History Of Mercedes: The Powerhouse of Engineering Excellence

Experience Automotive Brilliance: Dive into the Storied History of Mercedes

1880 – 1890 The beginning of the automobile

With the invention of the automobile, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz lay the foundation stone for individual motorized traffic. Both integrate their work in their own companies: in October 1883, Benz founded in Mannheim Benz & Co., and in November 1890, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) emerged in Cannstatt. Emil Jellinek, a businessman passionate about progress and the automobile, is convinced that the car will revolutionize the future. 

In 1889, and with the construction of the steel-wheeled carriage with a two-cylinder V propeller, Daimler and Maybach took a significant step forward in technological evolution.

1890 – 1900 The first four-wheeler

Until the early nineties of the nineteenth century, Karl Benz vehicles were equipped with three wheels. With the construction of a knuckle steering capable of working correctly, the way is opened for four-wheelers; The first is the 1893 Benz Victoria

In 1894 Maybach developed the Phoenix mechanics, with two parallel cylinders and a camshaft to control the exhaust valves. Businessman Friedrich Greiner ordered a Daimler Victoria-type car with a meter for a “motor vehicle transport company” in Stuttgart. Two years later, as early as 1897DMG introduced a new powertrain car, the first one installed at the front.

On the other hand, Emil Jellinek, a businessman passionate about progress and the automobile, is convinced that the car will revolutionize the future. In the same year, he travelled to Cannstatt and ordered his first Daimler vehicle Paris-Rouen, a belt-drive, two-cylinder mechanics, and 6 CV. Powered and patented by Benz, it does not take as its starting point any refurbished carriage. In the first official confrontation, the international race, the cars that take the top four places are equipped with Panhard-Levassor engines, Daimler system. Its two cylinders in V give 3.5 HP to reach 20.5 km / h on 126 km. 

In 1898, a Daimler car from Cannstatt, registered by the Allgemeine Motorwagen-Gesellschaft, wins the Berlin-Leipzig-Berlin for the first time . In 1899 Jellinek, who ordered faster vehicles ever from DMG, enrolled in Nice Week. He participated in the competition under the pseudonym Mercedes, his daughter’s name-Spanish and synonymous with favour and indulgence- of 10 years, which he used not as a brand signature but as a driver or team. The first car entered in a race as “Mercedes” is precisely a Phoenix. The driver of the house Wilhelm Bauerdrives that 12 hp car, winning the Nice-Magagnone-Nice.

1900 – 1910 

Mercedes is already a brand.

Both companies look for names for their products that are easy to remember. They first opt ​​for those of the inventors, Benz and Daimler. The trademark Benz & Cie. does not change, although, in 1909, a laurel wreath replaced the sprocket that had surrounded the name since 1903. DMG chose Mercedes. Earlier, in April 1900, DMG and Jellinek reached an agreement to distribute Daimler cars and engines. Following a new Daimler-Mercedes engine, the Jellinek pseudonym became a product designation and, on June 23, 1902, it was also registered as a trademark. 

On December 22 Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft delivers a 35 hp racing car to Jellinek. This first Mercedes, developed by Wilhelm Maybach, DMG chief engineer, is all the rage. It is considered the first modern car with a low centre of gravity, pressed steel frame, light and powerful engine, and honeycomb radiator. Between March and August, PS 12/16 and PS 8/11 appear. Jellinek orders bring Daimler’s Cannstatt factory into total production. In 1903 the Parsifal series appeared, with three Cardan-driven two-cylinder engines and a four-cylinder 16 CV model with chain. 

The quest for better cars leads to 90hp racing cars, destined for the biggest motoring event of the year: the Gordon-Bennettdisputed in Ireland. But on June 10, a massive fire destroyed almost all of the production equipment at DMG’s Cannstatt factory, as well as all nine racing cars. DMG borrows three 60hp cars from its customers and ships them to Ireland. Belgian Camille Jenatzy, considered the first professional pilot, takes victory aboard one of them. The fire also accelerated DMG’s move from Cannstatt to Untertürkheim: the new facilities were put into operation in 1904 instead of 1905. 

