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Driven by affinity to Maybach : 5 years ‹Friends of the Maybach Museum e.V.› — German version included

Today there are two important anniversaries for Maybach fans to celebrate, the 141st birthday of Karl Maybach and the 5th anniversary of the Freundeskreis Maybach Museum e.V.

The initiative for the formation of the association came from many of the ‹Häfler› (as the inhabitants of Friedrichshafen are popularly known) and the descendants of Karl Maybach — his daughter Irmgard Schmid-Maybach and his grandson Ulrich Schmid-Maybach. From the very beginning, the close cooperation between the Wilhelm and Karl Maybach Foundation, founded by Ulrich Schmid-Maybach, and the Museum Freundeskreis was a given and is still successfully continued with great energy today. Employees of Maybach-Motorenbau, but also important people from Friedrichshafen’s political scene — they all share the enthusiasm for the special Maybach history and the aim of creating a permanent museum presentation.

Since its foundation on July 6, 2015, the Freundeskreis has been working on a purely voluntary and extremely committed basis towards the goal of creating a museum-based, independent presentation of the history of Wilhelm and Karl Maybach and their developments essential to the history of technology and mobility. Friedrichshafen is and will remain the anchor point for these efforts due to its close connection with Maybach history. A fundamental element of this is the ongoing development of the collection, which also includes contemporary witness work — to date, over 2000 documents, photographs, and objects have been collected. In 2017 the first exhibition entitled « In the air, on water and on land » was held at the Friedrichshafen City Archive, which was very well received.

The Friends of Maybach e.V. in the Museum for Maybach Automobiles in Neumarkt, June 2016

The founding date of the circle of friends was not by chance, 2015 was the 136th anniversary of Karl Maybach’s birthday. Karl Maybach, the son of Wilhelm Maybach, who was also known as the King of Designers, was born in 1879 in Cologne Deutz. He understood early on how to get the most out of his studies, internships, and various travels abroad. Thus he had already developed an engine of his own when his father was not allowed to work as he had left Daimler engine works. Graf Zeppelin, who had found the best conditions for his airship developments in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance, was very interested in the new engine design, which was both powerful and reliable. It was only in this way that the Maybachs and Count Zeppelin began to work together, and in 1912 the company finally moved to Friedrichshafen, before being renamed Maybach Motorenbau GmbH in 1919. Friedrichshafen became the new cradle of engine development. Starting with airship engines, various developments were initiated here which still have a significant impact on our mobility today. Particularly noteworthy are the high-speed diesel engines, a completely new market segment at the time, which were to take trains in Germany and internationally to a new level in terms of speed and reliability.

Over the years, Karl Maybach established a company that set standards in the training of apprentices and skilled workers as well as preparing them for corporate cultures. In this way, the bond between employees, but also between Friedrichshafen residents, and the Maybach name was strengthened and remains strong to this day. This bond is reflected in the valuable voluntary work of the Freundeskreis Maybach Museum e.V. — starting with the founding members such as Sigfrid Rehm, who met Karl Maybach personally while still working at Maybach Motorenbau, through to the current first chairman Fritz Rheinheimer and the numerous members.

The first five years of the Circle of Friends› work have been extremely successful. Many important exhibits have now been secured for the museum. A special example is the cutaway model of an MD 871 ship diesel for fast boats, which was transported from the Technical Naval School in Parow near Stralsund to Lake Constance under the leadership of the first chairman Fritz Rheinheimer. More exciting details about the project to save this large exhibit from being scrapped can be found on the website of the Freundeskreis. There you will also find further information on membership.


🇩🇪 German Version /Deutsche Version : 

 

Aus Verbundenheit zu Maybach — 5 Jahre Freundeskreis Maybach Museum e.V.

Heute gilt es gleich zwei für Maybach-Fans wichtige Jubiläen zu feiern ; den 141. Geburtstag von Karl Maybach sowie das fünfjährige Jubiläum des Freundeskreises Maybach Museum e.V.!

