Changing gear made easy.
Fully synchronised transmissions, today a matter of course, were still largely unknown in the early thirties. Drivers had to double-declutch for shifting into a higher gear, and blip the throttle for shifting down. Maybach wanted to spare his customers this complex and difficult sequence of operations and therefore developed a compact gearbox with constantly meshing, obliquely cut gear wheels. The gears were engaged by means of shift dogs which were moved with the help of vacuum pressure. The clutch only had to be operated for starting off, stopping and reversing.
Introduction to the Maybach model range
A contemporary brochure explains the use of the name Zeppelin for the top models from Maybach:
The model designation “Zeppelin” was chosen to express that the twelve-cylinder Maybach engine in this extraordinary car was designed on the basis of experience gained with Maybach Zeppelin airship engines. The name is also to serve as a symbol for the principles to which Maybach cars are built: to create nothing but the best from the most advanced materials, cars of lasting value, manufactured to the highest level of perfection. The Maybach Zeppelin – whether in the form of a luxury touring and representative limousine or a spirited racing machine for the ambitious sportsman – is the ultimate answer to automotive wishes, with a distinctive character all its own and the highest levels of elegance and power. (Maybach leaflet, 1934)
The Zeppelin DS models, first offered by Karl Maybach in 1930 and delivered from 1931, were available in the DS 7 and DS 8 versions. The predecessor was the Zeppelin 12 with seven litre capacity and 150 hp of 1929. But let’s start at the beginning. The first Maybach of 1919 was a prototype, the “W 1” (“W” for Wagen, the German for car) on a chassis Maybach had bought from Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft. This car already featured the characteristic – Maybach-style – radiator mask. The designation W 2 was used for an engine. The W 3 of 1921 was the first production car, with six-cylinder in-line engine and a blocked-on planetary gearbox, offered for sale as “22/70 hp” model (The first figure relates to the fiscal horsepower rating, a figure calculated on the basis of output and displacement for fiscal purposes from 1909; the second figure indicates engine output). The W 5 – sold as 27/120 hp model – followed in 1926; it was equipped with an overdrive transmission in 1928 and renamed W 5 SG. In 1930 and parallel to the “Zeppelin”, the W 6 was launched; this model was available with double over-drive transmission from 1934 and went down in history as the W 6 DSG. A further developed version of 1934 was a DSH, a “double six half”, i.e. a 130 hp 5.2 litre six-cylinder in-line engine with a design comparable to that of the DS twelve-cylinder.
The SW models
1935 saw the advent of “small” Maybach cars, the so-called SW models. “SW” stood for “Schwingachs-Wagen” (‘swing-axle car’). These were cars with independent wheel suspension, new high-performance engines with an output of 140 hp, displacements of 3.5, 3.8 and 4.2 litres and the model designations SW 35, SW 38 and SW 42. The SW 42 was the last model to be produced in Friedrichshafen until as late as 1941 – and the SW models were Maybach’s bestsellers.