In the spring of 1908, DMG introduced the 20/35 PS Laundalet. Other pre-World War I milestones are the successes of Daimler and Benz at the French GP: a first and fifth place for the 140 hp Mercedes and a second, third and fifth for the Benz & Cie cars. 

1910 – 1920

New speed records

The Mercedes Knight arrives, powered by valveless spool engines, which have their origin in an invention of the American Charles J. Knight. In 1911, the 8/18 range was expanded with a new low-displacement model. The 14/30 PS appears, based on the 15/20 PS of 1909, designed for beginners. Until 1913, the cylinder capacity was increasing; it reached 3.6 litres. With it, the power rises, reaching 30 hp and, later, 35. In 1914, the 28/95 PS emerged, the first series Mercedes with the characteristic windbreak radiator and external exhausts covered with flexible metal hoses.

Meanwhile, both try to obtain higher and higher speeds. In 1910, the Blitzen Benz, one of the fascinating automobiles, caused a sensation.

Its construction dates back to the successful 1908 Benz Grand-Prix. Technicians Victor Héméry, Hans Nibel, and their colleagues create an imposing car that, thanks to its 2,500 cc four-cylinder engine, delivers 200 hp: it achieves 228.1 km / h and evidence of the first aerodynamic influences in vehicle production. Countless road and mountain racing victories followed in the years leading up to World War I, such as the victory in the 1914 French GP with the 115 PS 4,5-L-Grand-Prix-Typ. Both Mercedes and Benzes stop participating in sports competitions during the contest and two years after it, but some private companies continue to use them. An example is the American Ralph de Palma, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1915.

1920 – 1930 

Supercharging emerges

In 1921 the four-cylinder 10/30 PS appeared, the essential model of the Benz house (together with the 16/50 PS) until its merger with the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft 1926. And in 1923, the first series passenger car arrived. with supercharged engine, V-overhead valves and individual steel cylinders Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft and Benz & Cie. they join, giving rise to Daimler-Benz AG. In 1927 the car with six-cylinder compression mechanics Type S -de Sport- is presented, one of the most outstanding “street” sports cars

Months later, the SS (from SuperSport) appeared, maintaining the success story of its predecessor and winning, in 1928, the German GP. Three years after the end of the War, the competition revives in Germany. Otto Salzer, Max Sailer, Count Giulio Masetti, and Christian Lautenschlager are the drivers who in 1921 kept numerous rivals in European check-in road and mountain races. The vehicles used are perfected Mercedes of the Grand Prix types (1914) and 28/95 PS. Since 1922 there have been 1.5 and 2.0 displacement formulas. Paul Daimler develops a 1.5 compressor-supercharged four-cylinder whose camshafts control four valves per cylinder. 

The car, called 6/40/65 PS, intervenes in the Sicilian Targa Florio for the first time, being Paul Scheef third. At the same time, the revolutionary Tropfenwagen emerges. In addition to the aerodynamic design, the layout of the engine behind the pilot is surprising. Inspired by the famous Tropfenwagen Rumpler in technique and aesthetics, no one expects him to achieve victory in his first test, held in 1923 at Monza

But the fourth place achieved by Fernando Minoia and the honorary prize for the most extraordinary racing car, awarded by the participants, are considerable successes. Not taking part in any competition with that version again is due, on the one hand, to the German economic crisis and, on the other, to the cooperation started in 1924 between Benz & Cie., Mannheim and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, Untertürkheim. It led to the merger of both companies on June 28 and 29, 1926, giving rise to Daimler-Benz Aktiengesellschaft

DMG will be the one with the majority of the initiative in sports. Earlier, at the Italian GP, ​​new vehicles caused a sensation: the two-litre Grand Prix. Arranged vertically works an eight-cylinder engine with compressor and 170 hp. This mechanism had been developed by Ferdinand Porsche, who came from Austro-Daimler to fill the position of technical director of DMG. He is succeeded by Alfred Neubauer, one of the four drivers who sat behind the wheel of the eight-cylinder Mercedes-Benz at Monza and who, later, he would become a legend as Daimler-Benz racing director. In 1926, this car achieved the victory in the first German GP. 

