COUNTERCLOCKWISE: THE MERCEDES-BENZ MUSEUM IN STUTTGART, GERMANY SHOWCASES MORE THAN 160 VEHICLES THAT CHRONICLE THE PROGRESSION OF THE MARQUE; THE MERCEDES-BENZ 300 S CONVERTIBLE, AS SEEN IN THE LEGENDS EXHIBIT; THE AUDI MUSEUM IN INGLOSTADT, GERMANY FEATURES NOT ONLY CARS, BUT MOTORCYCLES AND BIKES AS WELL; ON A DISCOVERY TOUR, GUESTS WILL EXPERIENCE THE FULL HISTORY OF AUDI.
OUR ONGOING LOVE AFFAIR WITH WHAT originally was called the motorcar got into gear in Germany in the 1880s, when engineers and designers Gottlieb Daimler, Carl Benz and Audi founder August Horch put us on the road with their revolutionary inventions.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart and the Audi Forum in Ingolstadt are two of the best places to learn how cars, trucks, motorcycles and buses forever changed the world. (Stuttgart is also home to Mercedes- Benz’s headquarters; Ingolstadt is home to Audi’s.)
Both buildings are standout examples of engineering and design, as are the distinctive, rare and historic vehicles inside. It’s easy to spend an entire day at either one marveling at the forward march of motorized technology, including the future of driverless vehicles. Add a gourmet lunch or dinner at one of the on-site restaurants and cafes, plus a factory tour.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum displays vehicles in a historic timeline. A glass elevator whisks you to the top exhibit floor, to the three-wheel wood-framed device patented by Gottlieb Daimler in 1889 (not to be confused with the similar Benz Patent-Motorwagen from 1885), plus early trucks and farm equipment.
Visitors receive a multilingual, multitrack audio guide and choose from historic, social or technical interpretations at each stop. Don’t pass up the track for kids. It’s shorter with fewer details, but offers just as much insight.
Daimler and Benz were competitors until shortly after WWI, when the government ordered them to merge to save money. Before that, Daimler renamed his company in honor of one of his largest customers and supporters, the Austrian entrepreneur and race driver Emil Jellinek, whose daughter was named Mercedes.
The first combined Mercedes-Benz brand vehicles were produced in 1926. The three-pointed star logo represents air, sea and land, since the company made engines and entire vehicles for all three. They included so-called “lighter than air” dirigibles by Daimler’s longtime engineering associate, Wilhelm Maybach, some of which are displayed at the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen, on Lake Constance.
Follow the Mercedes-Benz Museum’s circular ramp down to floors grouped by era or category, including racecars and special-use vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks.
Not surprisingly, the iconic 1950s gullwing roadster is one of the most popular models on display. There are several coupes and convertibles. Although vehicles in the collection are never sold, the gullwings are each worth millions.
Only two 1955 300 SLR “Uhlenhaut Coupe” vehicles were produced. One is on display here, as is the 300 SLR racing legend Stirling Moss drove to victory in the Mille Miglia that year. Additional racecars appear in the display of Silver Arrows.
Another rare car is the handsome 1936 500K roadster, here in “copcatcher red” with an elegant buttercream yellow interior. It was the most powerful street vehicle of its time, with 160 horsepower emanating from its supercharged Kompressor engine capable of 100 mph. Fewer than 400 were produced, and only a handful survive.
The 500K was one of the most expensive cars of its time, the equivalent of $500,000 today. That’s about double the price of a current model 6.0L V12 biturbo engine AMG S65, one of the priciest in today’s Mercedes-Benz stable.
As with most of the world’s museums, in addition to permanent displays are rotating special exhibits. An exhibit of 50 Years of AMG is being replaced this summer by what’s described as “secret stars” of Mercedes-Benz, including the all-terrain Unimog and farm tractors.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum is open daily, as are the restaurants and gift shops with their large selection of logo clothing, leather goods and model cars.
A PORTION OF THE LEGENDS EXHIBIT AT THE MUSEUM PAYS HOMAGE TO MERCEDES-BENZ'S RACECARS. GUESTS CAN MARVEL AT THE SUPERCARS INCLUDING THE W 196 R 2.5-LITER STREAMLINED RACING CAR (#18).
WHILE IN STUTTGART
Stuttgart is the capital city of the Baden-Württemberg state, founded by the Romans who were attracted to its mineral springs.