Die Initiative zur Gründung des Vereins, ging aus von vielen mit der Maybach Historie verbundenen Häflern (wie die Bewohner*innen Friedrichshafens im Volksmund genannt werden) und den Nachfahren Karl Maybachs – seiner Tochter Irmgard Schmid-Maybach und seinem Enkelsohn Ulrich Schmid-Maybach. Von Beginn an war die enge Zusammenarbeit zwischen der von Ulrich Schmid-Maybach gegründeten Wilhelm und Karl Maybach Stiftung und dem Museums Freundeskreis selbstverständlich und wird bis heute mit großer Tatkraft erfolgreich fortgesetzt. Mitarbeiter*innen des Maybach-Motorenbau, aber auch verdiente Persönlichkeiten aus der Gesellschaft und Politik Friedrichshafens – sie alle eint die Begeisterung für die besondere Maybach-Geschichte und das Ziel einen bleibenden musealen Auftritt zu schaffen.

Der Freundeskreis arbeitet seit seiner Gründung am 06. Juli 2015 rein ehrenamtlich und äußerst engagiert auf das Ziel hin, der Geschichte von Wilhelm und Karl Maybach sowie ihren für die Technik- und Mobilitätsgeschichte essentiellen Entwicklungen einen musealen, eigenständigen Auftritt zu verschaffen. Friedrichshafen ist und bleibt dabei Ankerpunkt für diese Bemühungen durch die enge Verbindung mit der Maybach-Historie. Elementar dafür ist der fortlaufende Sammlungsaufbau, welcher auch Zeitzeugenarbeit umfasst – bis heute wurden über 2000 Dokumente, Fotografien und Objekte zusammengetragen. 2017 fand eine erste eigene Ausstellung mit dem Titel „In der Luft, zu Wasser und zu Land“ im Stadtarchiv Friedrichshafen statt, welche auf sehr positive Resonanz gestoßen ist.

Der Freundeskreis Maybach e.V. im Museum für Maybach Automobile in Neumarkt, Juni 2016

Das Gründungsdatum des Freundeskreises kam nicht von ungefähr, 2015 jährte sich der Geburtstag von Karl Maybach zum 136. Mal. Karl Maybach, der Sohn von Wilhelm Maybach, welchen man auch als König der Konstrukteure bezeichnete, wurde das Handwerk des Konstruierens und der Ingenieursgeist scheinbar in die Wiege gelegt, als er 1879 in Köln Deutz geboren wurde. Er verstand es früh, aus Studium, Praktika und diversen Auslandsaufenthalten das meiste herauszuholen. So konnte er mit einer eigenständigen Motorenentwicklung aufwarten, als sein Vater gerade mit einem Berufsverbot nach dem Ausscheiden aus dem Daimlerkonzern belegt war. Graf Zeppelin, welcher in Friedrichshafen am Bodensee die besten Bedingungen für seine Luftschiffentwicklungen gefunden hatte, war sehr interessiert an dem neuen, gleichermaßen leistungsfähigen wie zuverlässigen Motorenentwurf. So kam es erst zur Zusammenarbeit zwischen den Maybachs und Graf Zeppelin, 1912 zum Umzug des Unternehmens nach Friedrichshafen und 1919 erfolgte schließlich die Umbenennung in Maybach Motorenbau GmbH. Friedrichshafen wurde zur neuen Wiege der Motorenentwicklung. Angefangen bei Luftschiffmotoren wurden hier diverse Entwicklungen angestoßen, welche bis heute maßgebliche Auswirkungen auf unsere Mobilität haben – besonders hervorzuheben sind die schnelllaufenden Dieselmotoren, ein zur damaligen Zeit völlig neues Marktsegment, sollten Züge in Deutschland und international auf ein neues Niveau bringen, was Geschwindigkeit und Verlässlichkeit anging.

Karl Maybach etablierte über die Jahre ein Unternehmen, dass Maßstäbe setzte in der Ausbildung von Lehrlingen und Facharbeitern sowie der Unternehmenskultur. So festigte sich die Verbindung zwischen Mitarbeitern, aber auch den Häflern insgesamt, und dem Namen Maybach, welche bis heute anhält. Diese Bindung spiegelt sich in der wertvollen ehrenamtlichen Arbeit des Freundeskreises Maybach Museum e.V. – angefangen bei den Gründungsmitgliedern wie Sigfrid Rehm, welcher Karl Maybach noch persönlich während seiner Tätigkeit beim Maybach Motorenbau begegnete, bis hin zum aktuellen ersten Vorsitzenden, Fritz Rheinheimer, und den zahlreichen Mitgliedern.

