Mercedes Museum – Stuttgart (D)

Mercedes has, for many years, had its own museum at its Unterturkheim site, to the east of the city of Stuttgart, right next to the vfb Stuttgart stadium complex, which paid homage to this long established marque, widely held to be the originator of the motor car. A few years ago, the original museum was closed and a brand new and very impressive building was constructed as a replacement. This striking building, adjoins a massive Mercedes-Benz World showroom and workshop, and the manufacturing plant. The museum is an 8 storey building, and the tour starts on the eighth floor. There are large display halls on each floor, and then a gentle ramp walkway around part of the inner perimeter of the building takes the visitor to the next floor. As well as a representative range of vehicles from Mercedes’ 120 year history, there are plenty of other artifacts, audio visual displays and other items of interest, so a complete tour, taking in everything there is to see would take many hours.This was my second visit to the museum, and as whatever I wrote at the time of the first visit has long since been archived away, I am presenting a more complete narrative this time and using illustrations from both visits.

Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler are widely believed to have created the first automobiles, in 1886, and a recreation of those vehicle are the first items that you reach at the start of the tour. The Benz vehicle is the three wheeler, with a 984cc 1 cylinder engine and the Daimler is the one with 4 wheels and a 469cc 1 cylinder motor.

A long line of early products from the Daimler and Benz factories completes the display on the top floor of the museum, and these are some of the items displayed.
Down one floor and there are a series of early Benz and Daimler products from before the First World War, a time when new advances came quickly in the nascent motor industry. These are just a couple. The one to the left is a 1909 Benz 20/35 Landaulet, which developed 35 bhp from its 4850cc engine. It was sold as a touring car. To the right is the 1908 Mercedes 75 Doppelphaeton, the first Daimler-Benz car with a 6 cylinder engine. This car had an engine of over 10 litres, and at a lazy 1300 rpm, could achieve a top speed of 95 km/h.
By the 1920s, things had really changed and Mercedes was now well known for producing high end sports and luxury cars. This is a 1928 27/170 SSK. “SS” stood for “Super Sport” and “K” stood for “Kurz”, ie short, for the shortened wheelbase of this sports car.
A 1928 26/120. These cars developed 180 bhp from their 6.8 litre engine and were highly thought of by everyone at the time, especially those rich enough to be able to afford to buy one.
During the 1930s, Mercedes built some very exclusive, high performance cars that were supremely elegant, and none more so, in my opinion, than this 500K. Eight body styles were available for this car. Fitted with a 5018cc straight eight, it had 100 bhp, until you engaged the supercharger, which boosted performance as the power rocketed to 160 bhp. This was far from a cheap car in its day, and would have cost the equivalent of at least £100,000.

