Mercedes-Benz is known for luxury, and its iconic design. With over 100 years in the automobile industry, the illustrious car company is one of the most coveted and well-known out there. Though we know Mercedes for its plush interiors and exteriors and for its starring roles in movies like The Hangover and Batman & Robin, these days Mercedes -Benz is way more than just a car company.
Since the start of its operations at the turn of the 20th century, Mercedes-Benz has only gotten bigger and better. The company and its vehicles have gone through several astounding transformations. Check out these timeless cars and facts about Mercedes-Benz through the decades.
1. A feminist origin story
Mercedes-Benz has a rather legendary origin story. It all began with Karl Benz, a German engine designer and automobile engineer who in 1886 invented the modern automobile which the first car that was powered by petrol. Benz named his invention the Motorwagen.
Benz did not do his work alone, in fact, it was all financed by his business partner and wife, Bertha Benz who was the first person to drive an automobile over a long distance. It was Bertha’s drive that gave the Motorwageron world-wide attention.
Next: Making it legal
2. The first driver’s license
The Germany authorities and Karl Benz wanted to make sure they were regulating the use of the motor vehicle. Therefore, an official license to operate the Benz Patent Motorwagen on the public roads was issued by Großherzoglich Badisches Bezirksamt on Aug. 1, 1888. Of course, that license went to Mr. Benz.
Next: The best kind of advertisement
3. The road trip
On Aug. 5, 1888, two years after her husband patented the Motoerwagon, Bertha Benz who was 39-years-old at the time and her two sons, Richard and Euge snuck away without telling Karl Benz. They hopped in the Motorwagen Model III for a 130-mile round trip joyride from Mannheim to Pforzheim, Germany.
This was illegal of course because Bertha didn’t tell her husband or the authorities what she was up to, but she was trying to prove a point. She felt that Karl had failed to market the automobile properly and she wanted him to be confident that the invention would work for the masses. She also wanted to visit her mother.
Next: A grand debut
4. A world premiere
A year after Bertha Benz’s joyride, which proved to her husband that cars could be used across the globe, Benz’s Model 3 made its wide-scale debut to the world in the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, France. Though it was still rather pricey to make, the car was a hit. Twenty-five Motorwagens were built between 1886 and 1893.
Next: Adding the Mercedes to the Benz
5. Becoming Mercedes-Benz
By the turn of the century, Benz & Cie had major competition with Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG). By the 1920’s Germany’s economic situation was in dire straights and the two companies, DMG and Benz decided to merge. After the merge, the company decided to name all of their vehicles, Mercedes-Benz.
Mercedes was the name of engine designer Emil Jellinek’s young daughter. Jellinek had set the specifications for the new model. He had also designed the vehicle’s engine.
Next: A major safety invention
6. The brakes
Since they were the first automobile, it’s no wonder that Mercedes-Benz was also a pioneer when it comes to vehicle safety. In 1924, the company was the first to offer brakes on all four wheels. The fascination with brakes all steemed back from Bertha Benz’s 1888 drive.
During her drive, she invented brake lining. After some longer downhill slopes, she ordered a shoemaker to nail leather on the brake blocks as well.
Next: Air, land, and water
7. All about the logo
The iconic three-point logo that we see today on all Mercedes-Benz vehicles has some legendary origins as well. The logo debuted in 1926, and it represents air, land, and water. The company thought about adding a fourth point to the star to represent space but decided not to.
Next: Das Beste oder Nichts
8. The motto
Because the Mercedes-Benz is one of the most coveted cars on the planet, their motto fits right in with the luxury brand and its elite buyers. Benz’s tagline is “Das Beste oder Nichts” which literally means – “The best or nothing,”
Sounds pretty luxurious to us.
Next: Speeding things up
9. Getting into racing
Just as Bertha Benz did with her joyride, automobile manufacturers had to come up with other ways for the public to gain interest in their relatively new invention. Sports car racing became a significant way to garner publicity. The Benz Velo participated in the first automobile race: Paris to Rouen 1894. Sales at Benz skyrocketed when the name of the automobile was associated with the winners.
Today, Benz cars are on race tracks around the globe.
Next: Using racing to promote their products
10. A low-key relationship with Formula One
Since Benz has been in the racing game since almost the beginning, they have a fascinating indirect relationship with Formula One. Though the officially left the race after two championship titles in two seasons, they still use Formula One to promote their products.
Next: Stripping things down
11. No paint on the whip
Unlike other race cars of the early 20th century period, Mercedes-Benz did not paint their vehicles. Instead, they were left in their bare aluminum silver bodywork. The paint weighed the car down too much, and it was removed in 1934.
Today the Mercedes F1 is painted metallic silver in tribute to the original race cars.
Next: A notorious car
12. The Nazi vehicle
In the 1930’s and 1940’s Mercedes-Benz was known for its widely popular, Mercedes-Benz 770. The car screamed luxury and was used for state vehicles. Both Paul von Hindenburg and Pope Pius XI had one. However, the model was most known for its association with high-ranking Nazis. If you watch archival footage of Nazis from that time, you can see the car in the film.
Next: Updating the engine
13. The diesel engine
Mercedes-Benz has always been an originator. When they started producing the Mercedes-Benz 260 D from 1936 to 1940, it was one of the first cars to use a diesel engine. This means that an internal combustion engine ignites its fuel via the compression of nothing but air.
Next: The Mercedes-Benz W186
14. The Adenauer
Obviously, the end of World War II and all of its atrocities left the world and Germany in shambles. Konrad Adenauer, who was the first Chancellor of West Germany was often credited with turning West Germany into a stable, prosperous country in the aftermath of World War II. Adenauer’s vehicle of choice was the Mercedes-Benz W186.
