The Mercedes-Benz museum – a heritage for the future. The inventor of the automobile has reinvented the automotive museum. On May 19 this year, the new Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart opened its doors. This architectural masterpiece is the only museum in the world to present the 120-year history of the automotive industry right from day one. The exhibition concept is unique as well: the 16,500 square metres of exhibition space on nine levels contain 160 vehicles, which are presented on two interconnected routes. For the first time in the history of the Mercedes-Benz museum, Mercedes-Benz's commercial vehicle history is represented too, with 40 different vehicles.
Architecturally brilliant structure with a double helix interior design
The striking modernity of the architecture appears to have come straight out of the future – yet at the same time reflects the brand's genetic heritage. The interior, which mimics the double-helix DNA spiral which carries the human genes, encapsulates the originality of the Mercedes-Benz brand and its commitment to continuously coming up with new ways of promoting human mobility – from the invention of the automobile to the future-oriented vision of accident–free driving.
During their tour of the Museum, for which a minimum of two hours should be allowed, visitors take a journey in time through the 120-year history of the automobile. A lift takes them to the uppermost level of the Museum, from where two routes spiral down through an extensive collection on nine different levels, back to the original starting point. The first route takes the visitor through seven "legend" rooms which present the brand mythology in chronological order.
The second route presents a huge array of vehicle exhibits in five separate "collection" rooms, revealing the diversity of the brand portfolio in a thematic, non-chronological manner.
The geometry of the building is based on a symmetrical "trefoil", or three-leaved, ground plan and the interior layout is intentionally reminiscent of highway architecture. More than 110,000 tonnes of concrete were used in the construction of the Mercedes-Benz Museum, which covers an area of 4,800 square metres, rises to a height of 47.5 metres and has a volume of 210,000 m³.
The old museum, situated inside the plant, was opened in 1961 and extended in 1986. However, exhibiting commercial vehicles there would have exceeded the maximum permissible floor loads. Large, high-ceilinged rooms were required if the 100-plus year history of the commercial vehicle was to be represented as well. Both in terms of its structural engineering and in terms of its overall volume and the size of the individual rooms, the new museum therefore had to scale completely new dimensions.
Mixture of the spectacular and the seemingly "ordinary"
The appeal of the commercial vehicles in the new Mercedes-Benz Museum derives not so much from the inclusion of spectacular high-performance vehicles from all eras but from the mix of the obviously important and the superficially less striking vehicles which were nevertheless an important part of the fabric of everyday life, and of the everyday working world, over many decades. For example seemingly mundane vehicles like an O 305 regular-service bus and a white 208 D Bremen van rub shoulders with the more spectacular LP 333 heavy-duty truck, nicknamed the "millipede", and the 1450 S race truck.
The oldest surviving truck in the world – from 1938
Right at the start of the tour, visitors encounter the oldest surviving truck in the world, a Daimler goods vehicle from 1898. Other exhibits include a Benz Gaggenau fire engine built in 1912 and an Lo 2000 D from 1932. This light truck, with a two-tonne payload capacity, helped to firmly establish the diesel engine as a power plant for trucks. The L 1500 from 1937 meanwhile had a totally different power source: a wood-gas generator. Also from this era is a 150 hp (110 kW) Mercedes-Benz L 6500, a heavy-duty truck with a payload capacity of 6.5 tonnes.
The first exhibit from the post-war era is a Unimog built in 1949 at the Gebrüder Boehringer engineering factory in Göppingen. Of similar vintage was the Mercedes-Benz LF 3500 fire-fighting vehicle with turntable ladder, which dates from 1952. One of the most spectacular exhibits is the LP 333 from 1959, whose two steered front axles led to it being nicknamed the "millipede". At the other end of the spectrum, more down-to-earth, everyday trucks include a semi-forward control LK 338 from 1960 and an LP 1513 from 1974, with cubic cab. The transition to more recent times is marked by a Mercedes-Benz 1624 from 1980, a representative of the so-called "New Generation". A Mercedes-Benz 1450 S from 1990, with a V10 diesel engine developing 1176 kW (1600 hp) from a displacement of 18.3 litres, demonstrates that trucks are capable of powerful performance. Modern times are epitomised by an Actros 3341 AK, one of the vehicles which took part in the Traceca tour of 2003, following the Silk Road to Afghanistan.
Vans from the first delivery van to the Viano Marco Polo
The Daimler delivery van of 1897 is not only the oldest surviving commercial vehicle in the world, by today's standards it can also be regarded as one of the first vans. The delivery vehicle's front-engined design marked a move away from a carriage-type design to one more similar to today's vehicles. In the broadest sense of the term, the famous Mercedes-Benz racing car transporter from 1955 too can be classed as a van. Its chassis was a modified version of the 300 S chassis, and its engine developed 192 hp (141 kW), giving a top speed of 170 km/h.
A rather more sedate mover was the L 406 D from 1965, a late example of the first post-war Mercedes-Benz vans which made their debut in 1956 in the form of the L 319. Other typical utility vehicles of the time include a 1979 L 409 crewcab model from Düsseldorf, a 208 D from Bremen (1991) and a 1994 508 D.
More exotic exhibits include a right-hand drive Sprinter used in Japan as a mobile dental clinic. The current state of the art is represented by a Viano Marco Polo camping bus.
From the world's first bus to the new Mercedes-Benz Travego
The evolution of public transport by road is documented by numerous bus and coach exhibits. They start with a replica of the first bus in the world, built by Karl Benz in 1895, and include a 1907 Milnes-Daimler double-decker, a reminder of one of Daimler's first international alliances, and a massive three-axle Mercedes-Benz O 10000 from 1938, used as a mobile post office by the Austrian postal service. The compact O 2600 from 1940, with seating for 31 passengers, appears dainty by comparison.
The post-WWII renewal is documented by the O 3500 conventional model from 1952. Of somewhat later vintage is the artistically painted and imaginatively decorated LO 1112 (1969), whose exuberance betrays a South American influence – its coachwork was Argentinean. Destined to become a world champion in terms of its total production in the course of the sixties and seventies, the versatile Mercedes-Benz O 302 was also chosen to transport world champions: the vehicle on display features the same paintwork and specification as the 16 vehicles that transported the teams taking part in the 1974 World Cup.
The O 302's successor, the O 303, was in production for almost 20 years and went on to become an even bigger seller. The O 303-15 RHP on display, from 1979, was designed for excursions and touring. The 1980 O 305, by comparison, was a relatively self-effacing standard urban regular-service bus. A Mercedes-Benz Travego coach meanwhile represents the latest state of the art and is at the same time a future classic in the making.