Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Symbol of the German post-WWII Economic Miracle and Democracy: the Mercedes-Benz Star Comes Down in Bonn

The Mercedes star on the "Bonn-Center“ of the former German capital was not only a trademark, but also a distinctive symbol of the Federal Republic of Germany. It was installed on the high-rise building in the late 1960s and rotated – brightly illuminated at night – for more than 45 years. On 24 February 2017, it was removed and stored initially due to the pending demolition of the building. The star was now presented to the Mercedes-Benz brand club vdh e. V., which will make it the centrepiece of its planned museum in Ornbau, Germany. Photo from April 1994. Photo source: City Archive and City History Library Bonn/Friedhelm Schulz.

The Mercedes star on the "Bonn-Center“ of the former German capital was not only a trademark, but also a distinctive symbol of the Federal Republic of Germany. It was installed on the high-rise building in the late 1960s and rotated – brightly illuminated at night – for more than 45 years. On 24 February 2017, it was removed and stored initially due to the pending demolition of the building. Today, Mercedes-Benz presents the famous signet to the officially recognized Mercedes-Benz brand club vdh – e. V., which will make the Mercedes star the centrepiece of its planned museum at the location in Ornbau, Germany. The opening of the exhibition in honour of the Mercedes-Benz brand and its vehicles in a specially built building is planned for 2019.
Stuttgart. For almost 50 years, the Mercedes star of the former "Bonn-Center" shone above the erstwhile German capital. It was a particularly present symbol for the seat of government of the Federal Republic – not just in Bonn itself, but through photos and television images in the whole world.
This important cultural asset will get a new future home in the planned museum of vdh e. V. With this project, Mercedes-Benz underscores the engagement in the active cultivation of the brand history twofold: On one hand, it benefits the work of a dedicated brand club. On the other, the Bonn Mercedes star is also significant from the perspective of the brand history. This star is a white star as was used in earlier days. Today, the trademarks have a silver-metallic shine, just like the Mercedes stars used as bonnet ornaments have always done.
"The fact that this Mercedes star will be exhibited in a museum dedicated to our brand is of great significance to us“, says Christian Boucke, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. "It is part of our brand history and at the same time an important contemporary witness of the "Bonn Federal Republic’. In future, everybody will be able to visit it for the first time and admire it almost at eye level".
The Mercedes star has a diameter of eight metres and is thus about as tall as a two-storey house. On the "Bonn-Center", it completed one full turn in two minutes. Powerful lighting ensured the star radiated brightly at night from the roof of the former high-rise building.
"We are delighted that we are presented with this historical Mercedes star and that we will be able to exhibit it in our new museum as the centrepiece", says Horst Stümpfig, First Chairman of vdh –  e. V. "It will be a key exhibit of the exhibition concept that features a host of vehicles. It will contribute to creating an impressive and unique setting“ .
With some 7000 members, vdh e. V. is one of the largest officially recognised brand clubs in Germany and is dedicated to the cultivation of the cultural assets that classic Mercedes-Benz vehicles represent. The planned club museum in Ornbau, Middle Franconia, a little under 20 kilometres south of Ansbach, will play a key role in the work of the club in future. The opening is planned for 2019.
The famous trademark will also celebrate an anniversary in 2019: On 24 June 1909, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) applied for a design patent on the three-pointed star. It is used as a bonnet ornament since 1910 – and continues to be one of the world's most famous trademarks to this day. During the merger between DMG and Benz & Cie. in 1926 to form then Daimler-Benz AG, the product signets of the two companies were merged as well: Since then, the three-pointed star on the badge of every Mercedes-Benz is surrounded by the laurel wreath – on passenger and commercial vehicles.
Worldwide, there are 80 brand clubs officially recognised by Mercedes-Benz, with around 100,000 members in all. Mercedes-Benz Classic honours and supports their work through the professional Club Management and provides services such as establishing important contacts for workshops, parts supply, vehicle trade and the archives of Mercedes-Benz Classic.
The Mercedes star on the roof was the shining symbol on the "Bonn-Center“ visible for miles around. The high-rise building was built from 1968 to 1969 based on a design by Berlin architect Friedrich Wilhelm Gerasch as the first large commercial centre in the former parliament and government district. With 18 storeys and a total height of 60 metres, it was one of the tallest buildings in Bonn. In addition to public businesses and a hotel, the reinforced concrete construction housed numerous office floors, whose tenants included members and staff of the nearby German Federal Parliament and other governmental institutions, embassies, and associations. This made the "Bonn-Center" an important institution in the former government and business life in Bonn. To make room for a new construction project, after being gutted it was demolished with explosives and collapsed as planned on 19 March 2017.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bill Grauer and Riverside Records: Capturing the Sounds from Sports and Race Cars

From the dust jacket of Riverside Records RLP 5002 [1957?]

