public. In 1903, Karl Benz retired from active participation in his company. The next year however, he joined the supervisory board of Benz & Cie and he was a member of the supervisory board of Daimler-Benz AG from 1926, when the company was formed, until his death in 1929. In 1872, Karl Benz married Bertha Ringer, who was to be of major support to him in his work. The couple produced five children. Benz lived to witness the motoring boom and the definitive penetration of his idea in to everyday life. He died on 4th April 1929. The former Benz family residence in Ladenburg is now open to the public.The Daimler-Benz foundation, founded in 1986, has its registered office here.
|Scientific curiosity and the roughness were the driving forces in Gottlieb Daimler’s career. Born the son of a master baker on 17th March 1834 in Schorndorf, he served an apprenticeship to a gunsmith, then expanded his horizons firstly in the locomotive industry, then at the Stuttgart Polytechnic. He subsequently worked for various engineering firms in France and England. In 1865, Daimler was entrusted, as 12:40:38 06/07/05Technical Manager, with reorganising the engineering works of the Reutlingen Brotherhood. Here he became acquainted with the outstandingly talented young draughtsman and engineer, Wilhelm Maybach.This fateful meeting marked a turning point in the lives of both men.When Daimler joined the Maschinenbaugesellschaft Karlsruhe in 1869 as “Chairman of all Workshops”, he arranged the very same year for Maybach to be taken on. Henceforth, Daimler and Maybach formed an inseparable team. In 1872,||Gottlieb Daimler becameTechnical Director of the Gasmotorenfabrik Deutz AG, founded shortly before by Nikolaus Otto and Eugen Langen. Maybach moved with him and became head of the design office. During this period, Otto developed his four-stroke engine and it was clear to Daimler that this smaller and lighter engine would prove superior to the large and unwieldy gas engines of the times.
Mercedes-Benz is the premium brand of DaimlerChrysler AG. Its three pointed star is a world-acclaimed symbol standing for the highest standards of quality and safety. In 2004, the Mercedes-Benz car group, including the brands smart and Maybach, sold approximately 1,226,800 cars, vans and SUVs. More than 50 percent of the Mercedes-Benz cars sold in 2004 were silver. A wide range of private cars – comfortable limousines, elegant off-road vehicles, multi-purpose transport vehicles or versatile all-rounders – enables Mercedes-Benz to serve every purpose and to fulfill the very highest demands. Moreover, from its earliest days, Mercedes-Benz has also been at the very forefront of pioneering automotive developments. Revolutionary examples of technical innovation from Mercedes-Benz over the last 50 years include the safety occupant cell, the crash crumple zone, the airbag, the seat-belt tensioner and the ABS anti-lock braking system. All these developments are today standard components in nearly all automobiles throughout the world. Equally innovative are the Electronic Stability Program ESP®, Active Body Control ABC and Sensotronic Brake Control SBC. In 1994, Mercedes-Benz started their partnership with McLaren in Formula One. It was in the same year that the Stuttgart manufacturer celebrated the 100th anniversary of their success in the very first motor race. The first four cars home in the race from Paris to Rouen on 22nd July 1894 were powered by a 954 cc V2 engine designed by Gottlieb Daimler. On 3 June 1934, Manfred von Brauchitsch won the Eifelrace at the Nürburgring at the wheel of a Mercedes W25 after the car’s white coloured paintwork had been sanded down to reduce weight. The Mercedes-Benz cars then appeared in the aluminium body’s silver colour which marked the Silver Arrow’s birthday. On 4 July, 1954, Juan Manuel Fangio drove his W196 streamline to victory in the French Grand Prix at Reims which he won ahead of his team mate Karl Kling. It was the first Formula One race win for Mercedes-Benz. In January 2000, Mercedes’ parent company DaimlerChrysler acquired a 40 per cent interest in the McLaren Group. Since October 2002, DaimlerChrysler is the owner of a majority holding in Ilmor Engineering Ltd., which since 1993 has been responsible for the design, development and production of Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 engines in coordination with Mercedes-Benz.