Die ersten fünf Jahre der Arbeit des Freundeskreises sind in höchstem Maße erfolgreich verlaufen. So konnten viele wichtige Exponate für das Museum gesichert werden. Ein besonderes Beispiel ist das Schnittmodell eines MD 871 Schiffsdiesels für Schnelle Boote, welches unter Federführung des ersten Vorsitzenden, Fritz Rheinheimer, von der Technischen Marine Schule in Parow bei Stralsund bis an den Bodensee transportiert wurde. Mehr spannende Details über das Projekt dieses große Ausstellungsstück vor der Verschrottung zu retten, finden Sie auf der Webseite des Freundeskreises. Dort gibt es auch weiterführende Informationen zur Mitgliedschaft.

Following the traces of Maybach in Friedrichshafen — Part I : Memorial in honor of Wilhelm and Karl Maybach

In our last post, we already talked about the strong connection between people in Friedrichshafen and the name Maybach. This is also present in many places in the urban fabric of the city. Today we will for the first time take you with us on a tour of discovery through Friedrichshafen : At the beginning of our series, we would like to show you the busts of Wilhelm and Karl Maybach, which can be found in a very special place in Friedrichshafen. Coming from the railway station “Friedrichshafen Stadt”, passing the Graf Zeppelin and Karl Maybach High School, two statues are placed on the Maybach Square in honor of Wilhelm and Karl Maybach.The place the statues are presented today is deeply intertwined with the history of Maybach Motorenbau. It’s close to the entrance to the site where Karl Maybach’s company was situated from 1912 onwards. Today it still is in close proximity to the entrance of Rolls Royce Power Systems/MTU Friedrichshafen which is the company that Maybach Motorenbau had become after 1969. Friedrichshafen’s city center around the townhouse is just a ten-minute walk away, the town and its companies grew side by side. Further south towards Friedrichshafen lies the Karl Maybach High School which was given its name in honor of one of Friedrichhafen’s most important citizens. Friedrichshafen was and still is an engine city and Karl Maybach had made it another cradle of products that were to have a disruptive impact globally. The Karl Maybach High School is the only school named after Karl Maybach though there are two more named after Wilhelm Maybach, one in Heilbronn and one in Stuttgart.
The monument consists of two stone steles on which bronze portrait heads of Wilhelm and Karl Maybach are presented. These had been sculpted by Eduard Raach-Döttinger in the mid nineteen eighties. Eduard Raach-Döttinger who had been creating many public monuments and fountains had lived from 1909 to 1991. From the 1950s onwards he had been working in Eningen which is situated close to Reutlingen. His favored materials were stone and wood though he also created works made from bronze regularly. In 1986, the artist was commissioned to make a bust of Wilhelm Maybach on the occasion of an exhibition in Reutlingen entitled ‘Reutlingen Encounter’. The show told the story of the historic encounter of Wilhelm Maybach and the environment it had taken place in. Wilhelm Maybach met Gottlieb Daimler at the Bruderhaus orphanage – it turned out to be an encounter and a combination of forces that was to make history, Maybach’s constructive ingenuity of and Daimler´s entrepreneurial spirit.
Having completed the Wilhelm Maybach sculpture a year before, Raach in 1987 was also commissioned by MTU Friedrichshafen to make a piece depicting Karl Maybach. In an interview from the first public presentation of the Karl Maybach bust, he described the specific process which led to his creation. As a starting point, Raach had been using images from different stages of Karl Maybach’s biography as well as quotes. With this approach he aimed to add an impression to his work which unified the different life phases in one image, thereby adding another level to the realistic depiction.

Showing Wilhelm Maybach alongside his son, the monument makes clear that this genealogy of engine construction reaches further back in history and beyond Friedrichshafen : Heilbronn, Reutlingen, and Canstatt are among the other places that tell the story. We want to start out in Friedrichshafen with a new series as there are many other places to discover the Maybach history inside and beyond the city limits. Stay tuned for the upcoming blog posts of this series.

From the Maybach Archives : A new Ad(dition) to our growing Collection

In our everyday work, new arrivals are especially exciting and today we want to share an example : An ad which had not been published in the literature on the history of Maybach yet. It comes from a time where Maybach had a major, disruptive even, impact on mobility : The days when Maybach was developing and successfully establishing the fast running diesel engine for trains on the German and European markets.