Rudolf Caracciola and his co-driver Eugen Salzer gained a close win and reached an average speed of 135 km / h, which seemed impossible at the time. The next generation of sports cars comes to the K, S, SS, SSK, and SSKL. Unlike the racing vehicles used up to now, they are designed as cars intended for use on the road. Between 1926 and 1933, they became a benchmark on and off the track. The desire to improve results in the SS -of SuperSport-, which in 1928 replaces the S. A 250 hp engine differentiates them. The brand’s team achieves treble at the German GP.

1930 – 1940 A beauty named SSK

Daimler-Benz AG presents its most significant, heaviest, and most expensive passenger car: the 770 Gran Mercedes (W07), with a 7.7 in-line eight-cylinder engine equipped with a silent compressor. A year later, Type 170 is home to the latest technical achievement: oscillating axles. In 1931, the popularity of mountain racing led to the SSK. The K stands for “kurzer radstand” (short battle). 

Its development culminates in the SSKL, the lightweight L -thanks to perforations on the chassis and cross members, the technicians save 125 kg-. It weighs a total of 1,352 kilograms, offers 300 hp, and caresses the 235 km / h And so until 1933, when the Type appears, whose eight-cylinder engine in-line it is based on the six-cylinder group of the 290. In a frankly productive decade, the brand launches the Type 130 with rear mechanics, an example of innovation. This architecture failed to prevail at Daimler-Benz, despite sporting triumphs or the introduction of the 55-hp Sportroadster in 1935. Of this (W30), 5 copies were manufactured for 6,600 marks. In February 1936, Daimler-Benz introduced the 260 D, the first series diesel passenger car. 

The 170 V dates from that time, the Mercedes, of which the most units are produced in the antebellum period with a four-cylinder engine, unveiled together with the 170 H and 260 D. 

There is also the 500 K, which appeared in Paris and priced at 28,000 marks, not only the most sensational variant but also the most expensive of this family of convertibles. And the 540 K, which essentially matches the previous one, but with more power. 1938 arrives. The 320 series “Highway Mail,” designed according to aerodynamic criteria, causes a sensation. Its easy handling allows you to travel at high speed on the vast, newly built roads. For 1939 the brand reserves the Type 230 (W143) with 55 hp.

1940 – 1950 

The slow rebirth

After the War, the production of passenger cars was resumed with 170 V (W136). This happened in 1947, while in 1949, the 170 S and 170 D, the first newly built Daimler-Benzes after the War, were presented at the Hannover Technology Export Show.

1950 – 1960

Again in full swing

At the first International Motor Show in Frankfurt (1951), the 220 was launched with a newly manufactured six-cylinder engine. In August 1953, the 180 (W120), the first Mercedes with a three-volume pontoon body, was unveiled. The year 1955 is the legendary 300 SL, which emerged from existing construction groups, available with a removable rigid roof or roadster – equipped with a canvas hood – from which the famous Seagull Wings derived in 1957. (W198 I).

In July 1956, the 220 S Convertible appeared, to which a coupe was added three months later. At the end of the decade, the 220 SE, based on the 220 S but with an injection engine and 9 more HP. Finally, in August 1959, the 220 b, 220 Sb, and 220 SEb “tails” appeared, with safety bodywork developed by Béla Barényi. By the end of the Second World War, 90% of the premises of the Stuttgart-Untertürkheim factory had been reduced to rubble.

The first thing is to recover production profitably, starting with the reconstruction of the facilities. Nobody thinks about sports activities, except for director Alfred Neubauer. Look for racing cars (3-litre Class) that have been left intact and find them. In 1951 the company prepared to meet three W154s in Buenos Aires. In addition to Dean Hermann Lang, Karl Kling and Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio sit at the wheel. The three finished the “President of the Nation Juan D. Perón Award”: Lang is second; Fangio, third; Kling finishes sixth. 

The result does not hide that the W154 is no longer up to par, so it cancelled the remaining participation. According to FIA regulations, Daimler-Benz preferred to do what was in its power to fight again with possibilities in 1954, with a car equipped with an aspirated 2.5 engine. In addition, it outlines the creation of a promising racing series for sports cars in which it is present, starting in 1952, with the 300 SL. This vehicle is developed for competition. 

