Monday, March 12, 2018

1958 -- an important year for innovation at Mercedes-Benz

1958 -- an airconditioned Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz offered lap belts for all passenger car models with individual front seats from 1958. The photo shows the belts in a self-supporting chassis-body structure saloon with a six-cylinder engine (W 180).

In every era the future of the car needs strong innovations for safety and comfort. 60 years ago, for example, Mercedes-Benz made headlines with a multitude of pioneering solutions in this field. They ranged from the seat belt as an optional extra through petrol direct injection in volume production to the power steering system and air conditioning system. The significant patent application for the wedge-pin door lock was made in 1958. This innovation initiative was the result of targeted R&D work at Mercedes-Benz.
Stuttgart. The new products and features presented in 1958 in the passenger cars from Mercedes-Benz once again underlined the brand’s innovative power: in the 300 SL Roadster (W 198) the company offered seat belts for the first time, launched a power steering system and air conditioning as optional extras in the 300 (W 189) model and in the 220 SE self-supporting chassis-body structure (W 128) it established petrol injection in volume production.
Also 60 years ago, on 2 July 1958, Mercedes-Benz made the patent application for the wedge-pin door lock with two safety catches under the number 1 089 664. The new design aimed to prevent the doors from breaking open or jamming in an accident. A year later it was used in series production in the “tail fin” saloons (W 111) with the revolutionary safety body. Another important optional extra was available in the Mercedes-Benz passenger cars as of June 1958: the childproof door lock.
Please buckle up!
The 1950s were shaped by mass motorization in the western world. This led to road traffic becoming heavier and to increasing numbers of accidents. It was also against this background that the Mercedes-Benz technicians and engineers intensified their work on solutions for vehicle safety. In 1958, for instance, 18 years before seat belts became obligatory in the Federal Republic of Germany, the seat belt was offered as an optional extra for the first time in Mercedes-Benz passenger cars.
The seat belt was premiered at Mercedes-Benz in the 300 SL Roadster (W 198, 1957 to 1963). The restraint system was designed as a lap belt, similar to that in an aircraft. This corresponds to the description of the new optional extra, announced in 1957 as a “belt to buckle up, aeroplane design”. The system was introduced in 1958 with the name it still bears to this day, the seat belt.
The optional extra was priced at DM 110 per seat in the 300 SL Roadster at the time. By way of comparison, customers buying the elegant high-performance sports car back then had to pay DM 810 for a Becker Mexico model radio with an automatic aerial. In 1958 Mercedes-Benz also made seat belts available for all passenger cars with individual front seats. In the Mercedes-Benz 220 S (W 180), for instance, they were priced at DM 120, and in the 300 (W 189) model at DM 150 per seat.
The seat belt restraint system was continuously enhanced at Mercedes-Benz. The waist/lap belts secured to the vehicle body initially became shoulder belts with two fastening points (from 1961 for all vehicles with belt fastening on the front seats) and then the three-point seat belt. It asserted itself at the end of the 1960s and became the automatic seat belt in combination with an inertia-reel function. This was launched in 1973 in all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars as standard equipment on the front seats and in 1979 on the rear seats too.
Comfort and ensuring driver fitness
In May 1948 Mercedes-Benz restarted its R&D work which had been interrupted by the Second World War. The focus was now on solutions for passive safety. And solutions for ensuring driver fitness were also launched by the Stuttgart brand, as demonstrated in particular by the representational model 300 (internal designation 300 d, W 189) vehicles in 1958: the driver’s comfort was enhanced by the introduction of power steering and air conditioning systems. And this was also a contribution to relaxed, fatigue-free and therefore safe driving. The term “driver-fitness safety” was later coined for this.
The ZF-Saginaw power-steering gear system was initially offered in the Mercedes-Benz 300 from March 1958 as an optional extra. The prerequisite for this was the version with automatic transmission. The representational vehicle known as the “Adenauer Mercedes” was thus the first Mercedes-Benz car with a power steering system. This was followed In December of the same year by an air conditioning system as an optional extra, also for the 300 model. It was offered as a “cooling system” and at that time mainly targeted customers in countries with a tropical climate. This comfort feature was priced at an additional charge of DM 3500 back then – almost as much as a Volkswagen “Beetle” fresh from the factory.
Enhanced output and efficiency
A systematic culture of innovation at Mercedes-Benz also resulted in new technologies quickly becoming available in volume production. The 85 kW (115 hp) Mercedes-Benz 220 SE’s self-supporting chassis-body structure (W 128) with petrol injection was synonymous with this development. It was unveiled in September 1958. This technology for enhancing output and efficiency had already been established for some years by that time, and in this vehicle it now entered volume production at Mercedes-Benz. The additional charge compared with the 220 S with a carburettor (W 180) was DM 1900.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Mercedes-Benz and the 1000 Miglia, 2018