This 1939 320 Streamliner was built for the newly emerging network of German autobahns, with special attention seemingly paid to the aerodynamics, to allow it cruise at high speed for long periods. In reality, it would not exceed 78 mph, which even in those days was not that fast.
In 1951, the first true post War models appeared, and these were the 300 Series cars, the W186. The saloon car, sometimes nicknamed the Adenauer, as the eponymous German Chancellor had one, was one of the most luxurious cars on sale at the time.
There were shorter wheelbase models, too, such as this 300S Cabrio, the W188. Produced for 4 years, from 1951 to 1955, the customers included the Shah of Iran and various Hollywood stars. .
Mercedes’ volume seller from 1955 was the 180 range, the W120, known as the Ponton. Many of these cars were delivered with diesel engines, and their tough construction made them ideally suited for service as taxis.
In the 1950s the world was wowed by the Gullwing 300SL, and rightly so, too. The survival rate of these cars is very high, but they still impress whenever they are to be seen.
Successor to this car, and its lesser 190SL brother was the 230SL “Pagoda”, launched in 1964, a car which is now starting to see its value rise significantly.
This combination of vehicles represented an innovative technique adopted by Mercedes in the early 1960s to gather real measurements from a test car on the road in the days before computers. The car with the instrumentation is a 1960 model based on the 300SE, and the car it is measuring is a 1964 Model 220 SE (the “FinTail”).
The ESF22 is an experimental car from 1973, used to test a number of safety innovations, such as airbags and ABS. Closely related to the W116 model “S” Class 450SE, many of the test features appeared in production models in the following years.
This 1980 model “S” Class is actually a diesel, a 300SD. The first diesel powered “S” Class, it was introduced to help Mercedes to it the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) targets. It was a US only model, and this one is easily identified by the other visual differences that were required for the US market at the time.   
When the “small” Mercedes, the W201 190 was launched at the end of 1982, it was far from certain whether this was a good move for the three pointed star. In hindsight, it is clear that it was, and this car and its successor have sold in huge volumes. This is the 190E model, which developed 122bhp – a significant increase on the entry level carburettor fed model, which was somewhat underpowered.  
This W124 “E” Class E200D saw service in Portugal as a taxi, where it covered 1.9 million km over a 14 year period. The car still looks in fine condition, as it was from an era when Mercedes cars were still utterly robust. r In the background is a 1998 “G” Class, a 290GD. This particular car has travelled literally all around the world, before being donated to the museum.
This 1995 W140 model “S” Class was the first V12 powered Mercedes, the 600SEL. This particular car belonged to Arnold Schwarzenegger from 1995 until 2003.
One of the halls is dedicated to cars with a former “famous” owner.
Dating from 1892, this Daimler Motor Strassenwagen was purchased by the Moulay Hassan I, the Sultan of Morocco, and with this acquisition, he became the first royal to own a gasoline powered vehicle.

This 1926 model 24/100 was purchased by a famous industrialist of the day, Oscar Henschel, who set up a huge Locomotive, and later an Airplane business in Kassel, bearing his name. Not someone, or a business I had heard of, I have to confess.
There were 2 of the enormous “Grosser” 770 Mercedes on display. The grey car was driven by Kaiser Wilhelm II during his exile in the Netherlands. The red car, dating from 1935, was delivered Emperor Hirohito of Japan, and features extensive armour plating measures as protection.
German actor, Hardy Krueger, drove this R107 model 500SL from 1988. This model of Mercedes was a prominent movie star especially in the 1980s, featuring in films such as “American Gigolo”, “Beverley Hills Cop” and tv series such as Dallas.
This W129 500SL was owned by Princess Diana, who acquired the car new in 1991. There was such an outcry about a leading member of the Royal Family owning a “foreign” car and so it was returned to Mercedes in late 1992.
This ML Class was a star in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 movie, “Lost World”.
Commercial Vehicles
Throughout its history, Mercedes has built more than just cars, and there are numerous examples of the trucks and buses that the firm has offered included within the museum.

Dating from 1937, the 320 formed the basis of a vehicle which many specialists could adapt for commercial and utility purposes, such as this ambulance, created by the Hohner company.
Dating from 1952, this 170V Van was actually produced by the factory. Most of the vans offered were based on Mercedes’ chassis, but with bodies built by others.
This is a modern recreation of a one-of-a-kind race car transporter built in 1955, which was far more streamlined than the typical such vehicle of its day.
Mercedes is also known for buses, and several of these are among the displays.
This is an O303, a model first launched in 1974, and notable for the fact that it was subjected to rollover testing as part of its development
Mercedes in Motor Sport