Near Stuttgart, Germany in Untertürkheim within what is now DaimlerChrysler’s main factory sits the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Arriving at Untertürkheim does not bring the excitement that you get nearing Maranello. There are no Mercedes-Benz flags in the shop windows nor do you see the Mercedes name bandied about, yet when you arrive at the factory gates there is no mistaking the fact that you are in the presence of some very serious automotive minds. Mercedes might lack the flair of Ferrari but certainly is more than a match in their record of success. To get to the museum you must use a special bus that takes you from just outside the factory to the museum’s main entrance. The museum itself is a modern glass and steel structure that displays around 100 cars. Admission is free and the cars you’ll see span the history of the automobile, for it was near this site that the very first gas-powered automobiles were built. Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Wilhelm Maybach strove to harness the internal combustion engine into a practical vehicle for personal transportation. Here you will see the results of their labour. The museum has a small store and a cafe. The store has a number of items such as die-cast cars that cannot be purchased anywhere else.
Mercedes-Benz is very proud of the fact that they invented the first practical automobiles and upon entering the museum that is what you’ll see. Be sure to grab one of their wireless radios for a description of all of the exhibits. The museum has angled floors that lead you up through the museum and the cars are arrayed in a more or less historical order. The displays are very straightforward and not as descriptive as those are in the Galleria Ferrari. The thinking may be that the cars stand on their own merit or that you should have picked up a radio!
There is also a display of current models including the cute “Smart Car” which was originally the result of a partnership between Swatch and Daimler-Benz. The 58-mpg car has won numerous awards in Europe and can be purchased in many “mouth watering” colors. If a computer can be called an iMac then this car should be called an iCar. A number of governments are using this car as a basis for car-sharing plans. SwissAir has a program for first-class passengers to use this car at their destination while returning it to the airport upon their departure. The Smart Car is only 2.5 meters long and has excellent visibility combined with a very small turning circle and a semi-automatic transmission. The car has a top speed of 85 mph, accelerates from 0 to 60 in 10.2 seconds. The Smart Car features a state of the art Tridion alloy safety framework, ABS braking and a rear mounted Mercedes manufactured 599cc suprex-turbocharged 3 cylinder in-line petrol engine complete with catalytic converter. But the main reason I was visiting the museum was Mercedes’ racing cars, especially the Silver Arrows.
In 1879 Karl Benz founded Benz & Co. Rheinsche Gasmotoren-Fabrik which produced stationary engines used in factories all over Europe. The building of stationary engines allowed Benz to pursue his real interest in the automobile. In 1886 his first vehicles were seen by incredulous citizens on the streets of Mannheim. Benz himself had no appetite for racing cars, which he considered a waste of time. It was his opinion that 30 mph was all that was prudent given the conditions of the roads in Europe. Nevertheless his two sons, Eugen and Richard had other ideas and a few modified cars were made. Soon Benz racing cars were seen at all of the major races. In 1910 Benz scored a 1-2 at the American Grand Prize with David Bruce-Brown and Victor Hemery driving. A 200 h.p. “Blitzen-Benz” claimed the historic mille record of 228.1 km/h with a flying start in 1911 at Daytona Beach. This record, set by Bob Burman would stand for 13 years. In 1923 Benz conceived the famous Tropfenwagen which was the first mid-engined racing car the world had ever seen but by then Benz would soon become part of Daimler-Benz and the car would not be further developed.
After years of experimentation in various motorized vehicles Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft was founded in 1890 to produce engines for industry purposes but Daimler and his chief designer Maybach also had their eyes set on further developing a Daimler automobile. They had none of the reservations towards racing as their contemporary Benz. It was Daimler engines that propelled Panhard & Levassor cars to victory in the first city-to-city events but it was an ex-Austro-Hungarian diplomat by the name of Emil Jellinek that convinced them of the benefits of racing their own cars to publicize their engineering qualities. Jellinek also contributed the Mercedes name to the Daimler cars figuring this non-German sounding name would be more popular with the French buying public. His demands for ever more powerful cars were initially met with bemusement back at Cannstatt but his constant prodding soon bore fruit.
