Mercedes-Benz has driven through two centuries of grit and success. How did the automobile evolve?
1. The first automobile was Karl Benz's baby. It was in 1886 that Karl Benz was responsible for creating the first "ground-based, internal combustion powered vehicles". His strange vehicle has a simple name today. It's called 'Cars'!
2. The first car was given a patent, and therefore called the Patent Motorwagen. It was a three-wheeled vehicle with a steel tube frame that had wooden panels on it. It ran on a tiny, gasoline-powered engine. It's a 2/3 horsepower, not even as powerful as a real horse.
3. Karl's wife, Bertha, took the world's first road trip. The Patent Motorwagen was not just the creation of Karl Benz, but also Bertha's. She contributed to financing and marketing it. Could she patent it, though? No, women were probably not allowed to. Otherwise, she would have been a co-creator.
4. The Patent Motorwagen was boarded by Bertha and her two sons, Eugen and Richard. They travelled from Mannheim to Pforzheim on the world's first road trip of 120 miles.
5. As they could find no gas station in those days, the small group halted at a pharmacy in order to take some ligroin petroleum ether to use as fuel. Bertha probably also took some Slim Jim and a can of Red Bull.
6. Now how did the other name, 'Mercedes', get attached to the 'Benz'? It was due to Mercedes, the daughter of Emil Jellinek, a diehard client of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft. This was the company that later blended with Benz & Co. First it was Daimler-Benz and then became Mercedes-Benz.
7. Emil Jellinek climbed to success in the late 1800s. He pursued other hobbies such as race car driving as well as team manager. He entered a number of Daimler-built racer cars under the pseudonym 'Mercedes' that eventually got registered as a trademark in 1902. He also began to use the name as a product designation for its vehicles.
8. By the 1920s, the Daimler-Benz car company was facing stiff competition from Henry Ford's Model T in Germany. Things were looking tough, especially due to the slow economy after World War I. To maintain its calm, Daimler suddenly tried alternative products, such as a bicycle under the Mercedes name in 1923. It even toyed with the idea of a typewriter. However, that Mercedes typewriter never struck its first tap!
9. Remember the famous three-pointed star logo of Mercedes? At first, it was almost a four-pointed star. Every point signified "mobility on land, on water, and in the air." Although there was almost one more point that had been added to symbolise space it was finally left out.
10. Mercedes did experiment with some non-land-based transportation into space, but ultimately that was left out. Just as the fourth 'space' point was left out.
11. From 1910, Mercedes began to use the three-pointed star on Daimler cars. The later circle around the star was an addition only in 1916.
12. Mercedes-Benz also built a spaceship for the 1987 sci-fi epic, 'Spaceballs.' It featured Princess Vespa, along with her robotic handmaiden Dot Matrix. The princess used her Mercedes-Benz spaceship to escape from Planet Drudia and Prince Vallium.
13. Germany is thought to be the cradle of the car industry, so Stuttgart is also called 'Benztown'. That is why a huge three-pointed star on top of the Mercedes headquarters towers over the town. Karl Benz invented the Patent Wagon, while Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach began the Daimler here. Porsche, as well as car parts suppliers Bosch and Mahle too were founded in Stuttgart. They still call it "home".
14. Italian race cars were supposed to be red before the 1960s, while German cars were painted white. However, in 1934, Mercedes cars careened into Nürburgring with W25 race cars. They were found to be weighing over one kilo more than required. Hence, engineers tried to scratch out the white paint. It turned out to work so well that the W25 sprinted to the finish ahead of other cars in its first race.
15. Following this, Mercedes as well as other German race cars got a new name - The Silver Arrows. The bare, silver aluminium bodies of the cars made them attractive.
16. Today, the Mercedes' F1 cars are composed of carbon fibre. Still, they are painted metallic silver.
17. Strangely, those W25 race cars were actually funded by an atrocious host - the newly appointed German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. He put in his funds for both Mercedes and Auto Union, another company that would later turn Audi.
18. Hitler's official mode of transport was actually a Mercedes-Benz 770 that sported a bulletproof windshield. Hence, the Mercedes really became the car company of the dictator.
19. Autonomous cars have been a big topic lately, but the first autonomous Mercedes-Benz car was released 25 years ago. The European Union invested €800 million for it.
20. After a few years, Mercedes research started a self-driving car that just drove itself from Munich, Germany to Copenhagen, Denmark and then returned in 1995. At some points, its speed went up to 109 mph.
21. Using lessons that started with the autonomous car from 1995, Mercedes has now brought the same technology to trucking. The Future Truck is smart enough to detect when a police vehicle is approaching from the rear. It can move to the side to make way.
22. In the '80s, there were some Swatch watches owned by everyone. They teamed up with Mercedes to build the Smart Car. Swatch CEO Nicholas Hayek built it and applied its style as well as features as Swatches.
23. In 1994, he got into a deal with Mercedes. Now Smart is a completely owned subsidiary of Mercedes.
24. AMG, a high-performance tuning arm, went on to make Mercedes super-fast, just like the BMWs and Porsches. Mercedes took over AMG in 1999. AMG today builds engines for its Formula 1 cars. The super-famous AMG-tuned Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3 was AMG's big race car success.
25. The AMG philosophy is interesting - 'One Man, One Engine'. Right now, Mercedes has 50 AMG Master Engine Builders who manufacture every AMG engine by hand. Each engine has a plaque on the intake runner along with the signature of the builder.
26. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG supercar has swinging doors that hinge on the roof and swing up when they open.
27. However, this poses a safety issue. Suppose the car flips over and rests on its roof, the doors remain shut, so the occupants cannot come out. Hence, the manufacturers have fixed exploding bolts on the hinges. They can go off just a few milliseconds after a rollover. This small explosion would make the door shoot out from the frame and let the occupants scurry out.
28. You can identify an AMG engine just by its roar. Even though it takes time to acoustically engineer the exhaust note of every AMG model, the manufacturers put in special effort into it. The sound of every driving scenario, acceleration as well as downshift, is important to AMG.
29. Mercedes-Benz has sure devised a formula to stay ahead in the race. It split the two elements of the turbocharger and put one in front of the engine with the other behind it. Hence, the Mercedes-AMG F1 engineers have opened up a lot of potential.
30. Mercedes F1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg bagged 14 of 17 races won so far. They are 'manufacturers' champions.