Since he became so beloved in Germany, the Mercedes-Benz W186 became known as the Adenauer.
Next: More than a brand
15. A marque
The name Mercedes-Benz is so massive now that it has become a marque. Essentially this means that it’s a brand in and of itself. However, don’t think of it as a normal brand name, in fact, it is a make of car which is distinct from a specific model.
Next: Stuttgart, Germany
16. The home of automobiles
Mercedes-Benz is currently headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. It’s called the called the Cradle of the Automobile, because it’s where cars were invented. Benz shares their sacred home with Porsche, two car parts manufacturers of note, and some car magazines.
Next: Different engines means different numbers
17. Digging into the numbers
When you think about the names of Mercedes models which are comprised of letter and numbers, they typically share a great deal of information about the vehicle. Numbers refer to the displacement of their internal combustion engines, which would be the total volume of their cylinders.
However, as the marque continued to make new models the names became more complicated due to increasingly powerful engines.
Next: A type of vehicle
18. All about the letters
Like the numbers in the car names, letters also tell the car owner, prospective buyer, or enthusiast a great deal of information. “C” means that the car has either a coupe body or a cabriolet body. “G” once referred to a particular kind of off-road vehicle but has since been re-purposed to refer to SUVs.
“D” means that diesel engine, while another is how “E” indicates either an engine with petrol fuel injection, an electric engine, or a hybrid engine.
Next: Using the class system
19. A new naming system
Obviously, as technology began to get more complicated, Mercedes-Benz couldn’t hold on to their original naming system. Instead, in 1994, they began to give each of their cars a class. Indicated by a combination of letters that can be up to three letters long. This is followed by a combination of numbers, which doesn’t necessarily refer to the displacement of the engine but could reflect either a general sense of the performance of the engine or marketing purposes based on such a sense.
Next: A collision avoidance system
Brakes were one thing, but Mercedes-Benz has come a long way when it comes to pioneering safety in cars. In 2002, the company debuted their Pre-Safe system. It was the first collision avoidance system. It could pick up on signs of an imminent collision, which would cause it to take a number of measures designed to protect the occupants of the car. Examples ranged from moving the seats to a better position to tightening the seat belts in preparation for the collision.
Next: Self-driving cars
21. Getting into robots
Since it’s such an innovative company, it would make sense that Mercedes-Benz can claim the honor of being the first to build a robot car. Under the leadership of Ernst Dickmanns, the company transformed an S-Class Mercedes-Benz car into a robot car that completed a trip from Bavaria in Germany to Copenhagen in Denmark. In total, it managed to travel up to 158 km or 98 miles without human intervention.
Next: Perfecting the seatbelt
22. Making the seatbelt modern
Mercedes-Benz has made amazing contributions to the automobile industry including the pre-tensioner which is a part of the seatbelt that causes it to tighten instantaneously when a crash happens. This is important because the lack of slack prevents the person using it from being pulled forward in the incident.
Next: A shakey track record
23. Not quite environmentally friendly
Mercedes-Benz has been innovative on a lot of fronts, but it hasn’t exactly been environmentally friendly. In 2009, the company had to pay a $30 million to the United States after its failure to meet mandated fuel standards. Also in both 2006 and 2007, they were the only European car manufacturer to end up with the worst average CO2 level.
These days Mercedes-Benz is making strides to do better.
Next: Getting into bikes
24. Bicycle plans
Mercedes-Benz has gotten serious about their plans to do better for the environment. In 2005, the automaker released three models of bicycles, the Mercedes-Benz Carbon Bike, The Fitness Bike, and the Trailblazer Bike. Clearly, the company could never erase their carbon footprint completely, but we’re happy to see that Benz is doing more good for the environment.
25. Hybrids from the beginning
Benz has had a hybrid vehicle in its lineup since 1906. The Mixte featured a gasoline engine and a dynamo which is an electrical generator. Though they’ve not been perfect when it comes to the environment, it’s nice to know it’s always been a consideration.
Next: A bold design
26. The nuts and bolts of it
In addition to safety and luxury, Mercedes-Benz has always been ahead of its time when it comes to design. Mercedes-Benz welds all of its vehicles in 10,000 different places to make sure no nuts or bolts get loose. With so much money spent on a car, it should be pristine.
Next: A bang for your buck
27. An unlimited-mileage warranty
Today’s Mercedes-Benz vehicles come at a premium. If you purchase a certified pre-owned Benz, you’ll get an unlimited-mileage warranty for up to five years, among other perks only offered by Authorized Mercedes-Benz dealers. If you’re going to spend the money, you better get the biggest bang for your buck.
Next: Keeping things updated
28. Certified and reconditioned
Mercedes-Benz Certified Pre-Owned program offers the most coveted late model cars—covering sedans, coupes, wagons, and SUVs—that have been certified and reconditioned by skilled Mercedes-Benz technicians to bring them as up-to-date as humanly possible. This ensures a like-new experience, inside and out even when you’ve purchased a much older model.
Next: Insane features
29. Gimmicks and perks
Each Benz has it’s one set of perks, and they’ve changed over time. For example, each Mercedes 500E was hand-built by Porsche and took a full 18 days to make. Meanwhile, the W140 S Class featured double glazed windows and a heater that could deliver hot air, even when the engine was off.
Next: A household name
30. A global phenomenon
Mercedes Benz is manufactured in 30 countries across the globe in all types of models and classes. From its origins in a small German town in the late 19th century to a global name, we’d say Mercedes-Benz is in a class of its own.
Follow Aramide Tinubu on Twitter @midnightrami.