Long-distance travel by car is part of everyday life. Journeys of this kind overcome boundaries and open up new opportunities. One-hundred and twenty-five years ago, in the early days of this new form of mobility, Baron Theodor von Liebieg travelled in his Benz Victoria from Reichenberg in Bohemia to Gondorf on the Moselle river. This long-distance car journey took seven days, from 16 to 22 July 1894. Including various excursions along the Moselle and the return journey, von Liebieg and his companion Franz Stransky covered no less than 2,500 kilometres that summer – impressive proof of the quality of the car.
The echo of Baron Theodor von Liebieg’s long-distance journey in 1894 underlies every long-distance trip with a Mercedes-Benz. After all, he pioneered what has, since the middle of the 20th century, been an everyday matter: travelling long distances by car, whether on holiday or on business trips. This mobility culture takes people across national borders, creates new opportunities and opens connections. The spirit of 125 years ago is prevalent again today and is inspiring us to find future-orientated solutions for the networked, automated, shared and electric automobility of the future of Mercedes-Benz.
Did he snatch the new Benz away from under the Grand Duke of Baden’s nose? The young industrialist, Baron Theodor von Liebieg, was assured by Carl Benz himself, the inventor of the motorcar: “ You have ordered earlier, so you will be supplied earlier.” The scene took place in October 1893. Benz – smartly dressed in tails and a top hat – was expecting a visit by the Grand Duke. The Grand Duke wanted to have a look at the first Benz car with double-pivot steering.
Suddenly, a factory owner’s son from Bohemia, just 21 years old, appeared at the company in Mannheim. He piled on one inquisitive question after another and asked Carl Benz if he could have a test drive. According to the legend, the automobile pioneer granted him a short test run – just before the Grand Duke arrived. Immediately afterwards, Liebieg ordered a car of the new design and made a down payment of 1,500 marks. That was almost a third of the total price. Satisfied, he travelled back to Reichenberg (today Liberec in the Czech Republic).
The vehicle was delivered to Bohemia by rail the following spring and handed over to the customer by Benz’s master driver Hans Thum. Liebieg’s Victoria bore factory number 76 and was powered by a 2.2 kW (3 bhp) single-cylinder engine.
Baron Liebieg had set himself a high goal: in the summer of 1894, he intended to drive this vehicle to pay a visit to Carl Benz and continue his journey from Mannheim to the Moselle to visit his mother’s home in Gondorf. Such a journey had “been my ideal since my time as a high school student”, he recalled in the illustrated chronicle of his long-distance journey. After completing some test drives, von Liebieg and his friend, a doctor called Franz Stransky, were confident that, despite the poor state of the roads, the difficult supply of fuel and the high consumption of cooling water, the motorcar would be able to cope reliably with the long-distance journey.
Visit to Benz
Early in the morning, on 16 July 1894, the travellers set off via Bautzen and Dresden as far as Waldheim. A day later, the next leg of the journey took them to Eisenberg, and on 18 July via Jena, Weimar, Erfurt and Gotha to Eisenach. This was followed by a two-day section without an overnight stay, which passed through Fulda, Offenbach, Frankfurt and Darmstadt. Their destination after 26 driving hours was Mannheim, where they visited Carl Benz. The next two days, the journey followed the Rhine to the north and finally up the Moselle to Gondorf on 22 July – the adventure had been a resounding success.
For the 939 kilometre route, von Liebieg and Stransky had taken a total of 69 driving hours. This meant an average speed of 13.6 km/h, which was very respectable in view of the poor roads. They filled up with fuel at chemist shops. Bertha Benz, on her journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim in August 1888, had also purchased ligroin as fuel in a pharmacy en route. The Benz Victoria consumed about 21 litres of fuel for every 100 kilometres. However, its consumption of cooling water was considerably higher because the engine had an open evaporative cooling system, which required up to 150 litres of water for every 100 kilometres. It was not until subsequent inventions in the following years, above all the radiators invented by Wilhelm Maybach at Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, that the consumption of cooling water was substantially reduced.
Liebieg stayed in Gondorf for four weeks and during this time undertook a number of trips to France. In August, he and Stransky set out on their return journey. This time, the men made a longer planned stop in Mannheim to have the Victoria subjected to thorough factory maintenance at Benz & Cie. When he picked up the car again later, Liebieg was impressed: “Mr Benz punctually kept his promise and when we picked up our beloved car all ready to go, we hardly recognised it.” The Benz family accompanied the Baron and his friend on their departure as far as Gernsheim. All in all, the Benz Victoria had completed a total of around 2,500 kilometres on this long-distance journey by the time it arrived back at Reichenberg.
Ambassador for the motorcar
Carl Benz fully appreciated the enthusiasm and passion of the young Baron. Almost thirty years later, he still remembered this key customer: “My Victoria motorcar and the Baron – they were friends who understood each other and were tuned to each other like two tuning forks. On long, extensive journeys, these two friends sent their Victoria call out into the attentive world and contributed a great deal to the popularisation of the motorcar.”& amp; amp; lt; /p>
In 1895, Theodor von Liebieg made a second long journey with his Victoria. He also competed in motorcar races on behalf of Benz. As a result of these activities, he became an ambassador for the motorcar. Amongst other things, he won first prize in a Benz 8 bhp at the first Austrian International Race in Vienna in 1899 organised by the Vienna Automobile Club. Later, Liebieg also became a motorcar manufacturer when he became a partner in the Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriks-Gesellschaft. In 1923, following a merger with Ringhoffer, the Tatra brand came into being. But Liebieg remained a loyal customer of Benz & Cie. – even after the merger with Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft. The last motorcar owned by the industrialist, who died in 1939, was an exclusive Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet A.