In 1886 Karl Benz introduced the very first automobile named the Benz Patent Motor Car. The Benz car sported three-wheels and weighed about 200 lbs. The single-cylinder four-stroke engine produced 2/3 hp at 250 rpm and is considered by most to be the worlds first car. A few months later Gottlieb Daimler unveiled a four-wheeled vehicle. While each of these accomplishments are grand on their own, little did either man realize that they would later form one of the most prestigious, powerful and timeless automotive powerhouses in the world.
The first Mercedes was introduced in 1900, shortly after the death of
Daimler and four years after the debut of the Benz Patent Motor Car.
Emil Jellinek, who commissioned a new sports car as one of Daimler’s
primary distributors, named it after his daughter.
Designed by Daimler’s chief engineer, Wilhelm Maybach, the Mercedes 35
hp was considered a sports car and was primarily designed for racing.
The Mercedes 35 hp set records that amazed the world of automobiles and
became instantly popular because it sported four wheels, a petrol
engine, a steel chassis, and a 4-forward/1-reverse transmission. The
new Mercedes also sported the T-head type cylinder, twin carburetors,
flared front fenders, and a sloping steering column.
Although Daimler had passed-away before the 35 hp was introduced, he is
credited with inventing the four-cylinder engine, honeycomb radiator,
foot accelerator, and motor-transmission integration, which are
features of many Mercedes.
Jellinek had exact specifications for the Mercedes in an attempt to
overcome previous problems of the “horseless-carriages” of the day. He
insisted the car have a low center of gravity to avoid flipping over
when driven at high speeds.
The features of the new Mercedes included a long wheelbase, pressed
steel chassis, 4-cylinder, lightweight, high-performance engine,
controlled intake valves, aluminum crankcase, and low voltage ignition.
The very first Mercedes-Benz vehicles were introduced in 1926,
following the merger of Karl Benz with Gottlieb Daimler’s company.
Before 1930, Daimler-Benz introduced the K-Type model with a top speed
of 145 km/h and the Stuttgart, which was a medium-sized, 6-cylinder
supercharged model producing 38 hp. Since that time, Mercedes has
introduced technological innovations and safety features that have been
replicated in vehicles of all brands, but the luxury and status of a
Mercedes-Benz is unmatched.
The world-renowned three-pointed star, wreathed in a laurel insignia of
the Mercedes-Benz, was designed by Daimler years earlier to signify
that his engines were used in vehicles that traveled by air, land, and
In 1931 the Mercedes-Benz 170 was introduced with the world’s first
four-wheel independent suspension in a two or four-door limousine and
tour wagon. A cabriolet and roadster were also introduced in the 1930s.
The 170, also known as the W136, was a water-cooled petrol straight
4-cylinder, 4-stroke SV with 38 hp. These cars established Mercedes as
the ultimate in luxury cars. This reputation grew in the 30’s and 40’s
with the production of the 380 and 540K cruisers.
In 1934 the 8-cylinder, inline engine Silver Arrow was Germany’s Auto
Union Grand Prix motor racing car, winning many races between 1934 and
1939. The Silver Arrow donned the newly developed spoked-wheels, a
polished chrome finish metal exhaust manifold, a flattened transversal
stainless steel hand-assembled cooler grill, a stainless steel
instrument panel with a marbled surface, and a removable engine hood
with spring-loaded locking hooks.
Unfortunately, many of the Mercedes-Benz plants were destroyed by bombs
during World War II. In 1948, Mercedes re-emerged and introduced a
four-door Saloon that resembled the pre-war 1939 Mercedes model and was
back on track. In 1949, the company introduced a diesel engine version
of the Mercedes-Benz 170 of 1931.
With the prosperity of the early 50’s, the world’s first “supercar” was
manufactured: the two-seater 300 SL Gullwing with doors that were
hinged on the roof. The 300 SL is considered a classic because of its
sleek styling and advanced technology. The 3-liter 6-cylinder engine,
with 215 hp, gave the SL a top speed of 250 km/h. Mercedes also made
history when it introduced the 220 Sedans, which featured the patented
“crumple zone” body designed to withstand impact.
