As early as at the end of 1905, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) delivered five Mercedes-Simplex 45 hp with various bodies to the court of the Tsar in St. Petersburg. Along with other customers of high rank, the Tsar was never satisfied with owning just one vehicle; the tsarist fleet is also said to have included a Benz 60 hp and a Mercedes-Knight 16/40 hp.
Over the years, as well as various Mercedes-Simplex, the German Emperor’s fleet came to include three Mercedes-Knight, a Mercedes 28/95 hp, a Mercedes 15/70/100 hp and a Mercedes-Benz 770 ‘Super Mercedes’ Cabriolet F from 1932. Today the latter is on display in the Mercedes-Benz Museum, along with the 1935 armoured Pullman saloon of the same model, owned by the Japanese Emperor Hirohito.
By 1912 Benz & Cie. numbered the German Emperor, the Russian Tsars and the Swedish Royal Family amongst its most famous customers.
The sports-enthusiast brother of the German Emperor, Prince Henry of Prussia, was not only the founder and patron of the Prince Henry Tours named after him, as well as being the inventor of the windscreen wiper; he himself often took part in events in his open-top 70 hp Triple Phaeton. A particularly impressive car was the Model 39/100 hp, built by Benz in the years 1912 to 1915. Because of its dimensions and clear lines it signalled a sense of noble distance. However the shock caused by the global economic crisis of 1907 led to Benz becoming established as a high-profile provider of vehicles to the lower middle class, but without losing sight of the spectrum of representative cars. It was with this concept that Benz succeeded in positioning itself clearly ahead of DMG in the period before the First World War in terms of the number of vehicles produced.
At DMG the dominant top-range car from 1910 to 1914 was the Model 37/95 hp. With its prestigious presence, its owners – who were often members of the aristocracy – were able to cut a grand figure. In 1913 the chassis came with a price tag of 23,000 Marks – the usual base price of the time. Then either the plant would fit an individual body to this or a body assembler would carry out the work. This was where the car manufacturers were in competition with the finest body assemblers of the day. With its large-piston four-cylinder engine with 9.5 litres of displacement and a chain drive system, however, it represented a dying form of automotive technology. For a period of many years, particularly in the case of vehicles with powerful engines, the cardan drive system was favoured over chain drive due to the gentler power transmission.
In 1914 it was replaced by the Mercedes 28/95 hp. As a premium-segment vehicle it took its leave of the four-cylinder engine and the chain drive system, like the Benz 39/100 hp. The six-cylinder engine, created by Paul Daimler, was built with a design largely based on that of the 1912 DF 80 aircraft engine, which was awarded the ‘Emperor’s Prize’. The engine had V-shaped overhead valves, which were operated via an overhead camshaft and rocker arms. The camshaft was driven from the front end of the crankshaft by a vertical shaft.
Due to the war only 25 units of Model 28/95 hp were manufactured during the years 1914 and 1915. Production started up again after the end of the war, when Paul Daimler took the opportunity to have the engine revised. The individual steel cylinders were replaced by cylinder blocks cast in pairs, but the coolant jackets welded in pairs remained. The valves which been open up until then were now sealed with oil-tight light-alloy valve covers for each cylinder pair. The mixture was supplied via two Pallas updraught carburettors, which each fed three cylinders. The two intake manifolds, again Y-shaped, were connected with each other via a balance pipe to ensure even mixture supply.
Following the First World War, the target groups of potential customers changed – the aristocracy diminished in importance in this respect, with personalities from the fields of economics, film, theatre, politics and industry taking its place. The Mercedes 28/95 hp remained in existence until 1924; there were 590 vehicles in all. Whilst the term ‘Super Mercedes’ was not coined until after its time, it was certainly deemed to be worthy of this description. The number of units built was substantial, especially bearing in mind the prevailing circumstances and compared with vehicles of a similar profile which would follow in its footsteps. But this imposing vehicle also served to cover a wide customer spectrum due to the fact that there were three different wheelbase versions, which meant that it was not restricted to just large saloons or open-top touring cars.