The 300 saloons have a 3.0 engine with 175 hp and are supervised by Rudolf Uhlenhaut, a participant in the Mille Miglia. Karl Kling has a long duel with a Ferrari, but technical failures force him to give way. In the following test, held in Bern (Switzerland), the pilots Kling, Lang, and Riess achieved a treble. The double Mercedes at Le Mans is epic. Hermann Lang and Fritz Riess are the first to cross the finish line, followed by Theo Helfrich and Helmut Niedermayr.

The 300 SL is back in the top three spots for sports cars at the Nürburgring. Mercedes-Benz is also a big winner in the Carrera Panamericana: this 3,300 km competition, which runs through Mexican roads (sometimes unsurfaced), icy peaks, and plains where it is suffocatingly hot, demands maximum performance. The biggest scare is taken by the team formed by Karl Kling and Hans Klenk when a vulture passes through the windshield and is smashed inside a vehicle travelling at 220 km / h. The fact that, despite everything, they are the first to see the checkered flag not only attests to the technical superiority of the 300 SL; also the professional class of Kling and Klenk.

In 1953, the Daimler-Benz racing department turned to Formula 1 . To do this, he devised a car with a 2.5 engine, the W196. It is a single-seater with open wheels and aerodynamic bodywork. The tubular mesh frame architecture comes from the 300 SL. The driving element is an in-line eight-cylinder. This group, equipped with direct injection and desmodromic valve control, provides 265 hp and, later, 290. At the French GP held in 1954, Karl Kling and Juan Manuel Fangio did not give Ferrari, Maserati, Giardini, and HWM a chance to win a double: Fangio is first Kling second.

The success was crowned that same year with the obtaining of the World Championship by Fangio. For its part, the 300 SLS is specially designed for the 1957 American Sports Competition. It is based on the 300 SL standard, but it is very competitive thanks to a weight reduced to 970 kg and an increase in power to 235 hp. The car gives Paul O’Shea his third consecutive title, after two victories aboard the 300 SL Coupé in 1955 and 1956. After signing the F-1 and the SportsCar Championship in 1956, Mercedes-Benz competed in rallies with private teams. 

It is, above all, about testing the reliability of vehicles next to the series. After Alfred Neubauer retired, the pilot Karl Kling was appointed Sporting Director of the incursions in competition, partially supported by the brand. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the most talked-about cars were the 220 SE and 300 SE six-cylinder saloons and the 300 SL. The Walter Schock / Rolf Moll team won the European Rally Championship in 1956 and 1960 when they were the first to cross the finish line at the legendary Monte Carlo and Acropolis.

1960 – 1970 

New inventions

In August 1961, the 220 Seb arrived, coinciding in everything with the coupe, except for the roof and the necessary body reinforcements, as it is a convertible. That year comes the 4-speed automatic transmission and power steering for the 300 SE, the first Mercedes-Benz with air suspension. Contemporary is the 190 c. Successor to the 190 SL is the 230 SL (W113) from 1963 – produced until 1971 – characterized by its peculiar pagoda-shaped roof (hence its nickname) and its 2.3 six-cylinder engine. From that year is the 600, with which Daimler-Benz expands its most exclusive offer. 

In 1965, The 250 S, 250 SE, and 300 SE arrived, belonging to a new generation of superior category destined to succeed the rear wing passenger cars. They are followed, since 1968, by the 280 S, 280 SE, and 280 SL, and, from November, the 250 C and 250 CE coupes. The Bosch D-Jetronic system in the 250 CE is a fundamental innovation used for the first time in a production car. 

From 1960 to 1964, both privateers and drivers of the brand reaped triumphs in rallying with the Mercedes “tails.” The 230 SL was another extraordinarily competitive vehicle; in 1963, it achieved an applauded victory with Böhringer / Kaiser in the Liège-Sofia-Liège rally-marathon.

