Techno-Classica 2011: Mercedes-Benz celebrates 125 years of the automobile
Stuttgart
Mar 24, 2011
Milestone vehicles from Mercedes-Benz at the 2011 Techno-Classica
Benz Patent Motor Car, 1886
On 29 January 1886, Carl Benz files a patent application for his “vehicle with gas engine operation”. Patent application DRP 37,435 can be regarded as the birth certificate of the automobile and helps to coin the name “patent motor car”. The world’s first automobile is an independent design in which engine and chassis form an organic unit. Benz, unconvinced by the conventional drawbar steering used on the carriages of the day, builds his automobile in the form of a three-wheeler. Carl Benz’s key achievement consists in the determination with which he makes reality his vision of the “horseless carriage”: he conceives the idea of a motor car, designs it, constructs it, patents it, tests it, markets it, produces it in series, refines it, thereby making his invention usable. The Benz patent motor car heralds a new age of personal mobility.
Mercedes Simplex 40 hp, 1902
In March 1902, the Mercedes Simplex 40 hp supersedes the legendary 35 hp Mercedes. The name “Simplex” refers to the new model’s ease of use (by the standards of those days). Its predecessor, the first vehicle to go by the brand name Mercedes, becomes an instant legend upon its launch in December 1900: for the first time it defines an independent form of the automobile and to this today is considered a masterpiece of technical refinement and beauty. Its characteristic features are its elongated form; its light, powerful engine, installed low in the frame, and its radiator, organically integrated into the front section and which is destined to become the brand’s distinguishing mark – the honeycomb radiator. The Mercedes 35 hp marks the final departure from the industry-wide prevailing carriage style and can therefore be regarded as the first modern automobile.
Mercedes-Benz SSK (model series W 06), 1928
Of the six-cylinder compressor sports cars from the Mercedes-Benz S-series, the SSK (model series W 06) is the most exclusive and fascinating. The model designation stands for Super-Sport-Kurz (Super-Sport-Short) and, in addition to the vehicle’s exceptional sportiness, also expresses its shortened wheelbase. In the summer of 1928, factory racing driver Rudolf Caracciola wins the Gabelbach race in the brand-new SSK right away: he goes on to win the races at Schauinsland and Mont Ventoux. In 1930 and 1931, he pilots the SSK to victory in the European hill climbing championship. The 1931 version, which weighs less and is even more powerful, also known as the SSKL (Super-Sport-Short-Light), achieves some spectacular successes too, one of the most important of which is its victory in the legendary 1000-mile race “Mille Miglia”: in April 1931, Rudolf Caracciola in an SSKL became the first non-Italian to win the demanding road race from Brescia to Rome and back.
Mercedes-Benz 500 K Special Roadster (model series W 29), 1934
With its eight-cylinder compressor cars, Mercedes-Benz makes its mark in the market segment of the international luxury class of the 1930s. The “Type 500 with compressor engine”, or 500 K for short (model series W 29), appears in 1934 in eight different body variants: as a streamlined saloon under the sonorous name of “motorway courier car”; as a four-door saloon, still referred to in those days as a “sedan” (i.e. the driver steering from inside); as a cabriolet in three versions; as a two-door open-top touring car and as a roadster. The crowning glory of all the different versions is the especially elegant and luxurious Special Roadster, of which only 29 are built. The 500 K and its successor, the 540 K, become legends not only because of their effortlessly superior power delivery, but also on account of their captivatingly beautiful coachwork with its high-grade appointments. With its bespoke form and elegant, flowing lines, ever since the 1930s “Sindelfingen bodywork” has been regarded as the ultimate styling benchmark.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (model series W 198), 1954
In February 1954, the 300 SL “Gullwing” makes its debut at the International Motor Sport Show in New York. This high-powered sports car is based on the legendary racing car from the 1952 season. A lightweight, torsionally rigid space frame carries the engine, transmission and axles. As in the racing version, however, there is no additional space for conventional doors, and the gullwings thus become the unmistakable characteristic feature of the 300 SL (model series W 198). In other respects, too, the “Gullwing” is a true source of innovation: it is the world’s first series-produced passenger car powered by a four-stroke engine with petrol injection. This results in an increase not only in efficiency, but also in engine power, at 215 hp (158 kW), 20 percent higher than in the racing version with its carburettor, enabling it to reach a top speed of up to 250 km/h. This makes the 300 SL the fastest series-produced car of its age and the dream sports car of the 1950s.
Mercedes-Benz 180 “Ponton” (model series W 120/121), 1955
On its launch in the autumn of 1953, the 180 (W 120) sets new technical and stylistic standards of modernity in Mercedes-Benz’s range of passenger cars in the upper medium-size class. This all-new saloon is the brand’s first passenger car to feature a self-supporting body. The design principle also leaves its mark on the new model’s styling, the 180 impresses with its advanced self-supporting chassis-body structure with a rectangular floor plan and fully integrated wings. This body form brings new advantages, including exemplary safety, lower drag and generously dimensioned interior. To this day, these strengths count as distinguishing features of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Following the successful launch of the petrol-engine-powered version, Mercedes-Benz then launches the 180 D diesel version in early 1954. The third model in the series, the more powerful 190, makes its debut in 1956, with the 190 D being brought out in 1958 (both model series W 121).