Mille Miglia 1931: The eventual winner Rudolf Caracciola at the start in a Mercedes-Benz SSK, 12 April 1931.
The 1000 Miglia is one of the most important events in the international classics calendar. This year the legendary event will take place between 16 and 19 May 2018 – once again Mercedes-Benz will be acting as the automotive sponsor. The close connection between the 1000-mile race in Italy held since 1927 and Mercedes-Benz goes back almost 90 years. The brand's great successes include the victory in 1931 by Rudolf Caracciola as the first non-Italian driver, and the sensational success of Stirling Moss in 1955, with an overall victory and a still unbeaten record time of 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds.
Stuttgart. This year Mercedes-Benz will once again act as an automotive sponsor of the 1000 Miglia to celebrate the highlights of historic motorsport in the footsteps of the legendary 1000-mile race, thus continuing the excellent partnership with 1000 Miglia organisers. Mercedes-Benz will once again be attending the event taking place between 16 and 19 May 2018, starting and finishing in Brescia as well as along the around 1600 kilometre journey to Rome and back.
The participation of Mercedes-Benz Classic with outstanding vehicles from its own collection is traditionally a highlight of the modern 1000 Miglia. In 2018 there will be plenty of type SSK (W 06), 300 SL "Gullwing" (W 198), 190 SL (W 121) and 220 "Ponton" (W 180) vehicles on the starting line-up. Mercedes-Benz Classic Brand Ambassadors and automotive aficionados will be at the wheel of the vehicles. The modern version of the 1000 Miglia is a reliability run on a route which closely follows that of the original road race. Entry is restricted to vehicle types that took part in the original 1000 Miglia during the period from 1927 to 1957.
Mercedes-Benz and the 1000 Miglia are very closely linked by virtue of their shared history. The German brand has taken part in the 1000-mile race since 1930, i.e. almost since the very first event. At this debut event, works driver Rudolf Caracciola and his co-driver Christian Werner took 6th place in a Mercedes-Benz SSK ("Super Sport Short"). One year later Caracciola won the 1931 1000 Miglia as the first non-Italian driver with his co-driver Wilhelm Sebastian in an evolved Mercedes-Benz SSKL ("Super Sport Short Light").
In 1952 the 1000 Miglia provided the arena for the premiere of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car (W 194), the brand's first newly developed racing car following the Second World War. Karl Kling and co-driver Hans Klenk took second place in their brand-new SL at their first attempt. In 1955 Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson drove the 300 SLR racing sports car (W 196 S) to overall victory ahead of their team mate Juan Manuel Fangio. Also triumphant were the 300 SL "Gullwing" series production sports cars (W 198) in the Gran Turismo class over 1300 cc engine capacity, while the 180 D (W 120) landed a triple victory in the diesel class. In 1956 both the 220 "Ponton" (W 180) luxury class saloon and a Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121) successfully took part in the race.
The connection between the brand and the racing tradition is also underlined by the cooperation between Mercedes-Benz Classic and the Museo Mille Miglia in the historical monastical complex of Sant’Eufemia della Fonte just outside Brescia.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Reimann Brothers and the Porsche 356 Lindner Coupes