"The theme here, then is engine noise: exhaust, valve, camshaft.  The variation on the theme are endless. As long as men design and build engines, there'll be enthusiasts trying to make them perform better. When they blow up, they'll simply build engines that won't blow up. The automobile is unique in the history of civilization. It has provided man with effortless transportation -- freed him, as it were, from the bounds of his physical limitations. And to the men who own own and run these cars, it is given, more than to most men, to create as well as to savor the magic bouquet of speed."

I have often wondered how  working-class kid from Kenmore, New York became obsessed with sports cars as a teenager.  I finally realized that obsession at age 18 with the purchase of a 1959 MGA in 1966. Now, at age 69, I look back at that time in my life and am trying to understand my thinking at a time in life when I did little deliberate thinking.

It may have been that my fascination with sports cars -- ironic since my family never even considered foreign cars -- can be traced to a record that I owned as a child. Between the ages of 12 and 14 I went with my friend Steve Kelley and family to Toronto, where at the Eaton's Department store I acquired a copy of Riverside Records "Vintage Sports Cars in Stereo." On one side the record featured the sounds of a number of vintage cars I had never heard of before: a Frazer-Nash; Type 51 Bugatti; E.R.A.; P3 Alfa Romero; Alta; V16 Maserati. On the other side a vintage race was narrated by the famous David Scott Moncrieff. I can't tell you how many times I listened to that record, but it was important enough to take it to Davidson College with me and to give this prized possession to my roommate, Paul Garrigus.

Most recently, due to a contact from David Williams, editor of the Ferrari Club magazine, "The Prancing Horse"  I ended up buying a copy of "Vintage Sports Cars in Stereo" on Ebay, and will give you my thoughts on listening  it as soon as it arrives from Great Britain.

The Riverside Records story is worth telling.  Well-known for its remarkable 1950s and early 1960s Jazz labels, Riverside was the result of the efforts of Bill Grauer and business partner Orrin Keepnews.

Grauer was a 1943 graduate of Columbia University (1944 MA) , and was  known as a jazz aficionado. Additionally,until his death in 1963,  he led an effort to capture car and aviation engine sounds, producing by 1961 some 24+ albums on race and sports cars along with fighter jet engine sounds and WWI aircraft. He brought to enthusiasts 8 LP's featuring Sebring endurance races and the sounds from Bonneville Salt Flats. Other sounds included hot rods, drag racers and vintage sports cars.

The technology used to capture these sounds improved over time.  Early on, mention was made of a mobile recording unit using a specially modified Magnacorder equipment and a Stevens "True-Sonic" microphone.

More on this and other related topics in the very near future.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bonneville Salt Flats Restoration Efforts

10-Year Salt Delivery Program
Proposed for Bonneville Salt Flats 

Coalition Unites to Restore Historic Racing Site

Wendover, Utah (August 9, 2017) – Three separate organizations representing racers and industry are in discussions with Intrepid Potash-Wendover, Inc., a potash mine operator, on ways to increase the amount of salt brine being pumped onto the Bonneville Salt Flats.  As Speed Week celebrates its 68th anniversary, the racing community is exploring ways to help restore the historic site to its former glory.

According to the groups, the goal is to create a 10-year pilot program to pump at least 1.2 million tons of salt a year, more than double the current amount being pumped. The program should help better understand Bonneville’s complex geology while simultaneously improving the racing surface.  The expanded laydown will build upon a 1997-2002 program which averaged 1.2 million tons yearly and increased the salt surface and underground aquifer that supports it.  The focus will be on sustaining that volume over a longer time frame and carefully measuring the results.

“Bonneville’s premier racing venue is actually the densely-packed salt remnants of an ancient lake bed formed over thousands of years,” said Doug Evans, Chairman of the Save the Salt Coalition. “The salt crust has been shrinking and thinning for decades due to both human and environmental factors. We welcome this team effort approach to helping return Bonneville to its former glory.” 

The racers are represented by three organizations.  The “Save the Salt Foundation” is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to restore the Bonneville Salt Flats.  The “Save the Salt Coalition” is an umbrella group comprised of automotive and motorsports companies and organizations with a vested interest in this national treasure.  The “Utah Alliance” is a volunteer Utah-based advocacy group using its expertise and contacts at the local level.  All three organizations are collaborating to keep Bonneville available for future generations.

Details about the 10-year pilot program are being refined and will be released in the coming months.  The parties are working with the U.S. Congress to develop appropriations legislation necessary to implement the plan.  The racing venue is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and identified as the Bonneville Salt Flats Special Recreation Management Area.

for more information, visit

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

An interesting old (1949?) Packard Limo

A 1949? Packard custom limo as seen in the Napa Valley.   Thanks to Randy Hughes!

Life is good in California.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

2nd Edition of The Automobile and American Life will be Available in Winter, 2018

This 2nd edition has plenty of new material scattered over many of the chapters. There is a new chapter 10 on the critical decade of the 1970s!!

Dr. Magoo Behind the Wheel of a 1904 Vehicle at the Swigart Museum

Here I am in a photo taken by Ed last week at the wheel of a 1904 car  I cannot identify at the Swigart Museum.  Boy, I need to improve my photogenic appearance!