In 1955 the Mercedes 190 SL roadster became popular thanks to its
price, approximately 50 percent less than the 300 SL. Only available as
a roadster, the 190 SL had a 4-cylinder engine and 105 hp.
Mercedes-Benz launched its SE series in 1958 when it introduced the
six-cylinder 220 E series, which had improved pulling power and
possessed better fuel economy; offered in a sedan, coupe, or cabriolet
body style. This model had a 2.2 L inline 6 gas engine, overhead
camshaft, and Bosch mechanical fuel injection.
By the 60’s, Mercedes had a reputation for its superior engineering and
high-quality performance. It was then that Mercedes-Benz introduced the
600 sedan, which is considered a “Grand Mercedes,” featuring a
state-of-the-art suspension system and a 300 hp V8 engine along with
electrical, pneumatic, hydraulic and vacuum-operated features. The 600
was also available in a limousine model. Around the same time, the 300
SEL 6.3 was began production as a full-size sedan that boasted a zero
to 60 in fewer than seven seconds take-off.
Another stellar innovation was Mercedes’ integration of the safety
belt; the new safety feature had been optional since the late 50’s, but
became standard in 1961.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class line was officially introduced in the 70’s.
These coupes and sedans sported powerful engines and many luxury
features including the first anti-lock braking systems, passenger side
airbags, seatbelt pretension, and traction control. The passenger shell
portion of the car was strengthened and the rear lights made larger as
more emphasis was being placed on passenger safety. V8 engines were
standard features of both the W116 and the W126 S-Class Mercedes. The
engine options were 2.8 inline 6, 3.5, 4.5, 6.9 or the 3.0 I5 turbo
diesel. The transmission options were 3 or 4 automatic or 4 or 5-speed
Advancements in safety continued at Mercedes-Benz in the 1980s. Along
with the debut of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the company raised their
standards by introducing multi-link suspension.
The 80’s saw the first Mercedes-Benz 190 E. The steering wheel airbag
was optionally available for the first time and seat-belt-tensioners
became standard equipment for drivers and front passengers. Its 4-door
saloon body style was offered in diesel (turbo & non-turbo) as well
as regular, and had 2.0, 2.3, 2.5, 3.0, 6 or 8 liter engine options.
Most of the 190 engines offered an inline 4, but the 6-liter version
offered an inline-6. The four-speed 190’s offered an automatic or
manual transmission, while the five-speed transmission was strictly
In 1989 the Silver Arrow of 1934 was reintroduced and went on to a double win at the Le-Mans 24-hour race.
In the 90’s Aufrecht Melcher Großaspach (AMG) became partners with
Mercedes-Benz and is now a high performance division there, boasting only hand-built engines. Since the debut of the C36 AMG in 1995, a
276 hp engine with a top speed of 155 mph, Mercedes now offers an
AMG-tuned version of the majority of its vehicles.
In 1993 the first four-valve diesel engine was fitted in the
Mercedes-Benz E-Class models. The endurance and superior performance of
the four-valve diesel engine offered another benchmark from Mercedes.
In 1994 the Mercedes-Benz roadster made its second debut as a 150 or
250 hp, 4-cylinder engine, offering the same excellent durability and
latest safety features of all other Mercedes models.
In the current millennium, Mercedes offers a comprehensive line of automobiles:
- A-Class – small family cars
- B-Class – Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPV’s)
- C-Class – compact executive vehicles and coupes
- E-Class – executive cars
- G-Class – off-road vehicles and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV’s)
- M-Class – SUV’s
- R-Class – MPV’s
- S-Class – full-size cars, roadsters and supercars
- Sprinter – Light-Commercial Vehicles (LCV’s)
- Vaneo – MPV
- Vito – LCV
From the Mercedes 35 hp to the latest 2009 Sprinter LCV (offered as a
chassis cab, minibus, pickup truck, and van with 2 or 4-door options, a
5 or 6-speed transmission, and 87 to 254 hp), Mercedes-Benz has etched
its place in history as one of the most celebrated and esteemed
automakers in the world, setting safety and styling precedents that are
replicated by many but matched by none.