100 Things You Should Know About Daimler | #25

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Vroom, Bang, Benz: Even ducks love Daimler

Heads of government all over the world, popes, and TV cops drive Mercedes cars, and Elton John has even a whole fleet of them. In fact, there’s a long list of prominent Mercedes drivers. And one of them is the wealthiest duck in the history of comics: Scrooge McDuck. A self-confessed Daimler fan from the very start, he’s a member of a distinguished group that includes many other comic-book heroes.

If you think that Uncle Scrooge uses his gold coins only for leisurely baths in his money bin, you’re mistaken. When it comes to buying cars from the Daimler company, even this feathered billionaire stops being stingy. “I was one of the very first drivers to buy an automobile of my own. It was built by Gottlieb Daimler personally!” says Uncle Scrooge in the issue titled “Chugwagon Derby,” which was drawn by probably the best-known Disney author and illustrator, Carl Barks.

“It was built by Gottlieb Daimler personally!” Uncle Scrooge, drawn by Carl Barks, competes in a vintage car race with a belt-driven car from Daimler. © Disney
“It was built by Gottlieb Daimler personally!” Uncle Scrooge, drawn by Carl Barks, competes in a vintage car race with a belt-driven car from Daimler. © Disney

In an issue that originally appeared in Italian as “Zio Paperone e i 100 anni dell’automobile,” Zio Paperone — Uncle Scrooge’s Italian alter ego — reveals what lies deep beneath his money bin: a hand-picked collection of classic cars that he intends to present to his hometown of Duckburg to mark the hundredth anniversary of the automobile. But before he does that, the duck clan enjoys an outing in a Mercedes Simplex — an advanced version of the first Mercedes model series.

A test drive in Italian: A Mercedes Simplex from 1901 in “Zio Paperone e i 100 anni dell’ automobile.” © Disney
A test drive in Italian: A Mercedes Simplex from 1901 in “Zio Paperone e i 100 anni dell’ automobile.” © Disney

The “original Daimler” — the motorized carriage manufactured in 1886, which is celebrating its 135th birthday this year, also appears in the same issue. Uncle Scrooge’s nephew Donald even drives it in an auto race. And he doesn’t suffer from range anxiety: “A genuine Daimler can cover 300 kilometers with the greatest of ease.” And he’s absolutely right: A few pages later, Donald coolly drives his Daimler across the finish line.

The beginnings: Tintin and Snowy in a Mercedes

Donald Duck fans were not the only Daimler enthusiasts who enjoyed reading about their favorite brand in the comics. In the very first of the “The Adventures of Tintin” series, which was published over 90 years ago, the Belgian illustrator Hergé put his hero behind the steering wheel of a Mercedes. In this story, the boy reporter Tintin undertakes a journey to Russia, initially by train. In Berlin he switches to a Mercedes that he has stolen from the local police. In later adventures, Tintin became much more respectable and Hergé’s illustrations became more detailed and concrete. But the car with the star remained a constant: Further Tintin and Snowy adventures featured a Ponton Mercedes, a Mercedes-Benz 300, the 190 SL Roadster, and the first van with a star (the L 319), among other Mercedes vehicles.

Comics tell automotive history

Like the three-pointed star that distinguishes its hood, a Mercedes seems to be an essential element in many comics, whether it’s in Carl Barks’ fictional Duckburg or Hergé’s real Brussels, from the A-Class to trucks, and from the beginnings in 1886 to the latest models - probably no other automobile brand has been represented in the comics genre by such a broad range of models and model series, intended purposes, and vehicle generations — with the possible exception of the VW beetle.

But even in the world of comic books, there are exceptions: The most famous Gallic village in the history of comics naturally has no cars — after all, the stories take place around 50 BC. But that doesn’t mean the Gauls created by the illustrator Uderzo are doomed to be pedestrians. In one issue, one of the heroes aspires to be a charioteer and buys a racing quadriga in a Gallic rooster design from the chariot dealer “Erlkönix.” He pays for it in installments, just as we do today. However, the currency is less modern: The price is ten payments of eight standing stones each.

In this column we regularly present interesting, odd or generally unknown facts from the world of Daimler.

Cornelia Hentschel

was a big comics fan as a child, whether the adventures were set in ancient Gaul or Duckburg. Today she’s still a big fan of the German verb form — the “Erikative” — invented by the Donald Duck translator Dr. Erika Fuchs specially for the German editions. That may be why her SMS and WhatsApp messages are liberally sprinkled with labels such as *smirks*, *rolls eyes* or even *hits ceiling*.

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