Featured: The Mercedes-Benz Museum is a Quick Trip Through Their History

The Mercedes-Benz Museum is a Quick Trip Through Their History

By Andrey Smazhilo
November 18, 2014
9 comments

Photography by Andrey Smazhilo

Class. No matter which modern Mercedes-Benz car you choose, class comes standard. And there is a certain reason why: for many years now, all of the German marque’s cars have been built with an extreme level of attention and thoroughness, which has also affected the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

One of the people responsible for us driving cars today is Karl Benz, a German engineer, who was supposedly sick and tired of observing horse muscles work in front of him while riding in a carriage. Additionally, a coachman was necessary to handle the reins, so Mr. Benz decided to construct a vehicle that was self-powered and could also be controlled by anyone. He built his first motorwagen in 1886. It was a three-wheeler powered by a single-cylinder 954cc four-stroke engine that produced less than one horsepower, but thanks to its low weight of about one hundred kilograms, this first car was able to travel up to ten miles per hour.

Since then, the company has always pursued new technologies, and if anyone thought that Porsche or Subaru were first to use a flat engine, well, you’re wrong. Mr. Benz patented the contramotor, as he named it, approximately a decade after he built his first car, in 1897. A couple years later, this engine went into production in a Dos-à-Dos model, producing five horsepower at 940 rpm, which seems funny today but was a lot at the time given the engineering.

Prior to their merger, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) had to switch to production of typewriters, and Benz & Cie. started making bicycles instead of marine and aero engines (due to Germany’s armistice agreement). But World War I had a profound effect on all of Germany, and Benz & Cie. and DMG eventually merged into Daimler-Benz AG. From 1924 to 1926, Benz managed to produce approximately 25,000 bicycles just before merging with DMG.

The late ‘20s and early ‘30s were somewhat special all around the globe. Initially, it was an era of excess, and even today the scarlet-red Mercedes-Benz 500K Special Roadster seems a little bit too bright. Only twenty-nine of them were made, and each one was exclusive and individually bodied. It was a car for the wealthiest and most powerful people of the era. Those who preferred being driven by a chauffeur could choose the Mercedes-Benz 770K. Hence, no matter if you preferred to drive the car yourself or be chauffeured, you, and your Mercedes-Benz, would stand out in a crowd. They were among the most expensive and most technologically advanced cars of their age.

Speaking of technology, Mercedes-Benz’s development can hardly be imagined without motor racing. There is an unsubstantiated legend about how the ‘Silver Arrows’ got their name. For a very long time the German national racing colour was white. But allegedly, during the 1934 Grand Prix season, Mercedes-Benz entered a car that weighed 751 kg, a paltry kilogram more than permitted by the regulations! Thus, the mechanics sanded down the paintwork, reducing weight and exposing the bare, silver shining aluminium body. The W25 was permitted to race and later picked up the Silver Arrow nickname.

Whether it’s true or not (it doesn’t seem to be), Rudolf Caracciola won the 1935, ‘36, and ‘38 Grand Prix seasons, driving a Silver Arrow. After WWII, Juan Manuel Fangio won the 1954 and 1955 Formula One championships driving a silver Mercedes-Benz W196 and Sir Stirling Moss took a win at the 1955 Mille Miglia rally in the famed #722 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.

The 300 SLR is notable for another reason too. A hardtop version was designed to compete in the 1956 racing season but unfortunately, the car never raced because Daimler-Benz ended racing activities at the end of ‘55 season. Would you like one as your company car? For this, you should have been Rudolf Uhlenhaut, head of the company’s Test Department, who drove this car on a daily basis as a test bed for new technology.

Another gorgeous example of German engineering is the Mercedes-Benz 230SL, nicknamed ‘pagoda’ for its concave hardtop. This was the among the first of the ‘luxurious’ Mercedes. While there were performance variants, it was more about arriving in elegance than arriving as quickly as possible. Classy? But of course.

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9 Comments on "The Mercedes-Benz Museum is a Quick Trip Through Their History"

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Arvind Ramkrishna
Arvind Ramkrishna

Excellent post Andrey and love the photography! Stunning pictures!

Kaan Paksoy
Kaan Paksoy

amazin article andrey, i love it

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

Nice piece. I thought the Uhlenhaut coupe versions of the 300SLR were mainly built for the 1955 Carrera Panamericana before that event was cancelled due to safety concerns? It is reasonable to assume though that they would also been used in the 56 season if Mercedes hadn’t pulled out at the end of 1955.

Clayton Merchant
Clayton Merchant
Love the photos of the museum. The 300SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe is the most beautiful car ever to come out of a Mercedes factory. True that 2 of them were built, largely for the personal satisfaction of Rudi and to his specs as has been noted. The car was said to be deafening to drive as neither one had any insulation or sound deadening included. Point of clarification Andrey, the crash at Le Mans occurred on June 11, not in August, The race has always been run in June with three exceptions which were the very first race in 1923, and… Read more »
Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

The Mercedes Benz Museum website indicates these cars were originally intended for the Carrera Panamericana https://www.mercedes-benz.com/de/mercedes-benz/classic/museum/mercedes-benz-300-slr-uhlenhaut-coupe/ Link is in German but you can run it through google translate.

Perhaps the race was cancelled before the cars were constructed but Uhlenhaut had them constructed anyway for his personal use?

Clayton Merchant
Clayton Merchant
Matthew, I think it was a simply a matter of timing. There were originally 9 chassis built for the W196 and W196S as the 300SLR was known internally. The W194 or more commonly, the 300SL coupe (or streamlined version) largely conceptualized by Uhlenhaut had done very well in competition, but it was somewhat underpowered in relation to it’s competition. Of the 9-W196 chassis, 1 was obviously destroyed at the Le Mans incident. Uhlenhaut had previously marked 2 of the chassis for testing and development in what would become the coupes and I’m sure, had the accident not occurred, they would… Read more »
Martin James
Martin James
Wrong , wrong and wrong again ! Once again another fine case of revisionist history in action ! Or at the very least a severe case of not checking the facts before posting the article/comments Here’s the real scoop mein herrs ! Rudi Uhlenhaut had the two 300SLR coupes created for his own personal use and enjoyment as well as a test bed for further development ideas . Not for the PanAmerica or any other competition . ( The ‘Star ‘ magazine [ multiple articles ] ” Mercedes Benz McLaren SLR ” ; Motorbuch Verlag – Ulenhaut’s biography – Mercedes… Read more »
ACFowles
ACFowles

Your assertions may or may not be correct – I do not know.

However, I would urge you to reconsider your style. I am sure that if you were to deliver them in a collaborative way by joining the discussion and remaining respectful of the other posters then they would be much better received. Unfortunately, you current delivery is (in my opinion) both rude and patronising.

Insulting your fellow posters does not get your assertions considered or accepted – quite the opposite.

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