The Staatsgalerie (State Gallery) contains one of the finest art collections in Germany, with paintings from the Middle Ages to Modern, including Rembrandts and Picassos. The Altes Schloss (Old Castle), residence of the former ruling counts and dukes, dates to the 1300s and is now a museum that showcases some of the royal family’s jaw-dropping jewels. Also visit Markthall, with its curved glass ceiling that throws natural light on mouth-watering cheeses, breads, meats, sausages, chocolates and pastries.
Each fall, Stuttgart hosts Germany’s second-largest Oktoberfest (Munich is the largest), called the Canstatter Volksfest. An excellent day trip is Ludwigsburg, just 45 minutes away, with one of the finest baroque castles in Europe. Many of the 450 rooms spread over 18 buildings can be toured for displays of opulent 18th- and 19th-century furnishings, royal clothing and porcelain. A huge garden is the setting for summer concerts.
Audi moved here from what became East Germany after World War II in order to be in the American-supervised sector of Germany, allowing it to market cars more easily in the USA. It was a smart move and a fitting home for a brand whose dedication to purity of technology and design matches Germany’s famous beer purity law, written in 1516 in Ingolstadt and observed to this day.
Audi founder August Horch had been a production manager for Carl Benz before splitting off to form his own company in 1903, making luxury vehicles similar to what Gottlieb Daimler was producing.
He sold the company to his partners a few years later to start a new one but lost the rights to use his name. Horch means “hark” (“to listen” in German), so he launched the new company with the Latin equivalent, Audi. Soon after, Audi Automobilwerke merged with DKW and Wanderer Auto Union. During the Depression, Auto Union merged with the orginal Horch company, reviving the Audi name.
Audi’s four-ring logo represents the four merged brands. Significant models of each are on display at the Forum. They include several by the ubiquitous engineer/designer Ferdinand Porsche, who freelanced for just about everybody before forming his own company focusing on racing and sports cars.
Arranged mostly by brand, a prominent area is devoted to the Quattro, the world’s first mass produced full-time all-wheel-drive vehicle. This is the postwar achievement that put Audi on the automotive map. A 1982 model on display is a five-cylinder in-line 200 hp turbo version. It helped launch Audi into a sporty, high-performance brand.
Other significant vehicles include a 1931 DKW Front F1 Roadster, the world’s first mass-produced frontwheel- drive vehicle and the least expensive vehicle on the German market at the time, and the 1965 Auto Union 1000 Sp Roadster, with a one-piece wraparound panorama windshield that was revolutionary in its day. Although the exterior was modeled on the Ford Thunderbird’s, the engine wasn’t. The Auto Union’s puny 3-cylinder in-line, 2-stroke engine had a top speed of 87 mph, compared with the T-Bird’s basic and hunky 300 hp V8 powerhouse offered that same year.
The star of the exhibit may be the cream-yellow and black 1932 Horch 670 Sport-Cabriolet, the first V12 produced by Horch, featuring sinuous, sweeping fender lines. The hydraulic valve-clearance adjuster was ahead of its time. Only 58 vehicles were produced.
Rarer still is the 1938 Horch 855 Special Roadster, in gleaming black, one of only seven produced, with a front end long enough to house an 8-cylinder in-line engine that could kick out 120 hp at 3,600 rpm. It is exhibited near a fascinating cutaway of a 1925 Audi Type M Pullman Limousine, exposing the handcrafted wooden body.
The Audi Forum is open daily, as are its restaurants. Factory tours include the paint shop and the A3 assembly line, available weekdays only.
www.audi.com/foren/en/audiforum- ingolstadt/audi-museummobile. html
THE BEAUTY OF SPEED DISCOVERY TOUR AT THE AUDI MUSEUM SHOWCASES THE MARQUE'S DESIGNS THROUGHOUT THE 20TH CENTURY.
PICK UP YOUR NEW AUDI IN INGOLSTADT
Audi continues to offer European delivery for customers who purchase the vehicle from a U.S. dealer, getting a 5 percent discount off MSRP along with the opportunity to drive the new car around Europe on a vacation and drop it off in one of 17 cities. From there, Audi will ship it to your U.S. dealer. The program also includes an overnight in a hotel, a factory tour, breakfast and lunch at the Forum, instruction by an Audi specialist on how to make the most of the vehicle’s technical features, and driving tips unique to Germany.