The oldest automaker in the world (Mercedes-Benz) started a new YouTube Series over the weekend. The “Best of Benz” is aimed at highlighting some of the more interesting points in their history. We like this approach because it avoids appealing to emotion and nostalgia. Many marketing departments fall down this hole, leading each advertisement to be more surreal than the next. But the Germans tell it like it is.
Five of the little-known bits from the past begins with the Measuring Car. Before computers were used for peaceful purposes, engineers worked in an analog world. For this, they needed a full-scale prototype to be loaded down with instruments and accelerometers to record data in real-world situations. Engineers could only make an educated guess on details like shock valving and torsional rigidity, so the data was recorded on paper and tape so they could play it back later to refine the design. This was an expensive and time-consuming task, so it took Mercedes-Benz to bring the automotive world into the modern era.
A wind tunnel seems like a no-brainer these days, but back when gas was cheap nobody cared about mileage or aerodynamics. Style was king over the automotive world until Daimler engineers took a page from the Wright Brothers playbook. The Mercedes-Benz wind tunnel not only tested the cars at Autobahn speeds, it subjected them to scorching heat and bitter cold. We’re not discrediting their other claims, but crash-testing is a bit of a stretch. Louis Chevrolet and Henry Ford validated their designs at places like the Indianapolis Brickyard and the beaches of Daytona long before 1953.
The Bionic car was modeled after a Boxfish and it arrived in ’05 as a concept vehicle from the Daimler-Chrysler years. That merger period is a story unto itself, so we’ll cover it down the road. The final remark is that Karl Benz had the first driver’s license. The first car he built was a prototype car or in German the “Patent Motorwagen”. It was so far ahead of its time he wanted to make sure the authorities were ok with it. So he obtained written approval to drive it, which in theory was the first Driver’s license.