At first, Alexander Fritz had just a rusty car in front of him, its origin unknown. Through painstaking work, he reconstructed not only the daring origin story of the “GDR Porsche”, but also restored the car itself. 
9:11 Magazine: the story of the “GDR Porsche”
At first glance, it looks just like an original Porsche 356 – a curvaceous sports car model from the 1950s. Only on second glance do you notice that this “Porsche” has a special feature: It is 30 centimetres longer, with four seats. This “Lindner Coupé” is a replica of the 356, built by two automotive engineering students in the former East Germany. 13 “Lindners” were manufactured as a mini-series by a body work company with the same name.
We can thank Alexander Fritz for the fact that one of these cars not only exists, but still functions. The Austrian devotes his free time to the restoration of classic cars. Some years ago, a friend drew his attention to an example of a “GDR Porsche”. Fritz was initially put off when he looked at the condition of the rusted, rotten coupé. But the story behind the car without an origin and of the automotive engineering students Falk und Knut Reimann was just too fascinating for him to ignore.
GDR Porsche, 2018, Porsche AG

The “GDR Porsche” following its laborious restoration

The story begins in the early 1950s: The twin Reimann brothers dream of having their own Porsche. They know that owning such a thing in the GDR is an impossibility and begin building themselves a “Porsche”. With some outdated military technology, plenty of resourcefulness and thousands of man hours, they screw, bend and beat their way to their dream car, supported by the Lindner body makers.
The centrepiece: The engine
At the heart of every Porsche lies its engine. Although it is pointless for the twins to try and obtain parts for a sports car in the GDR, they don't give up. On one of their first trips in their new car they travel directly to the Porsche plant in Zuffenhausen, where their Porsche replica is met with scepticism and a fair amount of ridicule due to its feeble engine.
GDR Porsche, courtyard of the Lindner body makers, 2018, Porsche AG

The first GDR Porsche in the courtyard of the Lindner body makers

Ferry Porsche learns personally of the brothers' visit to the plant, and at first is not especially pleased about this brazen Porsche forgery. However, after some initial scepticism, he is won over out of respect for the brothers' tenacity. Ferry Porsche makes sure that the twins' car is appropriately kitted out, informing them in a letter that used Porsche parts will be sent to them via West Berlin: With original pistons, cylinders and carburettors, the Reimanns' coupé doesn't just look like a sports car, it also drives like one – at over 130 kilometres per hour.
Letter, 1956, 2018, Porsche AG

Ferry Porsche writes to the Reimann brothers

From 1954 onwards, the brothers tour across Europe with their specially designed Porsche replica. Their travels come to an end in 1961 as Knut and Falk Reimann are jailed for two years in the Stasi prison Hohenschönhausen, after attempting to flee the GDR. Their “Porsche” is taken from them and remains forever lost.
But thanks to Alexander Fritz's chance discovery, one of the original 13 Lindner Coupés has now been restored to its former glory – and consequently also the history of the Reimann brothers and their incredible DIY Porsche construction project.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Remembering Hans Hermann--- a contribution from Don Capps.

Remembering Hans Hermann--- a contribution from Don Capps.

Two photos with Hans Hermann at the Daimler-Benz (Daimler-Chrysler at the time)/Mercedes-Benz Classic Center at Fellbach in July 2007.
The occasion was the symposium that Mercedes convened in July 2007 to discuss the Neubauer "Silver Arrows" creation story & the 1934 Eifelrennen.

One is of Hans signing his photo of him in the W196 at Reims in 1954 in Karl Ludvigsen's Mercedes book and the other of Hans with Doug Nye and I; the car is the W25 that Mercedes in its collection which was being restored at the time.
The white toy car Hans is holding is one of the W25's from the gift shop that the Mercedes people painted white and gave as gifts to the attendees, a rarity as it turns out.

The night before the symposium, Hans, Doug, Karl Ludvigsen, and I, with a few others involved in the symposium all had dinner together; Hans was the center of attention with one tale after another (....some of them he admitted were actually true...).
As you can tell by my haircut, I was just back from my first deployment, my one year tour that turned into a two year tour after being extended and then volunteering to stay....