Image 1 : Advert from the 1940s for Maybach railcars. ©Rolls Royce Power Systems AG/MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH

The image comes from the 1940s and shows two things : a train of the series which bore the somewhat unwieldy designation ‘302-kw-Dieseltriebwagen mit vereinheitlichten Grundrissen’ (302-kW-Dieseltrains with unified layout) and a GO 5 type engine. Both are rendered in strong angles which make the image more dynamic and convey the speed and power to the viewer. The overall image is rendered in black grey which is combined with accents of orange. This orange was part of the Maybach Motorenbau corporate identity and also came to use in the enameled emblems on Maybach cars.

After WWI Maybach Motorenbau had to set out for new markets – the key segment of aerial propulsion had been prohibited by the Versailles treaty. The company also quickly realized that when using a new high-speed diesel on the rail, one should not do things by half-measures. Instead of “just” supplying the engine, Maybach wanted to design a railcar in which all the components were the result of a concerted collaboration between the engine manufacturer and a train builder – a form of cooperation that was absolutely exceptional in its intensity at the time. The result was the so-called E.V.A. Maybach-Triebwagen launched in 1924, its engine the G 4 a type and a newly developed gearbox the T 1 type. Having had met skepticism, the new product with 175 hp was successfully established but Maybach did not intend to stop there.

Image 2 : The so-called E.V.A. Maybach Railcar. Photograph from the 1920s.

New demands came up not much later and the Reichsbahn asked for a 300 hp engine. The engineers at Maybach Motorenbau set the goal at 400 hp. Something, they said looking back, could be achieved just as easily and demands were expected to quickly rise again. Although this engine, which was to bear the name G 5, could draw on the experience gained from the design and production of the G 4 a and b, there were once again no real role models for this next evolutionary stage. Again there was only a little time available for a complex project. The Maybach engineers doubled the number of cylinders, turning the G 5 into a twelve-cylinder engine – a strategy that had already been applied to aircraft engines. The stroke volume of the G 4 a/b was increased from 140180 mm bore/stroke to 150200 mm. A ‹centric linkage› was also chosen in the hope of avoiding problems with the crankcase, but the engine was now subjected to greater stress. Despite all adversities, the G 5 was put to the test in 1930 – with an impressive 410 hp.

 

The Reichsbahn ordered different types of railcars, all powered by the G 5 engine (it later got replaced by its successor the GO 5) and equipped with another innovation, the electric power transmission, for which Maybach again had cooperated with the E.V.A. In our ad, we can see an artist rendition of the so-called ‘302-kw-Dieseltriebwagen mit vereinheitlichten Grundrissen’ (302-kW-Dieseltrains with unified layout). These trains were used all over Germany and with their speeds of up to 110 km/h were another important step towards the era of the so-called ‘Flying trains’ which established new speed records – but that’s another story in itself we want to tell another time.

A recent collaboration between Maybach Foundation and Michael Schwab is bringing new attention to these essential steppingstones of mobility as we know it today that could not have happened without Maybach. Schwab, one of the United States foremost graphic artists, who is well renowned for his posters for American National Parks, created a set of new designs that are paying homage to the strong graphic designs which embodied the ‘Maybach Powered’ spirit. The current set of three posters, the train, the yacht, and the airship make clear that Maybach was much more than luxury cars but excellence in propulsion across the board – on land, in water, and air.

 

 

From the Maybach Archives : The story hiding behind an unassuming image…

After having talked about the specific conditions that images need to be stored in, today we want to look at a very special example that is worth taking a second look. The time and location of the image had been left out in the description. As you will see in today’s article, an image that may seem unspectacular at first can be the anchor point for a much larger story to be told – when having sources at hand that allow scientific work and comparison.

Karl Maybach in Vernon, France around 1945

This image which is part of the Schmid-Maybach family private collection has been published before in ‘Karl Maybach – seine Motoren und Automobile’ (Karl Maybach – his Engines and Automobiles). Harry Niemann published the book in 2004 on the occasion of the 125th birthday of Karl Maybach. The book which provides a concise overview of the biography and work of Karl Maybach is available in German as well as English. Its focus is on the different cars that were produced at Maybach Motorenbau and not only shows a great selection of images but also breaks down the technical aspects in an easily-digestible manner.