1970 – 1997 

W123 Series, cornerstone

Under the supervision of Bruno Sacco, the lines of the mythical and indestructible W123 series are fixed. This designer, who ended his career in the brand occupying a place on the board of directors, is vital. He established a series of guides and patterns to create a timeless design and a design philosophy marked by his phrase: “A Mercedes-Benz should always look like a Mercedes-BenzWith him at the helm, a vastly improved version of the experimental C111 is unveiled, powered by a 350 hp rotary engine. In 1971 the coveted 350 SL arrived, while in 1972, the SE generation was introduced. Mercedes-Benz officially uses Class S for the first time, replacing the 108/109 series. 

Two years later, the mid-range is expanded with the 240 D 3.0, the world’s first five-cylinder diesel passenger car with a 3.0 engine with 80 hp. In 1976 the “eight-bar” (W114 / 115) were replaced by the 230 C, 280 C, and 280 CE, some of the essential models in the brand’s commercial history. Since then, and until 1985, 2,696,915 units left the assembly lines. 

In 1979 the new S-Class appeared, comprising two body variants: regular and extended. This vehicle is a forerunner in aerodynamics, application of plastics to reduce weight, the introduction of the first airbag on the market -in 1981, for the driver-, ASR traction control … The G-Class (Geländewagen), which starts at 113 hp and will arrive in the future at 444, emerged in 1979 due to the collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Steyr-Daimler-Puch. 

It is conceived as a military vehicle and even “Popemobile.” In competition, after the 300 SEL 6.3 was limited to representing the house in a single competition, and the oil crisis prevented the participation of other races, Mercedes-Benz did not return to be present in the winning lists until 1977, at the London-Sydney rally-marathon.

The Cowan / Malkin / Broad and Fowkes / O’Gorman teams set the best times with a brand-backed 280 E. In 1978, one of these models took part in the East African Safari. That year began the era of the V8 coupe: four 450 SLC 230 hp participated in the Rally of South America, two of them occupying the first two places. In 1979, another car close to the series adopted the name 450 SLC 5.0; its expanded eight-cylinder engine delivers 290 hp, enough to obtain the first four positions in the Rallye Bandama, of 5,000 km, disputed in African lands. The winners are Hannu Mikkola and Arne Hertz. Two of them occupy the first two positions. 

In 1979, another car close to the series adopted the name 450 SLC 5.0; its expanded eight-cylinder engine delivers 290 hp, enough to obtain the first four positions in the Rallye Bandama, of 5,000 km, disputed in African lands. The winners are Hannu Mikkola and Arne Hertz. Two of them occupy the first two positions. In 1979, another car close to the series adopted the name 450 SLC 5.0; its expanded eight-cylinder engine delivers 290 hp, enough to obtain the first four positions in the Rallye Bandama, of 5,000 km, disputed in African lands. The winners are Hannu Mikkola and Arne Hertz.

The decade of the 80s marks the arrival of the Mercedes 190 (W201), which marks the beginning of the clear differentiation of the brand’s segments. This model draws the strategic line to be followed by Mercedes in the 90s by launching new models in the new features. A clear example is the different bodies of the W124 series. The 90s are a great decade for Mercedes launching the C and E passenger cars and the M-Class sport utility vehicle.


Merger with Chrysler 

In 1998 Daimler-Benz, the parent company of Mercedes, merged with the American firm Chrysler creating DaimlerChrysler, giving rise to the third automobile group in the world. From the joint synergies appear the first modern models of the brand’s off-road vehicle. In 2006 the controversial R minivan and the GL-Class seven-seater SUV were launched. In addition, in 1998, Mercedes took control of the AMG preparer that became part of the Daimler-Benz group. Between 2003 and 2009, Mercedes collaborated with McLaren, creating together the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren.  

2007 – Act New plans

In 2007, after almost a decade together, the merger with Chrysler failed, and both groups separated. In 2007 Mercedes presented its first hybrid vehicle, the F700. In 2010 Daimler signed an alliance with Renault whereby both companies will share technologies and future developments, which in 2012 began with the inclusion of Renault engines in the “A” and “B” Class and the Kangoo model such as Mercedes Benz Citan. 

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