Gear Head Tuesday – The First Mercedes

Gear Head

Mercedes 35 PS

The first car to wear the Mercedes name

On this day, 22 November 1900, the first Mercedes goes for a test drive.

On this day in 1900, the first car to be produced under the Mercedes name was taken for its inaugural drive in Cannstatt, Germany. The car was specially built for its buyer, Emil Jellinek, an entrepreneur with a passion for fast, flashy cars. Jellinek had commissioned the Mercedes car from the German company Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft: it was lighter and sleeker than any car the company had made before, and Jellinek was confident that it would win races so handily that besotted buyers would snap it up. (He was so confident that he bought 36 of them.) In exchange for this extraordinary patronage, the company agreed to name its new machine after Jellinek’s 11-year-old daughter, Mercedes.


Emil Jellinek and his daughter Mercedes

In 1886, the German engineers Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach had built one of the world’s first “horseless carriages,” a four-wheeled carriage with an engine bolted to it. In 1889, the two men built the world’s first four-wheeled automobile to be powered by a four-stroke engine. They formed Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft the next year.

In 1896, Emil Jellinek saw an ad for the D-M-G auto in a German magazine. Then, as the story goes, he traveled to D-M-G’s Cannstatt factory, charged onto the factory floor wearing a pith helmet, pince-nez and mutton-chop sideburns and demanded that the company sell him the most spectacular car it had.

That car was sturdy, but it could only go 15 miles per hour–not even close to fast enough for Jellinek. In 1898, he ordered two more cars, stipulating that they be able to go at least 10 miles per hour faster than the first one could. Daimler complied; the result was the 8-horsepower Phoenix. Jellinek was impressed enough with the Phoenix that he began to sell them to his friends: 10 in 1899, 29 in 1900.

At the same time, he needed a racing car that could go even faster. Jellinek went back to D-M-G with a business proposition: if it would build him the world’s best speedster (and name it the Mercedes), he would buy 36 of them.

Emil Jellinek prezentuje nový Mercedes 35 HP, Nice, 1901

Emil Jellinek at the wheel of the first Mercedes

The new Mercedes car was fast. It also introduced the aluminum crankcase, magnalium bearings, the pressed-steel frame, a new kind of coil-spring clutch and the honeycomb radiator (essentially the same one that today’s Mercedes use). It was longer, wider, and lower than the Phoenix and had better brakes. Also, a mechanic could convert the new Mercedes from a two-seat racer to a four-seat family car in just a few minutes.

In 1902, the company legally registered the Mercedes brand name.

In 1886, Karl Benz had received the world’s first patent for the Benz Patent Motorwagen, which provided the foundation for Mercedes-Benz, and the dawn of motoring.Throughout its more than 125-year-old history, the German automaker has been responsible for some of the world’s most revolutionary motor sports and production vehicles.At the turn of the century, Benz was in spirited competition with Gottlieb Daimler who was responsible for the first high-speed engine. The two automotive innovators eventually merged in 1926, forming Daimler-Benz AG.


Karl Benz

Mike Kunz manages the Mercedes Classics Center in Irvine, Calif. High on his list for most influential Mercedes cars is the 1888 Benz Patent Motorwagen Type 3, which was the first car ever sold — only 25 were made. “(It) proved the essence of a car by overcoming distances and bringing people together through Berta Benz’s historic 60 mile road trip in an automobile,” Kunz says. He also includes the 1900 Mercedes 35hp – the car named after Jellinek’s daughter. “All future automobiles find their lineage in this design.”


The world’s first supercar – the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

Kunz ranks the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K, the diesel 1936 Mercedes-Benz 260D and the 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL – the world’s first official super car, built with direct fuel injection — as game changing automobiles. Rounding out his pick of most influential Mercedes is the 1982 Mercedes-Benz 190. “Karl’s spirit of innovation lives on today in every new product we release,” said Kunz. “Benz, Daimler and Mercedes-Benz always have and continue to be in the forefront of defining future mobility.”


One Comment

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  1. Jack Darnell 22/11/2016 — 07:19

    Autos are always interesting. I am always amazed at foreign (to America) cars. I remember seeing the Bug for the first time in the early 1950’s and was surprised that some place other than Detroit produced cars. LOL That was the ignorant red-neck mountain boy. I am getting more educated now that I am near 80 years of age. LOL

    But I still love the mid 50’s Detroit produced cars. I just gave son-Jack a glimpse of the ’56 Packard, he loves it. Had never seen one.

    From Florida…


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