DriveTimes five

Mercedes-Benz facts To­day, Mercedes-Benz builds some very in­ter­est­ing cars. But you know what’s more in­ter­est­ing? The com­pany’s his­tory. When you in­vented the car, you have quite a lot of his­tory. To­day we take a look at five in­ter­est­ing facts about Merce

Sunday Star-Times - - DRIVETIMES -

Di­verse fans

Quite a num­ber of ‘‘Pope­mo­biles’’ have been cre­ated from MercedesBe­nz ve­hi­cles over the years, prob­a­bly the most fa­mous of which were the bril­liantly boxy G Wa­gen ver­sions used in 1980 and 1987.

At the other end of the spec­trum is Adolf Hitler, who was also quite a fan of Mercedes-Benz prod­uct. In fact, he liked to drive (or more ac­cu­rately be driven) around in a 770 model with bul­let­proof win­dows.

Racy pres­i­dent

Some­times when a rac­ing driver re­tires from rac­ing, they may end up tak­ing on some ad­vi­sory or am­bas­sado­rial role for the car com­pany they raced for. But Mercedes-Benz went a bit be­yond that when, in 1974, the com­pany ap­pointed the le­gendary Juan Man­ual Fan­gio as pres­i­dent of Mercedes-Benz Ar­gentina.

The pres­i­den­tial gig fol­lowed on from his re­mark­able ex­ploits be­hind the wheel of a Mercedes in his rac­ing ca­reer, and his pre-and-post-rac­ing re­tire­ment job of sell­ing Mercedes at his deal­er­ship. OK, so the post was hon­orary, but then he was made Pres­i­dent for Life in 1987.

Many firsts

While it is ac­tu­ally sur­pris­ingly quiet on this is­sue, Mercedes-Benz is re­spon­si­ble for a rather ex­tra­or­di­nary num­ber of au­to­mo­tive firsts that have gone on to be­come com­mon (and even nec­es­sary) fea­tures in mod­ern cars.

The hon­ey­comb ra­di­a­tor, the float car­bu­ret­tor, four-wheel brakes, crum­ple zones, anti-lock brakes, trac­tion con­trol, brake as­sist and seat­belt pre­ten­sion­ers were all in­tro­duced by Mercedes. Not to men­tion the core el­e­ments and lay­out of what we now call a ‘‘car’’ were all es­tab­lished by Got­tlieb Daim­ler or Karl Benz.

First car stolen

Be­cause Karl Benz is largely ac­cepted as the in­ven­tor of the au­to­mo­bile it seems ap­pro­pri­ate that he was also the first vic­tim of car theft. Well, sort of.

One day, his wife, Bertha frus­trated by his lack of be­lief in the mar­ketabil­ity of his in­ven­tion de­cided to prove to him its worth, so she took the car with­out ask­ing Karl, packed up the kids and headed off on what is now a le­gendary 106km trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim. Oh, and she also in­vented brake pads along the way: when the brakes started fail­ing, she stopped at a cob­bler and had him fit some leather pads on the wooden brakes.

Bertha was boss

While Karl may well have been the tech­ni­cal ge­nius in the fam­ily, he wasn’t the busi­ness brain be­hind it all. Nope, that was Bertha too.

Bertha in­vested in Karl’s fail­ing iron con­struc­tion com­pany and kept him afloat be­fore they mar­ried and her money con­tin­ued to fi­nance the de­vel­op­ment of his ‘‘horse­less car­riage’’. Un­der mod­ern law she would prob­a­bly have owned all the patents on Karl’s in­ven­tion. She took that fa­mous drive as well as sell­ing Benz’s first car along the way.

She was the first one to un­der­stand the wider im­pli­ca­tions of Karl’s cre­ation. She un­der­stood that in or­der for it to be a suc­cess, peo­ple had to ac­tu­ally see the cars be­ing driven and con­trib­uted a lot to­wards what Mercedes-Benz and per­haps even the car in­dus­try is to­day.

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