Vehicle tool kit: Mercedes-Benz Museum Inside No. 17/2020

Oct 16, 2020
  • Chauffeurs with profound mechanical and electrical expertise
  • Contemporary vehicles boast very long maintenance intervals
  • “33 Extras”: exhibits of motoring culture at the Mercedes-Benz Museum

Stuttgart. 160 vehicles and a total of 1,500 exhibits are showcased in the varied permanent collection at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. The “33 Extras” are a particular highlight: they can bring the history of personal mobility and motoring culture to life using details that are often surprising. The Mercedes-Benz Museum Inside newsletter series draws attention to the “33 Extras” and focuses on their background stories. Today’s issue is about the vehicle tool kit.

17/33: Vehicle tool kit

1 – Auxiliary tools: Hand on heart – where is the vehicle tool kit kept in your own vehicle? Quite right. Many of us need to think about that one first, also in terms of whether the vehicle even comes with tools – and what they are good for in the event of a breakdown.

2 – Standard: That used to be different. Preparatory and maintenance as well as repair work were an integral part of driving a car and drivers relied on their profound mechanical and electrical expertise about their vehicles. The equipment was extensive – and tools were always at hand. Sometimes special holders in the luggage compartment made sure this was the case. For instance, these holders were installed in the W 108 and W 109 model series luxury saloons. In said vehicles the fabric bag containing the vehicle tool kit was hung on the wheel spanner for storage. And Fritz Nallinger, Member of the Board of Management between 1941 and 1965 of what used to be Daimler-Benz AG, had vivid memories of the tool kit in his parents’ car. As a young boy on Sunday outings at the beginning of the twentieth century, he sometimes had to take a seat between spanners, oil cans and spare parts.

3 – Do it yourself: In August 1888, when Bertha Benz and her sons set off from Mannheim on the very first automotive long-distance trip at the wheel of the Patent Motor Car her husband had invented, the three of them were left to their own devices. The trip was going well, but the vehicle, a prototype from today’s perspective, suffered the odd breakdown. Each one could have thwarted the objective of reaching Pforzheim by the evening. However, improvisation and skills cleared the way. Even Bertha’s hat pin was turned into a tool when she used it to clean a clogged petrol pipe.

4 – Knowledgeable: Only a few years later the motor car was increasingly spreading as a means of transport. The first chauffeurs were either trained mechanics or, in addition to driver training, they were extensively trained in mechanics and electrics at the manufacturer’s plant. Afterwards, they would be able to carry out any kind of work. The technology had a longer service life thanks to regular maintenance. Anyone wanting to reliably reach their destination needed to be familiar with the technology to prevent breakdowns with precautionary work or quickly eliminate any issues.

5 – Mobile workshop: Vehicle manufacturers provided a dedicated selection of spanners and other utensils for the usual work – the vehicle tool kit. For instance, tools were wrapped in a fabric bag or stored in a container with a customised insert. For many model series, this basic equipment could be enhanced to form an extensive tool kit on the basis of the accessories catalogue. In the 1960s elements including grease guns for chassis and suspension were still part of the range, for instance.

6 – Professional version: The “33 Extras” vehicle tool kit at the Mercedes-Benz Museum originates from the first third of the 20th century. The width across flats of spanners is huge and consequently intended for the chassis and suspension, e.g. to undo hub caps or work on wheel bearings and axles. The fact that some spanners are available in duplicate indicates countered screw connections – nuts tightened against one another to prevent them from unintentionally coming loose. However, the fact that they were comparably short indicates that the universal tool per se was also on board: the hammer.

7 – Instructions: Not just the tools were comprehensive. in the old days, owner’s manuals also used to be very extensive, describing numerous work sequences on the vehicle in detail – from today’s perspective, you could almost consider them workshop manuals. Classic car aficionados greatly value these publications nowadays as they provide accurate instructions on how to handle their vehicle. As an authentic part of a classic vehicle these manuals are sought after just like genuine vehicle tool kits.

8 – Fast help: The vehicle tool kit became less significant over the decades: vehicles became increasingly more reliable, maintenance intervals were extended and the service network was enhanced. Emergency numbers were also introduced so that help could be called in the event of a breakdown. For instance, in Europe Mercedes-Benz offers the Customer Assistance Centre to safeguard mobility 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Consequently, vehicle tool kits have become less extensive and owner’s manuals no longer go into so much detail.

9 – Tyre pressure and a clear vision: Nowadays we hardly carry out any vehicle maintenance ourselves. Vehicle components’ long-term quality and their regular inspection at specialist workshops serve as outstanding protection against breakdowns. However, regularly checking the tyre pressure or topping up windscreen wiper fluid remain important and have the potential to prevent unpleasant surprises. All to make sure things stay the way they should be: safe journeys at all times!

Mercedes-Benz 123 model series estate as a service vehicle. Photo from 1978.
International Avus race in Berlin, 26 May 1935. Mercedes-Benz Racing department tool kit.
Mercedes-Benz 260 D (W 138), scene depicting a filling station in the 1930s. Vehicle maintenance was part of the everyday back then.
Deployment of the Mercedes-Benz Touring Service in the Axamer Lizum ski resort near Innsbruck, jump-starting a 200 D (W 115). The Touring Service vehicle is a “Stroke Eight” featuring a Binz combination body. Photo from 1972.
Vehicle tool kit: Modern vehicles are very reliable and hardly require any maintenance work. The vehicle tool kit is one of “33 Extras” at the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
Vehicle tool kit: Modern vehicles are very reliable and hardly require any maintenance work. The vehicle tool kit is one of “33 Extras” at the Mercedes-Benz Museum.