Written by: Tony Gee
Two men who never met are responsible for the early developments that led to the formation of the Mercedes Benz company. Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz.
It was in 1886 that Carl Benz built a motorized tricycle, the world's first automobile. But it wasn't until 1893 that he built his first four-wheeler named the Victoria.
The first real production car, which took part in the first ever recorded car race, between Paris and Rouen, was produced in 1894. This car, which inspired many copies, was called the Benz Velo. 134 Identical models were built in 1895. To own one of these state-of-the-art automobiles in the UK would have cost you £125.
It was in 1886 that Gottlieb Daimler built a horseless carriage. He and his lifelong business partner, Wilhelm Maybach, had a dream to create small, high speed engines that could be used in any form of carriage. It was their engine attached to a regular horse-drawn carriage that formed this original horseless carriage.
In 1890 they formed the Daimler Motoren Gesellshaft (DMG) company and sold their first automobile in 1892. In 1900 Gottlieb Daimler died but in that same year DMG produced a car for Emil Jellinek who named the car after his ten year old daughter Mercedes.
The car manufactured for Emil Jellinek was lighter and smaller than other automobiles of the time. It used a 35 horse power engine which gave the car a top speed of 55mph, which was unheard of at the time.
In 1903 Carl Benz responded to the Mercedes with his new model, the Parsifil. This used a vertical, two cylinder engine to propel the vehicle at a top speed of 37mph.
Both companies, Daimler and Benz, were aware of the promotional advantages of motor racing but, until 1908, Daimler had consistently beaten Benz in various challenges. It was in the 1908 French Grand Prix at Dieppe that Benz took second and third place behind a Mercedes in a race that was attended by tens of thousands of spectators.
This land-mark race was held on a public road course that covered nearly 50 miles. Drivers were required to cover 10 laps with a total race distance of 478 miles. The winner, Christian Lautenschlager in the Mercedes, averaged a speed of 69.05mph, finishing nearly nine minutes ahead of the Benz driven by Victor Hemery. It was in this race that the first fatal crash took place when Henri Cissac crashed on the 8th lap. Both he and his mechanic were killed and this event led to people calling for motor racing to be stopped.
At the beginning of WWI both the Daimler and Benz factories were converted into war production plants. It was after the war, in 1919, that Karl Jahn, from the Benz board of directors, approached Daimler regarding a possible merger. This looked promising but was abandoned that same year.
The post war years were tough times in Germany with fuel scarcity and high taxes. It was in 1924 that Benz and Daimler signed an "Agreement of Mutual Interest". This enabled both companies to retain their respective identities and remained valid until 2000 although the two companies merged on June 28th 1926.
The emblem chosen for the new merged company was a three pointed star surrounded by a laurel wreath with the words 'Mercedes' at the top and 'Benz' at the bottom.
This merger was good for both companies. Automobile production increased to 7900 vehicles in 1927 and a new line of Mercedes Benz trucks went into production in 1927.
The Mercedes Benz Company has gone on to develop a host of prestigious, high performance automobiles. There are numerous notable models including the 770 Grosser launched in 1930 with its massive 8 cylinder, 7.6 litre engine and the fantastic W25 racer with a top speed of 200 mph.
Since their inception Mercedes-Benz have held a reputation for quality, performance and durability. They have been and continue to be forerunners in the development of innovative design features such as the safety cage, rear crumple zones and anti-lock brakes. The future of the Mercedes brand looks secure as they continue their active research and development into fuel-economy and alternative energy sources for automobiles.
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