In this photograph Karl Maybach is sitting on a chair outside, reading a book. His hand is on his forehead and clearly shows how absorbed he is in his read. In the background, we can see birches and a low building with a rather specific shape of the window frame. In this image, Karl Maybach seems to be in his seventies when one compares it with other examples.

Referring to our collection it allowed us to do the comparison necessary to further pin down the date and context in which this image had been taken. We looked at other images from that era and it quickly became clear that the overall makeshift situation and these distinct trees lead to one conclusion : that it was taken at a specific moment in the Maybach history – the years that some of the workers at Maybach Motorenbau and Karl Maybach himself had been relocated to Vernon in France after WW II.

 

To explain how a part of the company ended up there one needs to look back at the role Maybach Motorenbau had during the years of WW II. During the war, Maybach Motorenbau had developed the majority of engines for track driven vehicles of the German army. This marks a dark era in the Maybach history as in those years forced laborers had to work in Friedrichshafen and at other companies which had obtained a license to manufacture Maybach engines.

After WW II Friedrichshafen and the ‹motorworks› to a large degree lay in ruins as a consequence of the bombardments by the allied forces. Among the allied troops it was the French who secured the region as part of their occupation zone. The standard process for a company that had been part of the so-called ‹Third Reich’s› military industry was to be dismantled. Part of the machinery indeed was transported to France while the still remaining parts of the company in Friedrichshafen became a reparation workshop for the French. In parallel, the French demanded that Maybach would further pursue its developments in tank engines – but outside Germany. On the 12th of September of 1946, an agreement was signed to develop a new 1,000 hp engine.

A group of about 70 people, many of whom rather young, was recruited from the remaining staff at Maybach Motorenbau. The so-called Groupe M, short for ‘Groupe Maybach’, moved to Vernon in December 1946 which had been defined by the French government as a site for new military developments. Karl Maybach followed with his family in June 1947. The conditions were difficult in the beginning. For example, there have been accounts that there was no running water. One of these sources is a report written just after the events. It has only very recently entered the collection and has proven to be a valuable material in the identification of the image we are looking at today. The « Report on the stay in Vernon » also affirms the adverse conditions. It also describes that Karl Maybach protested and conditions were improved consequently. Against this backdrop of rather poor conditions the team nevertheless managed the task, they were given. The result was the HL 295 P, a 1,000 hp engine which ended up being an enlarged version of the HL 234 engine type, a prototype constructed during the final phase of the war. As the HL 295 P was running on gasoline it became clear that a diesel engine with similar constructive traits would also be important as it was more easily adapted to civil applications, the rail especially. The result was the HL 337 and 338 experimental engines.

These developments turned out to be an extremely valuable asset. They could easily be translated to civil applications and that is exactly the strategy that Maybach Motorenbau was pursuing in the years after. The 1950s became the time that the MD series of fast running diesel engines (short for Maybach Diesel) was introduced, largely based on developments made in Vernon and precise market studies. It was built in a modular fashion and thereby could be built in many different specifications – from a three-cylinder variant to a 16 cylinder one. The product ended up being very successful and powered ferries, generators, and trains. Engines that still maintain some constructive features of those days are still built in Friedrichshafen to this day.

Snowy Mountain Roads ? No Problem When You’re Powered by the Best Propulsion Available !

Winter and its difficult conditions with slippery roads are still a problem today. Now on top of that, add the aspect of having to drive up a steep mountain. This not being enough, now imagine only having 1930s technology available.

Maybach Motorenbau (Maybach Engine Works) advert for the Maybach 12 Type Zeppelin. Published in the early 1930s. © Daimler AG
It was this especially adverse environment for a car that MaybachMotorenbau (Maybach Engine Works) used for one of its most iconic adverts. The automobile driving up strong ascent is rendered in hues of green and orange to create a strong complementary contrast. Shades of blue are used to depict the snowy mountain which constitutes the foreground and background. The typography is neatly embedded in square shape into the motive – it reads Maybach Bergbezwinger (‘Mountain Conqueror’), Maybach 12, Type Zeppelin followed by the contact information of Maybach Engine Works. This data is followed by an impressive list where Maybach agents were established back then : It starts with Berlin and ends with New York.