Mercedes has a long tradition in various forms of motor sport, dating back to the very beginnings of the history of motoring. Many of the landmark vehicles from this heritage are displayed in what for me is one of the most stunning museum displays I have ever seen.  
In 1900, this Phoenix 23 PS Racer was one of the fastest motor vehicles the world had ever seen. However, it was not that easy to drive and the consequence of a serious accident led to a complete rethink, which resulted in the appearance in 1901 of the first ever Mercedes
This 1909 “Blitzen” Benz developed 200bhp, and was the first European car to be able to exceed 125 mph. At Daytona, in 1911, it managed to reach an incredible 142 mph.
This 1914 car competed in the Targa Florio. It was painted red, traditionally a colour reserved for Italian cars, in an effort to fool the local spectators, who, on seeing a red car approaching would leave the roads well clear to allow the local vehicle to proceed unimpeded.
This is also a 1914 car, a full blown Grand Prix racer, endowed with a 4.5 litre engine.
This W25 Avus streamline car dates from 1937.
This W154 3 litre race car dates from 1938
A 1939 230S off-road sports car.
The W196 is a legendary Formula 1 success from the mid 1950s, competing very successfully from 1954 to 1956. Two different cars were developed, one with more streamlining of the body, and the selection of the car that would race varied with the characteristics of the circuit. Both are on show in the museum.
Evolution of the “E” Class
To celebrate the recent launch of the W212 “E” Class, as well as displaying a silver-coloured E500 in the foyer, a complete hall was dedicated to the antecedents of what is now seen as the mid-range Mercedes.
The story really starts in the 1920s, with the launch of this W002 8/38 model.
When production resumed after the cessation of World War 2 hostilities, it was with this car, the W136, and this model from 1951 is a 170D, from a time when few manufacturers offered diesel power in passenger cars.
The next generation of cars was launched in 1954, and these were the W120 models, affectionately known as the “ponton” cars. A surprising number of these seem to have survived and they are quite common at any classic car gathering, especially in Germany. This is a 180 model.
Paying some heed to the American styling enthusiasm for tail fins that prevailed in the 50s, Mercedes introduced a range of cars, the W110, colloquially referred to as the “Fin Tail” or, in German the “Heckflosse”. These cars sold in small quantities in the UK, as Import Duties made them expensive, but they were engineered to very high standards, and introduced a number of safety innovations, such as the use of disk brakes, seat belts and were among the first cars available with fuel injection.  The display car is a 190 model from 1962.
The W115, sometimes known as the “New Generation” ran from 1967 until late 1975, and this is a late model 240D.
W123: launched in January 1976, and on sale until 1984, with a bewildering array of different engines, and augmented by Mercedes’ first factory estate car, the “T” Model, and a stylish coupe. 2.3 million of these cars were built, and the model shown, a 240D was the biggest seller constituting over 450,000 of those sales.
W124 was the next iteration, running from 1984 until 2002.

The W210, main-stay of the range from 1995 until 2002

The W211, offered from 2002 until early 2009
Completing the display was a W212 model E350 CGi.

Concept Cars
Displayed on a series of plinths and anchored to the walls are some of the concept cars that Mercedes has shown over the years.

The CIII dates from 1969
The F400 Carving, displayed at the Tokyo Show in 2002, which was used to test some very innovative suspension geometry.
The F200 is an elegant coupe concept.
Adjoining the museum is a huge “Mercedes-Benz World” facility very similar to the one to be found at Brooklands. I did not have time to inspect all the cars on show here, sadly, so had to confine my perusal to those cars that the Germans call “Young Timers”.
A couple of W201 cars:
A W126 “S” Class
Two of the rather lovely SL R107 cars from this long running model.
Parked up outside was a splendid W100, the 600 Limousine that ran from 1963 to 1990.
For anyone who is in the area, I cannot recommend this museum highly enough. It’s well worth the €8 entry fee. In fact, it’s well worth a significant deviation from any itinerary to include a visit. And that’s before I point out that the new Porsche Museum, in Zuffenhausen on the western side of Stuttgart is only 30 minutes away.
If you enjoyed this article, then you might like to take a look at:
Alfa Museo Storico – Arese (I)
BMW Museum – Munich (D)
Audi Museum – Ingolstadt (D)
Porsche Museum – Zuffenhausen (D)
2009-11-07 08:52:30

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