Addendum: I was at the 1954 GP d'ACF at Reims, although I do not recall all that much of the race since it has long merged with others from the time. That was one of the reasons I wanted Hans to sign the book since I saw him in that race. In addition, Karl was as gracious as ever and signed the book as well.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Hans Hermann, Mercedes Benz and Porsche Race Driver, at Age 90

Hans Hermann, endurance and Monoposto specialist, born in Stuttgart in 1928, is regarded as one of the most reliable and consistent race drivers of all time. In the course of his motor sport career, Herrmann won more than 80 overall and best of class victories, most of them for Porsche.
The proverbial “Hans im Glück” (Hans in Luck) at the wheel celebrated his greatest successes with sports cars from Zuffenhausen: in the Mille Miglia, the Targa Florio, the Carrera Panamericana and of course in Le Mans, with the first overall victory for Porsche in 1970, driving a 917. His career began appropriately: in 1952, in a private Porsche 356, he took part in hill climbs, rallies and reliability runs. The very next year, he came fifth in the Lyon-Charbonnières Rally, together with Richard von Frankenberg in a Porsche 356. Thereupon Porsche’s racing manager at that time, Huschke von Hanstein, brought him into Porsche works team. In 1953, Herrmann went to the start for the first time in the 24 Hours of Le Mans where, together with co-pilot Helm Glöckler in a Porsche 550 Coupé, he gained a best of class victory in the category up to 1.5 liters capacity at his very first try.

In 1953, Herrmann gained a best of class victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans

After Herrmann had also secured the title of German Sports Car Champion in the same year, he attracted the attention of Mercedes-Benz head of racing Alfred Neubauer, who integrated the 26-year-old into his works team along with Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss and Karl Kling. Parallel to this, in 1954 Herrmann continued to start for Porsche and gained prestigious class victories in the 550 Spyder in the Mille Miglia and the Carrera Panamericana.
Never to be forgotten is the spectacular incident that occurred during the Mille Miglia in 1954, when Herrmann and his co-pilot Herbert Linge ducked flat under the barriers to cross the rails at a closed level crossing, right in the path of a rapidly approaching train. Later, Herrmann made a photo of the spectacular moment the subject of a letter card, with the inscription “Glück muss man haben” (“You’ve got to be lucky”). In conversation, he completed this definition in a much more serious undertone: “Glück hat, wer als Rennfahrer überlebt.” (“Luck, for a racing driver, is to survive”).When in 1955 the Daimler-Benz works withdrew from motor sport, Hans Herrmann was at the start again for Porsche. There followed the wandering years with Maserati, B.R.M and Borgward and, in 1959, the next homecoming to Herrmann’s ‘own brand’, Porsche. Together with Olivier Gendebien in a Porsche 718 RS 60 Spyder, he won the 1960 12 Hours of Sebring, achieving Porsche’s first overall victory in a manufacturers’ world championship endurance race. Shortly afterwards, the combination Hans Herrmann/Porsche RS 60 Spyder, together with Joakim Bonnier, also won the round Sicily ‘Targa Florio’. In 1960, Herrmann also became Formula 2 European Champion with the Porsche 718/2.
In 1962 he changed to Carlo Abarth and was active as works driver for the Vienna design engineer from 1963. Three years later, in 1966, he returned to the Porsche works team once again. Not only did Herrmann take part in all the great endurance races, besides driving European hill climb championship courses; he also carried out countless test drives in the – then newly-opened – Weissach Development Center.

In 1969 the Porsche works team, with pilots Hans Herrmann, Jo Siffert, Vic Elford, Rolf Stommelen, Udo Schütz and Gerhard Mitter, gained the manufacturers’ world championship title for Porsche for the first time. Previously, Hans Herrmann had finally had to hand the victory to Jacky Ickx in a Ford GT 40 after 24 hours of fierce fighting, owning himself beaten by 120 meters in one of the most thrilling Le Mans races of all time. One year later, things went better for him: in his eleventh Le Mans he was able to gain Porsche’s first overall victory.
He took this climax of a career in motor sport as the occasion to withdraw from active racing at the age of 42. He had also promised his wife Madelaine before the race that if he won he would give up his dangerous profession. As a pilot of historic race-cars, he also takes part in many vintage car events for the Porsche Museum, including the “Le Mans Classic”, the “Targa Florio” and the “Solitude Revival”.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Airbag Development at Mercedes-Benz

Sectional drawing of the front passenger airbag module in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (model series 126). Key elements shown in the drawing are the folded airbag plus the two gas generators filled with solid propellant in the form of pellets.