Advertising and its promises are one thing one may say – so how much reality is in this graphically beautifully executed artwork ? One has to start by answering this question by looking at the technical aspects that Maybach cars were bringing to the table. Maybach cars which entered the market in 1921 were absolute state of the art and demonstrated what was possible concerning powerful engines and gears combined with groundbreaking technical intricacies that were added. A high torque combined is an essential aspect that Maybach car engines were known for – ease of acceleration and managing ascent with no problems were two of the more obvious profits. Maybach however used this aspect to help enable features that were unheard of before, namely the Vorwählschaltung (Preselection Gear-Shift Mechanism) that allowed to switch gears via a lever on the steering wheel. Good elasticity is another feature of the engines that Maybach Engine works constructed their car engines with. Due to this characteristic increases in strain (in the sense of an increase in driving resistance), such as when driving uphill as in our example, can be managed without changing gear despite a drop in speed.

These and other technical aspects combined with long-lasting quality made it possible to take part in races and endurance rides. Some of which, namely the 1924 Winter Ride organized by the ADAC (Acronym for Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club, General German Automobile Club, founded in 1903 and today Europe’s largest motoring association) laid proof that a Maybach car was able to face the harsh conditions of snowy mountain roads : The first three places went to Maybach Engine Works. Maybach Cars were products that were produced to the highest standards and therefore also lasted a long time – if correctly taken care of. Indeed, some of the few produced cars remain to this day and lived some very interesting lives.

Sketch of a Cabriolet body on a Maybach chassis. Painted in grey water-color (Grisaille-Gouache). 1930s. © Rolls Royce Power Systems AG/MTU Friedrichshafen AG

A white Maybach Zeppelin DS 8, which still exists today, is one of the rare examples that was built as a two-seater cabriolet, what is more, it strikingly resembles the car depicted in the ‘Bergbezwinger’ advert. The sketch is shown here, which dates roughly from the same time, also is of a car with a very similar layout. This rare vehicle’s story tells the global connections of the brand Maybach. The car was commissioned by Gustav Zingg, an immigrant from Germany to Venezuela and a wealthy businessman. Among his jobs also was to be Maybach sales representative in Southern America because he had personal ties with Karl Maybach. Originally delivered as the first twelve-cylinder model, the Maybach 12, it, later on, was retrofitted with the last iteration of the twelve-cylinder car engines, the DS 8, which also might have included the installation of another radiator grill. After delivery, the car supposedly also made the journey across the Atlantic several times as Zingg traveled back to Germany. For some decades the car was neglected as termites had damaged it. Helmut Hofmann, the probably most important Maybach car collector however managed to track it down and made the purchase. The car’s last journey back to Europe across the ocean turned out to be devastating – seawater partially flooded the container and caused further damage to this very valuable car. Having already seen worse the collector kept his spirit up and the car is now exhibited and restored to all its glory. Today it can be seen in the Museum for Historical Maybach Vehicles (the only one solely dedicated to these stunning vehicles) in Neumarkt, Germany.

There are several books available on Maybach Cars though one especially stands out. Graf Michael Wolff Metternich’s ‘Maybach Register’ has become a standard source because it records many of the exciting stories the cars lived through after delivery. On the 13th of February 1967, Count Metternich became the founding president of the Maybach Club, an association of Maybach car enthusiasts and owners. Metternich tirelessly recorded the available information of cars that were still existent back then, becoming one of the leading experts. In 1996 he published the third and last version of his important historical research.

Count Michael Wolff Metternich who was born in 1920 and had become known as an essential figure in the field of automotive history scholars, passed away in 2018 but his legacy lives on in his books.

In the following, we have collected some literature on the topic of Maybach automobiles. Sadly, only one of these is available in English, Niemann’s ‘Karl Maybach, his engines and automobiles’.

  1. Graf Wolf Metternich, Michael (1996): Maybach Register, Sieger Verlag GmbH, Lorch.
  2. Graf Wolf Metternich, Michael (1990): Distanz zur Masse, Sieger Verlag GmbH, Lorch.
  3. Mirsching, Gerhard (2001): Maybach-Karosserien aus Ravensburg, Hermann Spohn und sein Werk, Robert Gessler Verlag, Friedrichshafen.
  4. Niemann, Harry (2006): Karl Maybach, his engines and automobiles, Classique car Library.
  5. Niemann, Harry (2004): Karl Maybach, seine Motoren und Automobile, Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart.
  6. Graf Wolf Metternich, Michael (1978): Maybach, Die Geschichte der Maybach-Automobile, Uhle & Kleimann, Lübbecke.

