Mercedes-Benz Sunday

4 Jan

So much for our recent Lazy Sundays! This week, we decided to spend Dad’s last day in Germany (yep, he’s spending today making the trek back to the Lowcountry 😦 ) doing something we’d been saving to do as a family- touring the Mercedes-Benz Museum here in Stuttgart. In case you didn’t know, Stuttgart is home to the brand and the international headquarters from its parent company, Daimler AG. With 160+ vehicles on display and more than 178,000 square feet of exhibition space, the museum is the largest automobile museum in the world.

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The current building, opened in 2006 and which stands directly outside the main gate of the Daimler factory in Stuttgart, is based on a unique cloverleaf concept using three overlapping circles with the center removed to form a triangular atrium, inspired by the shape of a Wankel engine.

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View from the ground floor of the center atrium, looking up at the eight levels cycling down.

The building’s height and “double helix” interior were designed to maximize space, providing 178,000 square feet of exhibition space on a footprint of just 52,000 square feet. The double helix also corresponds to the exhibition concept, which divides the museum into the “myth rooms” and the “collections,” offering two alternative tours that can be merged at any given point of the museum.

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Y’all, this museum has got to be one of the most impressive, most modern- and downright prettiest!- museums I’ve ever been in. The entire thing is built of concrete and word on the street is that it’s ‘more secure than Fort Knox.’ You start by taking a futuristic pod elevator to the very top, then you circle your way down through the eras, seeing everything from engines and cars to trucks, buses and airplanes!

Although several other German engineers (including Gottlieb Daimler, Wilhelm Maybach, and Siegfried Marcus) were working on the problem at about the same time, Karl Benz generally is acknowledged as the inventor of the modern car.

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In 1879, Benz was granted a patent for his first engine. Many of his other inventions made the use of the internal combustion engine feasible for powering a vehicle. His first Motorwagen, the first vehicle powered by gasoline, was built in 1885 in Mannheim, Germany. Together with his wife, Bertha Benz, he began promotion of the vehicle on 3 July 1886, and about 25 Benz vehicles were sold between 1888 and 1893, when his first four-wheeler was introduced along with a model intended for affordability. They also were powered with four-stroke engines of his own design. In August 1888, Bertha undertook the first road trip by car, to prove the road-worthiness of her husband’s invention. And that she did.

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In 1896, Benz designed and patented the first internal-combustion flat engine, called boxermotor. During the last years of the nineteenth century, Benz was the largest car company in the world with 572 units produced in 1899 and, because of its size, Benz & Cie. became a joint-stock company.

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Can you imagine this coming with your brand new Mercedes? 🙂

Karl Benz proposed co-operation between his company, Benz & Cie., and Daimler and Maybach’s company, DMG, when economic conditions began to deteriorate in Germany following WWI, but they refused. Negotiations between the two companies resumed several years later when these conditions worsened and in 1924, they signed an Agreement of Mutual Interest, valid until the year 2000. Both enterprises standardized design, production, purchasing, and sales and they advertised or marketed their car models jointly, although keeping their respective brands. In 1926, Benz & Cie. and DMG finally merged as the Daimler-Benz company, baptizing all of its cars Mercedes Benz, as a brand honoring the most important model of the DMG cars, the Maybach design later referred to as the 1902 Mercedes-35 hp, along with the Benz name. Karl Benz remained a member of the board of directors of Daimler-Benz until his death in 1929, and at times his two sons also participated in the management of the company.

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Who knew the reason for the red double deckers we see in London today!

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Who knew the museum could be so polarizing! Ha!

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Show of hands- how many of you have a little cardboard tree air freshener hanging from your rearview mirror? Have you ever thought about where they came from? (Or how rich the person must be with who invented those bad boys?! Ha!) Well, they were invented in 1952 in Watertown, New York by Julius Samann, a German-Jewish chemist who had fled the Nazis. One day, he was listening to a milkman complain about one of his occupational hazards, the stench of spoiled milk. It just so happened that Samman had been studying Alpine tree aromas in the forests of Canada and was interested in the technology used to transport and disseminate them. Less than two years later, he filed a patent for paper impregnated with “odor-destroying, air-perfuming substances,” a cellophane wrapper and a string to hang it on. The string was a necessity, he noted in his application, because “the substances are sometimes of an oily or sticky nature or hard to remove from the hands.” The reasons he chose the pine tree were largely practical. Its conical shape allowed its cellophane wrapper to be rolled back slowly, from its apex down, so the fragrance could be drawn out, branch by branch. Judicious users could preserve the pine scent for up to seven weeks.

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Samann had good timing, too. As the car began its ascent to suburban necessity, air-freshener options were limited for cigarette-smoking car owners troubled by the stink of their upholstery. Little Trees caught on with taxi drivers, too, as it became a sort of ‘extra service’ to have the air freshener up in the cab. Surprisingly little has changed from Samann’s day. The Car-Freshner Corporation, which is still run out of Watertown, remains a third-generation family firm selling Little Trees all over the world. Though they now offers 60 scents 🙂

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Grace Kelley and Zsa Zsa Gabor both drove this model Mercedes.

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It was quite the coup in London when Princess Di opted for this Mercedes as it was the first time Royalty had gone with a foreign car. In the background, you’ll see the most famous Pope Mobile in the world- Mercedes created it for the Pope’s visit to Germany in 1980. It’s entirely bulletproof.

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The biggest surprise for me was the race cars in the final section of the museum. I don’t know about you, but when I think about NASCAR and Formula1 and anything else that drives around and around a track, I’ve just never thought of Mercedes-Benz. Maybe that’s just the girl in me showing her true colors ;). I was super impressed by all the race cars, all the way back to the early 1900s!

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And with that, our journey through automotive time came to a close. What a great find for us here in our own city! (Although it’s hardly a well-kept secret around these parts!) We all had a terrific time and would definitely go back in a heartbeat. Really glad my Dad got to see it with us, too- it’s definitely right up his alley (pun intended 😉 )

And in hopes of leaving you with a smile…I asked Neve her favorite part of the day, figuring she’d say something like driving the big bus or just running hog wild like a crazy person down the ramps of the museum, but no. Instead she told me that my braid made me look just like Elsa and she’s so pretty. My sweet girl. ❤

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One Response to “Mercedes-Benz Sunday”

  1. Lori January 4, 2016 at 11:35 PM #

    ❤ That place looked super cool beans

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