Stuttgart. The protective airbags in the glove compartment and in the roof frame are celebrating birthdays: For 30 years the front passenger airbag and for 20 years the window airbag have been part of the continuously growing family of these potentially life-saving components in Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Today, the system is a component of integral safety and comprises up to a dozen different airbags in a single passenger car. They range from the knee airbag and the belt airbag in the rear to the thorax/pelvis side airbag.
Airbag development at Mercedes-Benz began as early as in 1966, with the company registering the corresponding patent (patent specifications document No. DE 21 52 902 C2) in October 1971. As the first production-ready solution, the driver’s airbag was introduced in the S-Class of model series 126 in 1981. This was a milestone in the passive safety of Mercedes-Benz. Due to its fundamental importance, this innovation was quickly adopted by the entire auto industry.
Little has changed in the basic principle of the first airbag to the present day: the sensors of the trigger unit register the particularly strong deceleration occurring in typical accidents and activate the airbag mechanism. In this process, nitrogen is abruptly released in the gas generator. The gas inflates the cushion-shaped textile structure made of polyamide fabric with a rubberised inside – the airbag. This protective airbag cushions the movement of the human body and in concert with the seatbelt (and the belt tensioner and belt force limiter) dissipates the kinetic energy generated by the impact.
Today, many front airbags have an adaptive design: They are not deployed all at once, but in two stages. 
The airbag anniversaries of 1988 and 1998 are part of the tradition of tireless vehicle safety research at Mercedes-Benz. Because ever since the successful launch of the driver’s airbag in 1981, the Stuttgart-based brand has been advancing the principle continuously. To this end, the engineers adapted the airbag to other areas of the vehicle and other accident scenarios. The first to benefit from this continuous development work was the front passenger: the front passenger airbag was a feature of passive safety not offered in this form by any other manufacturer at the time. It was presented in September 1987 as an option for the saloons and coupés of the S-Class. After its début in the luxury class in early 1988, it also became available as an option for the upper mid-size vehicle segment of the 124 model series. Starting in August 1994, it became part of the standard equipment of many Mercedes-Benz passenger cars together with rear head restraints. In the S-Class and SL sports cars, it became part of the standard specification as early as 1992.
The first front passenger airbag still occupied the entire glove compartment 30 years ago. After all, inflated it had a volume of 170 litres. However, the miniaturisation of the components soon made significantly smaller units possible. That was also the prerequisite for using the protective airbag in other places inside the vehicle. This was what developers were striving for, because a frontal collision, which causes the bodies of the driver and front passenger to be accelerated directly forward, is just one of many accident scenarios.
The side airbag, presented in 1993 and available in the E-Class starting in 1995, already aimed at providing lateral protection for passengers. This zone is also protected by the window airbag, which Mercedes-Benz presented in 1998. It unfolds like a curtain along the side windows in case of lateral impact. As a result, it is able to significantly reduce the risk of head injuries in particular for the driver, front passenger and passengers in the outer rear seats in case of lateral impact. When folded, the window airbag is stowed at the top in the roof frame.
This world innovation became available as an option in the E-Class of model series 210 starting in July 1998. In the S-Class of model series 220, which hit the market in autumn of 1998, the novel window airbag was then part of the standard specification from the start.
Further innovative steps of Mercedes-Benz airbag development were the head/thorax side airbag (2001), the knee airbag (2009) as well as the thorax/pelvis side airbag, the belt airbag and the cushion airbag (2013).
From the very beginning, Mercedes-Benz made it clear that airbags do not replace the function of the seatbelt as the most important restraint system. Rather, the two technologies are complementary and jointly enhance the level of safety. For some years now, combinations of both elements of passive safety have also been in use in Mercedes-Benz vehicles: The belt airbag in the rear presented in 2013 is an airbag integrated into the seatbelt.