100 Years Of Mercedes-Benz

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

Karl Benz (in light suit) on a trip with his family with one of his first cars, which was built in 1893 and powered by a single cylinder, 3 h.p. engine. His friend Theodor von Liebig is in the Viktoria

Karl Benz (in light suit) on a trip with his family with one of his first cars, which was built in 1893 and powered by a single cylinder, 3 h.p. engine. His friend Theodor von Liebig is in the Viktoria | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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

Karl Benz license

Karl Benz license | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

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

Karl and Bertha Benz-with their daughter Klara in 1894

Karl and Bertha Benz-with their daughter Klara in 1894 | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

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

1894: 35-40 HP Daimler Mercedes convertible car

1894: 35-40 HP Daimler Mercedes convertible car | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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

1905: An 18-horsepower Mercedes with Worley Spring Wheels.

1905: An 18-horsepower Mercedes with Worley Spring Wheels | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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

1907 Mercedes car

1907 Mercedes car | Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

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

Mercedes and Ferarri logos

Mercedes and Ferrari logos | Michael Cooper/Getty Images /Allsport

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

1930 Mercedes

1930 Mercedes | General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

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

1907 Racing driverJ E Hutton at Brooklands racetrack in the Mercedes car with which he won the Montagu Cup

1907 Racing driver J E Hutton at Brooklands racetrack in the Mercedes car with which he won the Montagu Cup | Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

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

Mercedes Benz Race October 1922

Mercedes Benz Race October 1922 | Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

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

FIA World Sportscar Prototype Championship Coupe de Dijon on 21st May 1989

FIA World Sportscar Prototype Championship Coupe de Dijon on 21st May 1989 | Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images

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

Mercedes Benz 770

Mercedes Benz 770 | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

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

A Mercedes 220 saloon first introduced at the Motor Show in 1951.

A Mercedes 220 saloon first introduced at the Motor Show in 1951 | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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

1954 Mercedes Adenauer

1954 Mercedes Adenauer | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

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

US actress Zsa Zsa Gabor poses on May 12, 1958, in front of her Mercedes car

US actress Zsa Zsa Gabor poses on May 12, 1958, in front of her Mercedes car | /AFP/Getty Images

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

Stuttgart television mast at the summit

Stuttgart television mast at the summit | Hannes Kilian/BIPs/Getty Images

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

English comic actor Peter Sellers with his new Mercedes-Benz 300 SE Cabriolet (aka Mercedes-Benz W112), 7th November 1962.

English comic actor Peter Sellers with his new Mercedes-Benz 300 SE Cabriolet (aka Mercedes-Benz W112), 7th November 1962. | Chris Ware/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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

A 300 SL Mercedes-Benz 1955 gull-wing car with the doors in the open position

A 300 SL Mercedes-Benz 1955 gull-wing car with the doors in the open position | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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

A Thai worker polishes a used Mercedes at a secondhand car market in Bangkok 13 July 1999

A Thai worker polishes a used Mercedes at a secondhand car market in Bangkok 13 July 1999.| Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images

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 

20. Pre-safe

 A workman cleans the Mercedes-Benz M-class 05 January after it was named North American Truck of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan

A workman cleans the Mercedes-Benz M-class 05 January after it was named North American Truck of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. | Matt Campbell /AFP/Getty Images

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

2019-Mercedes-Benz-CLS

2019 Mercedes Benz CLS | Mercedes-Benz

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

2018 Mercedes AMG Seats

2018 Mercedes AMG Seats | Mercedes-Benz

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

Emirati visitors to the 5th Dubai motor show get a close look to the newly launched Mercedes Benz S-class Pullman which was unveiled at a world premiere show in Dubai 10 November 1999.

Emirati visitors to the 5th Dubai motor show get a close look to the newly launched Mercedes Benz S-class Pullman which was unveiled at a world premiere show in Dubai 10 November 1999. | Rabih Moghrabi/AFP/Getty Images

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

2018 Mercedes AMG G65

2018 Mercedes AMG G65 | Mercedes-Benz

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.

Next: Hybrids 

25. Hybrids from the beginning

Mercedes Benz S400 Hybrid 2010

Mercedes Benz S400 Hybrid 2010 | Mercedes-Benz

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

2018 Mercedes AMG G65 Final Edition

2018 Mercedes AMG G65 Final Edition | Mercedes-Benz

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

2019 Mercedes-Benz C300 Cabriolet

2019 Mercedes-Benz C300 Cabriolet | Mercedes-Benz

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

2019 Mercedes AMG C63 S-Sedan

2019 Mercedes AMG C63 S-Sedan | Mercedes-Benz

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 

30. A global phenomenon

Mercedes AMG vehicles

Mercedes AMG vehicles | Mercedes-Benz

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.