Mercedes-Benz Classic Notes 3/2023

  • An automobile in a class of its own: Maybach (model series 240)
  • Nardò: three world records and nine class records for the 190 E 2.3-16 (W 201)
  • Three legendary AMG high-performance vehicles from autumn 1993 onwards
  • Stunning show premieres from Mercedes-Benz: Vision CLS and SLR McLaren
  • The world’s first automobile with a four-cylinder engine: Daimler “Phoenix”
  • Mercedes-Benz 600: “The best car in the world”
  • Birthdays: Prof. Dr. Friedrich Nallinger, Prof. Dr. Dr. Werner Niefer, Prof. Dr. Peter Pfeiffer

Mercedes-Benz, the world’s oldest car manufacturer, has been reinventing the car over and over since 1886. As it does so, the brand continually sets new standards, while also keeping pace with social change. The history of the company is correspondingly rich in events and stories. Here is a brief summary of some of the important anniversaries and milestones from its history.

18 July 1998 – 25 years ago

An automobile in a class of its own: Maybach (model series 240)

  • A vehicle that defined new standards at the top end of the passenger car market
  • Reclining seats, electrochromic glass roof, Active Body Control (ABC) and V12 engine
  • Project manager was the experienced automotive developer Prof. Hermann Gaus

In 2002, the then DaimlerChrysler AG presented an absolute top product: the Maybach (model series 240). This prestigious luxury automobile set new standards in its segment – the absolute pinnacle of the passenger car market. At the same time, it harked back to the history of Maybach automobiles of the 1920s and 1930s. The starting signal for the development was given by the Board of Management in its corresponding resolution of 18 July 1998. Only eight months before that, at the 32nd Tokyo Motor Show, the company had presented the study for a new luxury car in a class of its own, still under the name Mercedes-Benz Maybach. The corresponding market research reinforced the decision to build the vehicle. The project leader was to be Prof. Hermann Gaus. “Important equipment features were decided upon at an early stage: these included reclining seats, a bar and communication system in the rear, an electrochromic glass roof, touch-sensitive screens, the chassis with Active Body Control (ABC) and the V12 engine,” he recalls. Gaus drew on his extensive experience: to facilitate rapid development, he set up a team of around 100 employees. To ensure quick decision-making processes, they moved into a project office outside the Sindelfingen factory site. Decisions with an impact on the schedule and costs were kept very transparent at all times. He also successfully enhanced the team’s awareness of the expectations of a discerning clientele. Thanks to all this, the vehicle came onto the market after only five years of development. There were two versions, which went on to be built until 2013: the Maybach 57 and, with a longer wheelbase, the Maybach 62.

13 to 21 August 1983 – 40 years ago

Nardò: Three world records and nine class records for the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 (W 201)

  • Full-load drive over 50,000 kilometres in just under eight and a half days
  • Impressive proof of reliability for the sports version of the “Baby Benz”
  • Daytime temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius, and more than 50 degrees inside the vehicles

The Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 was a star of 1983, setting several world records at the same time on the high-speed track in Nardò, southern Italy, from 13 to 21 August. In 201 hours, 39 minutes and 43 seconds, it covered a distance of 50,000 kilometres. The average speed was 247.9 km/h. In addition to this achievement, two other world records over 25,000 kilometres and nine class records were set. The record-breaking runs on the 12.6-kilometre circular test track took place in outside temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius during the day and more than 50 degrees Celsius inside the vehicles. They provided impressive proof of reliability over an extreme long distance for the cars – and especially for the then new four-valve engine. In all, three identical vehicles of the sporty version of the Mercedes-Benz 190 (W 201) were used in Nardò, which were then presented to the public for the first time four weeks later at the 1983 International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt am Main. The standard 2.3-litre four-cylinder engines with 136 kW (185 hp) ran like proverbial clockwork during the almost eight and a half days of full-load driving.

9 to 19 September 1993 – 30 years ago

Three legendary AMG high-performance vehicles from autumn 1993 onwards

  • C 36 AMG: New top model in the C-Class
  • E 36 AMG: High-performance E-Class vehicles
  • E 60 AMG and SL 60 AMG: Revised engine with more power and torque

The new top model of the C-Class was an eye-catcher at the 1993 International Motor Show (IAA): the C 36 AMG (model series 202). It was the first vehicle jointly developed by Mercedes-Benz and AMG and was based on a C 280 in the “Sport” equipment line. AMG increased the bore and stroke of the 2.8-litre in-line six-cylinder engine to give a displacement of 3.6 litres. Special pistons, a modified crankshaft and higher compression ratio resulted in an output of 206 kW (280 hp). The chassis was lowered by a total of 35 millimetres. A modified front and rear apron, side skirts and larger wheels distinguished the C 36 AMG visually. It was to become a great success: between autumn 1993 and June 1997, a remarkable 5,221 examples of the C 36 AMG were produced. The high-performance M 104 E 36 AMG engine was also available in the Estate, Coupé and Cabriolet variants of the E-Class (model series 124). These bore the model designation E 36 AMG. From autumn 1993, two further AMG models enriched the model range: E 60 AMG and SL 60 AMG. The further developed engine used here developed 280 kW (381 hp) and a torque of 580 Nm. To achieve this, it had received a new injection system and modified intake manifolds and timing as well as lighter pistons with a larger diameter and a crankshaft with a larger stroke.