Mercedes scored major victories over French teams at the French Grand Prix in 1908 and 1914. World War I stopped racing in Europe but the following year in the United States they scored a victory at the Indianapolis 500 with Ralph de Palma. Directly after the war Germany was banned from racing but soon was allowed back. The AVUS motorway in Berlin had its first organized race in 1921. The 1st German Grand Prix was held in 1926 on this course and the race was won by an unknown German driver with an Italian sounding name, Rudolf Caracciola. The circuit featured two long straights joined by a pair of banked turns and was to host some of the fastest races ever held. In the Eiffel Mountains another circuit was being built, the Nurburgring. The inaugural event was also won by Mercedes but with the onset of the Depression, Mercedes withdrew from racing. This did not stop a semi-private team led by Alfred Neubauer with Caracciola driving to claim the Mille Miglia, becoming the first non-Italians to win the grueling race.
In 1932, the Association for International Automobile Racing (AIACR) sanctioned a new international 750-kg racing formula. The regulations stated that the weight of the racing car may not exceed 750 kg excluding fuel, water, grease, oil and strangely tires but not wheels. The race length of a Grand Prix was a minimum 500-kilometer. After much discussion the decision was made at Untertürkheim to build a new 750-kg Grand Prix racing car for the 1934 season. Behind locked doors and barbed wire fences the work was started to build cars that would forever change the face of automobile racing. Hitler’s Germany sponsored two teams to compete under this new formula, Mercedes and Auto Union. Each firm split an annual grant of 450,000 Reichmarks with additional bonuses for certain results. This money would only cover a small portion of the vast sums required. The Silver Arrows would soon rule the racing world.
We waited again. Then they came.
Far away in the distance we heard an angry, deep-throated roaring – as someone once remarked, like hungry lions impatient for the arena. A few moments later, Manfred von Brauchitsch, red helmeted, brought a great, silver projectile snaking down the hill, and close behind, his teammate Rudolf Caracciola, then at the height of his great career. The two cars took the hairpin, von Brauchitsch almost sideways, and rocketed away out of sight with long plumes of rubber smoke trailing from their huge rear tyres, in a deafening crash of sound.
The startled Pressmen gazed at each other, awe-struck.
“Strewth,” gasped one of them, “so that’s what they’re like!”
That was what they were like.
Initially the overall responsibility for Mercedes’ racing efforts was held by Dr Hans Nibel but after his untimely death from a stroke in November 1934 that duty was assumed by Max Sailer. During their peak years of 1937-38 the team was divided into three main departments, headed by Fritz Nallinger who was in charge of Design, Rudolf Uhlenhaut of Construction and Preparation and Alfred Neubauer of the Racing Department. The Design department was sub-divided into two main sections, Engines under Albert Hess and Chassis under Max Wagner (who ironically, while at Benz, was involved in the design of the mid-engined Tropfenwagen.
Until the outbreak of World War II the silver cars of Mercedes battled their fellow Germans at Auto Union while Alfa Romeo, Maserati were left with the scraps, save those rare occasions when a driver of the caliber of Nuvolari could beat the formidable German teams. In the hands of drivers such as Rudolf Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch, Luigi Fagioli, Hermann Lang and Dick Seaman Mercedes won three European Championships titles with only the 1936 championship being lost to Auto Union and their brilliant driver, Bernd Rosemeyer. Mercedes also competed in European Hillclimbs as well as in World speed record attempts.
After the end of World War II the Daimler-Benz factory lay in ruins. All of the company’s efforts were geared to resurrecting their automobile business. There was no budget or time for racing. Once the manufacturing of automobiles and trucks were restored and sales began to grow Mercedes looked again to racing as if to prove to the world that the Silver Cars were back. After returning to sports cars in 1952 attention was focused on returning to Grand Prix racing and in 1954 they were back on top of the racing world with Juan-Manuel Fangio. The next year saw them win the World Title again, besides adding a second Mille Miglia. Having proved their point they withdrew from major racing and were absent for almost 30 years.
With Grand Prix racing becoming more specialized Mercedes-Benz returned in the 1980’s to German Touring and Endurance Sports Car racing. Later they would return to single seaters in both the United States and Europe as engine suppliers. In 1998 they won the World Championship with McLaren. Taking an equity stake in the British team demonstrated their commitment to racing on an ongoing basis. Today they compete in the CART, Le Mans and Formula 1 series.
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