An Unexpected Legend : Celebrating 100 Years Maybach W3

Today we are presenting an iconic image of which we recently acquired an original example for our collection. Specifically, the ad for the 2270 PS car that we today know under its designation W 3 (‘W’ is short for the German word ‘Wagen’ = vehicle/car). The year 2021 sees the 100-year-anniversary of its launch – a fitting occasion to look into the pretext that led to cars being built in Friedrichshafen at Maybach Motor Works.

WWI meant a ceasure to world history and when it ended, it had left many parts of the world devastated. The impact on markets and economies was likewise drastic. For Maybach Motor Works it meant that the area in which they had proven their competence, was now prohibited. The Versailles treaty of 1919 stated that all production of aerial machinery in Germany shall cease. However, it was clear, that the company’s capacities in constructing and manufacturing high-performance engines could also be applied to other applications, one of which was automobiles. Karl Maybach, who oversaw Maybach Motor Works, himself had developed a racing car engine in France that served as the base for the developments of aerial propulsion. His father Wilhelm Maybach had done groundbreaking work which culminated in the first Mercedes (1900) that was definitive for the shape of the modern automobile.

Dismantling at Maybach Motor Works after WWI | © MTU Friedrichshafen

 

Maybach Motor Works set out looking for a partner to supply a newly developed car engine to. Trompenburg, a Dutch manufacturer was chosen. The car they marketed became known as Spijker Tenax, the latter meaning ‘tenacious’. Indeed, the product managed to achieve some success, such as victories at several endurance rides, one of which the car successfully ran across 30,000 km through the snowy Netherlands and beat an older record by Rolls Royce. Despite this promising start, the cooperation soon came to an end as Trompenburg filed for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, in Friedrichshafen, there was a backlog of engines that were ready to be used – but the partner would neither be able to install them all nor, more importantly, pay for them. It was this twist of fate that led to cars being built in Friedrichshafen at Maybach Motor Works.

Back then cars were largely manufactured as chassis, onto which bodywork was installed. This was also the path taken at Maybach Motor Works but now a chassis needed to be developed. The task was quickly taken up and completed not much later. The W 1 type engine was installed in the new chassis and was combined with a newly developed cooler grill, essentially giving the vehicle a ‘face’. A body taken from a Daimler military vehicle was put on the chassis and the first Maybach test vehicle had seen the light of day. This car was given the same designation as the engine it was using – “W 1” — and though photographic documents exist, the original is lost without a trace.

Maybach W3 Advert Page from around 1921 | © MTU Friedrichshafen

 

One would expect the W 1 car to be followed by a W 2 model, but interestingly no such vehicle is known to have existed. The first Maybach Car in serial production got the designation W 3. It used the W 2 type engine and was presented in 1921 at the IAA (Internationale Automobil Ausstellung = International Automobile Exhibition) Berlin from the 23rd of September to the 2nd of October. Delivering 70 horsepower already at 2200 revs., it was met with good resonance by the press and the public as it combined the Maybach quality standard with new technical intricacies. Two of these are mentioned on our advertising page : ‘Ohne Schaltung’, meaning ‘without gear shift’ and ‘Vierrad-Bremse’ meaning ‘four-wheel break’. The first meant that due to the engine’s elasticity, the car used only two gears which could be shifted via a foot lever. The result of the driver rarely having to take his or her hands off the steering wheel was taken another step further by embedding the mechanism for the horn into the door – the driver thereby could use it with his or her forearm. The four-wheel brake system mentioned above, which had been developed at Maybach, made tours a safer endeavor and was for the first time used in a serial car in Germany. It effectivity further enhanced driving comfort as it lessened the need to shift gears. Maybach cars were never produced in large numbers because they were top-notch products in terms of reliability, quality, and performance. Sadly, none of the remarkable vehicles that were the W 3 series, has survived till today. The chassis by itself cost a whopping 24,000 Reichsmarks and an additional 15 to 25,000 had to be added, depending on what kind of body was to be installed. For reference : the average yearly salary in 1924 was 1,233 Reichsmarks. The cars that followed the W 3, such as the twelve Cylinder models Maybach 12 and DS 7 and 8, are legends to this day still — a hundred years after the story began.

 


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