Mercedes-Benz 220 D “Stroke Eight” (model series W 115), 1969
The saloons and coupés of model series W 114 and W 115 are the first family of Mercedes-Benz vehicles to sell over a million units, with a total of more than 1.9 million of these cars being produced between 1968 and 1976. With sales of 412,829 saloons, the 220 D is the most successful member of this family of vehicles. These model series are commonly referred to as “Stroke Eight”, because in internal documentation their model designations are given a final slash “/8” to denote the 1968 launch year, making it easier to distinguish them from their predecessors. From the start, four petrol-engine-powered models and two diesel versions are available. At the end of 1968, the range is extended to include an exclusive coupé version. There are also long-wheelbase saloons as well as chassis for ambulances and estates. The “Stroke Eight” remains the epitome of upper medium-size cars from
Mercedes-Benz’s programme for many years.
Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 (model series W 116), 1980
In 1972, the model series of luxury-class cars with which Mercedes-Benz has for decades set new automotive standards is given a name of its own. The new S-Class (model series W 116) − like the 350 SL sports car unveiled in 1971 – is characterised by a comprehensive safety concept. This includes a collision-proof tank installed above the rear axle; a four-spoke safety steering wheel; dirt-repellent side windows; large-area headlamps; conspicuous turn indicator lamps and dirt-repellent ribbed tail lights. A new top-of-the-range model is launched in 1975: the powerful and especially comfortable 450 SEL 6.9 with a large-displacement V8 engine and hydropneumatic suspension. In 1978, the S-Class becomes the world’s first series-produced passenger car to be equipped with the ABS anti-lock braking system, which ensures that the vehicle remains steerable even under emergency braking. A worldwide sensation at that time, ABS is today standard equipment in automobiles − thanks to Mercedes-Benz’s pioneering work.
Mercedes-Benz 190 (model series W 201), 1984
With its 190 and 190 E models, Mercedes-Benz unveils a third model series of passenger cars (W 201) at the end of 1982. The so-called compact class extends the product range in the medium-size category becoming the forefather of today’s C-Class. The “Baby Benz”, as it soon comes to be known, consumes comparatively little fuel thanks to its low drag coefficient and low weight. Despite its compact dimensions, it is just as safe and comfortable as the larger passenger cars from Mercedes-Benz. The compact class’s main attraction is its innovative independent multi-link rear suspension, which results in outstanding handling despite the relatively short wheelbase, for each rear wheel is guided by five independent supports, so-called links, which guarantee perfect directional stability. Multi-link rear suspension has since been employed – each time in further refined form – in almost every Mercedes-Benz model series of passenger cars.
Mercedes-Benz SLK 230 Kompressor (model series R 170), 1997
Sporty roadster and elegant coupé in one, the SLK of the R 170 model series adds a fascinating new class of vehicle to the Mercedes-Benz range on its launch in 1996. The compact roadster with weatherproof folding steel roof is one of the highlights of Mercedes-Benz’s major strategic product initiative of the 1990s. The SLK 230 KOMPRESSOR is the top-of-the-line model of the model series from 1996 to 2000. Fascinating at first sight, the SLK is just as versatile and distinctive a roadster in everyday use. Flexibility is one of the great strengths of its innovative vario roof which nonetheless permits a respectably sized boot even when retracted. The tremendous diversity of the available equipment packages meets virtually every customer requirement. Particularly the designo range with its exceptional paint finishes, extra-soft leather in exclusive colours and trim elements with especially classy surfaces allow customers to configure their SLK entirely to suit their personal style.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL (model series T 245), 2010
In 2010, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL proves that local emission-free mobility is already a possibility for the everyday driver. Produced in a small series, this vehicle is equipped with the latest generation fuel-cell system, which generates electric energy from hydrogen. One tankful of the gas, which is compressed to 700 bar, gives the vehicle a range of around 400 kilometres. This, allied to an excellent cold-start capability, short refuelling time at hydrogen filling stations and the impressive performance of the 100 kW (136 hp) electric motor with its torque of 290 Newton-metres, distinguishes the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL as a motor car that is eminently suitable for everyday use. Further exemplary attributes are the vehicle’s safety and low fuel consumption, equivalent to just 3.3 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres. Since 2010, customers in Germany and the USA have been adopting this environment-friendly vehicle, initially in the context of a full-service rental.
Mercedes-Benz sculpture “Aesthetics 125”, 2011
Dynamically flowing lines combined with powerfully shaped contours: the “Aesthetics 125” sculpture embodies the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy in abstract form. The sculpture was unveiled to the public at the ceremony at which Daimler AG celebrated the 125th anniversary of the automobile on 29 January 2011. Created by Mercedes-Benz designers, the sculpture takes both interior and exterior elements of the brand’s typical design idiom and projects them into the future. Consequently, “Aesthetics 125” embodies the maxim “Mercedes-Benz design is art” – just like the previously presented sculptures “Aesthetics No. 1” and “Aesthetics No. 2”. At the technical level, the high-class sculpture is firmly anchored in Mercedes-Benz’s world of highly advanced automotive engineering: it was created using the “Rapid Prototyping” method. This is a technique used by designers and developers to create digital designs in the form of three-dimensional models directly on the computer.
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Milestone vehicles from Mercedes-Benz at the 2011 Techno-Classica
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