Mercedes-Benz Classic Notes 4/2022

Mercedes-Benz Classic Notes 4/2022

Aug 29, 2022

Mercedes-Benz, the world’s oldest luxury car manufacturer, has been reinventing the automobile time and again since 1886. In this way, the brand continuously sets standards and also accompanies social change. The history of the company is correspondingly rich in events and stories. Here we have a brief summary of important anniversaries and milestones from its history.

August 1967 – 55 years ago

Premiere for Mercedes-Benz safety steering system

  • From August 1967, all the brand’s passenger cars were fitted with a telescopic steering column and an impact absorber in the steering wheel
  • Additional safety for the driver
  • An important milestone in the quest for continuously developed occupant protection

From August 1967, all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars received a new safety steering system with a telescopic steering column and an impact absorber in the steering wheel. At that time, the range comprised the W 108/109, W 100, W 110, W 111/112 and W 113 model series. Even before this, the steering was designed so that the steering column did not move directly towards the driver in the event of a severe frontal impact. For this purpose, the steering gear was positioned as far back as possible and directly in front of the front wall of the passenger compartment. The new safety steering system increased the effect: the components that could transfer forces towards the interior in the event of a serious accident could now be moved inside each other to reduce occurring impact forces and thus the strain on the occupants. This concerned the steering column tube, steering shaft and shift rod of the steering wheel gearshift. Experts quickly talked about a telescopic steering column. The journal “auto motor und sport” wrote in Issue 19/1967: “Safety research was already being carried out at Daimler-Benz when no law required it.” In addition to the telescopic steering column and impact absorber, other details improved the safety of the vehicle’s occupants from summer 1967 onwards: new door locks; child-proof door locks; protected and recessed dashboard controls; compliant plastic handles, armrests and window cranks; brake indicator lamp; folding outside mirrors.

30/31 August 1912 – 110 years ago

Ralph de Palma won the Elgin Road Races with record averages of more than 110 km/h

  • Ever higher speeds in races in the early days of the car
  • Five years before that, Baron Pierre de Caters won the Ardennes Race with an average speed of 92.6 km/h
  • Both drove Mercedes racing cars

Early motor racing successes: on 30 and 31 August 1912, 110 years ago, Ralph de Palma won the Elgin Road Races in Elgin/Illinois, USA, in a privately entered Mercedes 140 hp Grand Prix model 1908, followed by Erwin Bergdoll in a Benz 150 hp. With an average speed of more than 110 km/h, Ralph de Palma set a record there. The 1912 race report states: “Driving a Mercedes, he won the Elgin National Trophy Race and the free-for-all in the best time ever made on the Elgin course.” By comparison, five years before that, Baron Pierre des Caters won the sixth Ardennes Race over 600 kilometres on 27 July 1907 in the Mercedes 120 hp Grand Prix racing car developed by Paul Daimler after 6:29:10 hours. Its average speed was 92.6 km/h

28 September 1997 – 25 years ago

Mercedes-Benz won the engine classification of the CART World Series

  • The American equivalent of Formula One
  • The Mercedes-Benz IC 108 D engine won 9 of 17 races
  • Norbert Haug: “Extremely competitive racing and an open paddock”

The Indianapolis 500 is one of the most famous races in the world. In the Indycar series held there, later renamed the CART World Series and claimed as the American equivalent of Formula One, driver Al Unser Jr. and Team Penske celebrated a clear victory with a superior power unit in 1997 – and engine partner Mercedes-Benz joined in the celebrations. Between 1995 and 2000, Mercedes-Benz was active as an engine supplier for various teams. Norbert Haug, the head of motorsport at the time, remembers: “There was an extremely high level of competition with hard-fought races and an open paddock. Drivers and fans met eye to eye like they used to in the DTM.” Thanks to live broadcasts, motorsport enthusiasts in Europe also followed the CART Series. In 1997, 17 races were held, the last one on 28 September 1997 at the California Speedway in Fontana. After nine victories during the season, the Mercedes-Benz IC 108 D was crowned the winner of the engine classification. The methanol-powered eight-cylinder engine with a displacement of 2.65 litres produced around 625 kW (850 hp). In the constructors’ classification, the factory-supported Penske team took second place.

30 September 1897 – 125 years ago

First German motoring club

  • The Mitteleuropäischer Motorwagen-Verein was founded in Berlin
  • Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz were among the first members
  • “Organ for the entire interests of the motor vehicle and motor boat industry”

Eleven years after the invention of the car in 1886 by Carl Benz, the Mitteleuropäischer Motorwagen-Verein, the first German motoring club, was founded in Berlin on 30 September 1897. Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler were among the founding members. Rudolf Diesel, another technology pioneer, was also present. The association saw itself as an “organ for the entire interests of the motor vehicle and motorboat industry”. The inaugural meeting stated that, in view of efforts in France, England and the United States of America, “the present state of motor vehicle engineering in Austria and Germany is not in line with the current state of development”. Some manufacturers presented vehicles on the occasion of the foundation. Benz & Cie. from Mannheim was represented with the vehicles “Comfortable”, “Victoria”, “Break” and a “business car for delivery transport”.


  • 60 years ago – Jörg van Ommen, born on 27 September 1962, DTM racing driver and runner-up in 1994 and 1995 in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Sectional drawing of the Mercedes-Benz safety steering system introduced in 1967 with an impact plate in the steering wheel and a deformable impact absorber; the steering column and shift rod can slide telescopically into each other in the event of a collision. (Photo index number in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives: U53041)
Mercedes-Benz 250 S to 300 SEL 6.3 (W 108/W 109, 1965 to 1972). View of safety steering system, dashboard, gear lever and ignition lock. An innovative feature: these cars had just one key for all the locks; the plastic handle was a convenient enhancement. They were, of course, supplied with a spare key. Photo of a 250 SE from 1965. (Photo index number in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives: U54838)
Vanderbilt race in Milwaukee, 1912. The later winner Ralph de Palma (starting number 22) with the Mercedes 140 hp Grand Prix model 1908. (Photo index number in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives: 2000DIG15)
Racing engine Mercedes-Benz IC 108 D. With the power unit, driver Al Unser Jr. and Team Penske, the brand won the engine classification in the “CART World Series” in 1997. (Photo index number in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives: A97F760)
IndyCar Penske-Mercedes PC 26, 1997. At the wheel: Al Unser Jr. (Start number 2): Mercedes-Benz was a partner of Team Penske and won the engine classification in the “CART World Series”. (Photo index number in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives: A97F753)
Benz Comfortable 2.75 hp, built between 1896 and 1900. (Photo index number in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives: H2471)
Mercedes-Benz works driver Jörg van Ommen. Photo from 1995. (Photo index number in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives: A95F590)
DMV Prize, Hockenheimring, 4 October 1994. In that year, as well as in 1995, van Ommen was runner-up in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class racing touring car. (Photo index number in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives: A94F1667)