The German manufacturer of luxury cars has been around for more than a century and has elegantly drifted the smooth and rough curves of automotive history. The "fathers" of the Mercedes-Benz brand, responsible for the development of the modern combustion engine, practically invented the automobile.
Years ago, when mahogany canes and high-top hats were the ultimate fashion and social celebrity statements, two men named Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler were busy ridding the world of horse-powered transportation. The archetype of the modern 1886 engine, their device was not the result of teamwork but of independent and synchronous research and development. Although both lived in southern Germany, if historical accounts are to be believed, they never actually met.
Despite the two engineers' equal contribution to the development of the four-stroke petrol engine, it was Gottlieb Daimler who attracted more attention that eventually led to world fame. After Daimler's successes in racing, a wealthy Austrian businessman named Emil Jellinek became interested in the cars built in Unterturkheim. The work of Daimler and his chief engineer Wilhelm Maybach had pleased Jellinek to the extent that he approached them with a business proposal: a large number of cars would be ordered in exchange for a name change from Daimler to Mercedes - the name of the Jellinek subsidiary and the right to change the car's design, as well as the right to resell the vehicles in some European countries, including Austria, France and Belgium.
Long before the outbreak of World War I, Gotllieb Daimler had earned a reputation for its vehicles greater than that of Benz. However, the latter would struggle to keep up and manage to stay close to Daimler's rear. In 1908 both manufacturers shared the podium with victories in the French Grand Prix.
After converting their factories for army needs during World War I, the two rivals were brought together by a series of circumstances dictated by precarious economic status and the inability to support themselves. In 1926, Daimler's Motor Company merged with Benz & Cie and became the larger Daimler – Benz AG.
Since then, Mercedes-Benz automobiles have been among the best cars in the world and stand as a symbol of impeccable quality and cutting-edge technology. In fact, the men behind the brand are responsible for developing countless improvements that cover every inch of a car's anatomy.
Despite being widely criticized for alleged forced labor and human rights abuses during World War II, Mercedes-Benz has managed to build an automotive empire bolstered by some of the company's far below average customers, such as B. Heads of state, media moguls and ridiculously rich families.
Mercedes - Benz are best known for their sedans, most of which have been featured in most films since the Lumiere brothers became famous for their "little" invention called cinematography. As if product excellence and world fame weren't enough, the Mercedes - Benz team has also come up with plenty of innovations, many of which are aimed at the simple four-cylinder engine.
28 years after Otto had presented his prototype of a four-stroke petrol engine, Wilhelm Maybach perfected his idea and built an engine for Daimler that was to be used exclusively in boats. The engine that would eventually power the land, sea and air vehicles that fulfilled Daimler's dream took about 8 years to develop before it was installed in the Daimler Phoenix model, the first vehicle in the world to be fitted with such an engine was.
Meanwhile, Karl Benz was busy working on a four-cylinder boxer engine as a further development of his Contra design of 1897. In 1900 the improved counter engine came onto the market and ended Benz's work at the time. Some of the advantages the horizontal design had over its inline counterpart related to space and dynamics. The opposite horizontal arrangement and firing order of the pistons meant very low vibration, a lower center of gravity and more space to install other equipment such as a turbo or supercharger.
The early 1900s brought a second set of technical innovations with Maybach's development of the 'Hammer' engine design for Daimler, earning its name thanks to its dual camshaft controlled side intake and exhaust valves; Daimler also developed the Simplex in 1902, a racing car powered by an in-line four-cylinder engine with overhead intake valves and rod-driven exhaust valves. To ensure low working temperatures, the Simplex design also featured double-walled cylinders to allow an even flow of cooling water as close as possible to the heat source.
The origins of hybrid vehicles are not as recent as one might think. In fact, they can be traced back to 1900 when the Mercedes Mixte range was launched. These cars used 45 or 70 hp engines to drive electric generators. The electrical energy obtained was then converted into propulsion power via a special device or "hub". The vehicles built by DMG (Daimler Mottorengesellschaft) were a hit at the time and won races such as the Exelberg.
Mercedes-Benz has also broken a number of speed records, among which ramming the 200 km/h mark is probably notable. The idea of a vehicle that could reach such a speed as early as 1909 seems far-fetched today, but Benz's Lightning proves it. Such performance at the time could only be achieved by increasing displacement, and despite its poor-sounding name, the Lightning was a beast powered by a 21.5-litre engine.
After some further improvements like the introduction of 3-valve dual ignition and 4-valve engines, DMG entered the turbocharged age. The company's early involvement in aircraft engine building paid off in 1921 when Paul Daimler developed an engine based on World War I aircraft designs.
When it comes to diesel trucks, Benz was the first. The OB 2 diesel engine was introduced in 1923 and in 1924 the world's first diesel truck came onto the market. Shortly after Daimler and Benz had joined forces in a profitable maelstrom of brilliant inventions, the 260 D model celebrated its premiere in 1936: it was the world's first diesel passenger car. As expected, some improvements to the 260 D would follow. However, the German manufacturer's pursuit of leaner diesel engines was soon hampered by the outbreak of World War II.
After a forced and extremely undesirable break from passenger car construction and engine research during the war, Mercedes - Benz resumed its activities and brought the 170 V model onto the market in 1946. Based on the 260 D, the 4-cylinder 1.7 engine fitted with it prior to the launch of the 170 D in 1949, a car that reignited customer interest in the marque while marking the comeback of the company ensured.
In the 1950s, Mercedes-Benz produced some of the most beautiful cars of all time, such as the 190 and 300 SL. The first was a compact roadster, recognized after setting a new world diesel record in 1959. The latter is none other than the famous gullwing, apparently making a comeback through the yet-to-be-unveiled SLC model. In addition to its stunning looks, the 300 SL was the first production vehicle to benefit from early fuel injection technology.
By the time the 80's arrived, the world was already concerned about the impact of CO2 emissions and general car pollution. Mercedes - Benz was among the first to comply with the regulations with the introduction of the regulated three-way catalytic converter in 1985. With this and several oil filter changes, such as easy access from above, Mercedes - Benz vehicles continued to become even more advanced.
By the early 1990's their diesel vehicle range had completely switched to four-valve intake/exhaust systems and carburetors were dropped in favor of fuel injection systems. A few years later, Mercedes-Benz entered the development of compressors, which happened with the release of the C 230 compressor.
After ushering in a new era in mechanical supercharging technology, Mercedes pushed new boundaries by releasing new technical concepts and groundbreaking designs. The BlueTec system presented in 2005 was developed with just one goal: reducing CO2 emissions, which is made possible through the use of SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction). Two other notable events happened in the same year with the release of the A 200 Turbo engine for the A class and the organic looking Bionic concept.
Mercedes - Benz was the first to install ABS and ESP systems in its cars and recently it really pushed the limit with the DiesOtto engine which premiered at the 2004 Frankfurt Moto Show. The DiesOtto has variable combustion chambers and at the same time offers the advantages of petrol and diesel engines. Its CAI (Controlled Auto Ignition) allows the spark plugs to fire at higher temperatures when fuel, in this case petrol, can be ignited in the same way as diesel. The path that the researchers have taken to the variable combustion chamber is still open, but will certainly only become public in a few years' time, when the DiesOtto is expected to replace the regular engine.