9 to 21 September 2003 – 20 years ago

Stunning show premieres from Mercedes-Benz: Vision CLS and SLR McLaren

  • Vision CLS: A four-door coupé as a design statement for the brand
  • High-performance sports car Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren with Formula One design
  • Emotionalisation and dynamisation of the brand

Two Mercedes-Benz vehicles were the absolute highlights of the IAA 2003: the Vision CLS study and the SLR McLaren super sports car. The Vision CLS was created at the persistent urging of the then Chief Designer, Prof. Peter Pfeiffer. His goal: to use the design to charge the brand more strongly with fascination and emotional appeal, as well as with composed poise and self-assurance. When Mercedes-Benz lifted the covers from the metallic wine-red Vision CLS at the IAA, it was immediately clear to the world’s public that they were seeing a design icon – a four-door coupé with highly elegant, expressive lines. Due to the extremely positive response, production of the 219 model series began just one year later. It contributed significantly to the dynamisation of the brand. The body shape set the tone across the industry and was soon picked up by other car manufacturers. The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren high-performance sports car was created in collaboration with the company’s then Formula One partner, McLaren. Its design, with gullwing doors and stylistic elements from the Formula One Silver Arrows, linked the two-seater with the legendary SLR racing sports cars of the 1950s and the formula cars of the modern era. On top of this came its racing car technology. The 5.5-litre V8 supercharged engine with 460 kW (626 hp) and a torque of 780 Nm was developed by Mercedes-AMG, as was the AMG Speedshift transmission. The driving performance was impressive: the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h took 3.8 seconds, while the top speed was 334 km/h.

12 September 1898 – 125 years ago

The world’s first automobile with a four-cylinder engine: Daimler “Phoenix”

  • The first vehicle was delivered by Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) to Emil Jellinek
  • The tubular radiator was a crucial innovation in the drive for higher engine performance
  • Wilhelm Maybach designed a whole family of four-cylinder engines

Flashback to the early days of the automobile: the world’s first vehicle with a four-cylinder engine was the Daimler “Phoenix”. On 12 September 1898, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) delivered the very first model to businessman Emil Jellinek, who lived in Nice. He not only sold cars, a new technological product at the time, in the highest social circles, but also from time to time provided DMG with feedback that led to improvements and thus to eminently sellable new vehicles. He called for more power – so the “Phoenix” engine designed by Wilhelm Maybach developed 5.9 kW (8 hp) at 720 rpm from 2.1 litres of displacement. Between 1898 and 1899, a whole family of four-cylinder engines with up to 16.9 kW (23 hp) was created. They each featured two pairs of cast cylinders on a crankcase. In 1897, DMG had introduced the “Phoenix” motor carriages with two-cylinder engines, which were installed at the front for the first time. Compared to the motor carriages with belt drive, this was the first decisive step towards the modern automobile. A key factor in the significantly increased engine power was the tubular radiator developed by Maybach, which was registered as a German utility model in December 1897 and was used for the first time in the “Phoenix”. It consisted of many small tubes, around which the cooling water flowed and through which the air flowed. This innovative design paved the way to the high-performance automobile and represents a significant milestone in automotive development.

12 to 22 September 1963 – 60 years ago

Mercedes-Benz 600: “The best car in the world”

  • World premiere at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt am Main
  • Outstanding technology, exquisite comfort, superior handling, impressive appearance
  • The Sindelfingen-based manufactory fulfilled individual and unusual customer wishes.

The car proved a sensation at the IAA in September 1963: Mercedes-Benz introduced the 600 model as a new prestige vehicle, and it soon became widely regarded as the best car in the world. The Mercedes-Benz 600 (W 100) was produced from September 1964. Right from the start, the range included the Saloon with a standard wheelbase of 3,200 millimetres and the Pullman Saloon at 3,900 millimetres. There were special protection versions of both from 1965 onwards. Later, the Pullman Landaulet and Pullman Limousine body versions with six doors were added. The “600” held its position as the international benchmark of the automotive top class for almost two decades – until the end of the 17-year production period in 1981. This was ensured by outstanding technology, exquisite comfort, excellent handling and a more than impressive appearance. The buyers of the prestige limousine came from all over the world. They included crowned heads, heads of state and prominent figures from industry and show business. The vehicles of the W 100 model series were produced at the Sindelfingen factory. In the process, Mercedes-Benz ensured that individual and unusual customer wishes were met: a bar compartment with refrigeration, radio telephones and consumer electronics right through to a TV – all this and more was possible.


  • 125 years ago – Prof. Friedrich “Fritz” Nallinger, 6 August 1898 to 4 June 1984. A Member of the Board of Management of Daimler-Benz AG from 1948 to 1965, he was instrumental in the reconstruction of the company after the Second World War. He began his career in 1922 as a design engineer and works racing driver at Benz & Cie. At Daimler-Benz AG, Nallinger became Technical Director in 1935, Head of the Research and Testing Department and Deputy Member of the Board of Management in 1940, and a Member of the Board of Management from as early as 1941.
  • 95 years ago – Prof. Werner Niefer, 26 August 1928 to 12 September 1993. Chairman of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz AG from 1989 to 1993. Prior to that, various positions at Daimler-Benz AG and Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH. Back at DBAG, in 1976, he became Head of Production and the Board Member responsible for all plants. He was one of the driving forces behind the expansion of production from the 1980s onwards.
  • 80 years ago – Prof. Peter Pfeiffer, born on 21 August 1943. Head of the Design Department from 1998 to 2008. Joined Daimler-Benz AG in 1968. One of his first projects was the design of the C 111, created in collaboration with Josef Gallitzendörfer. In his various management roles across the Design unit, Pfeiffer was to have significant influence on many of the company’s vehicles.