Mercedes-Benz makes perhaps the most advanced, luxurious, and performance-oriented automobiles on the planet, and that status is not a fluke. They’ve been pumping out innovative and technologically groundbreaking vehicles since Karl Benz introduced what’s considered the first petrol-powered car in 1886. The rear-engined, three-wheeled vehicle changed human transportation forever and presaged the trailblazing automobiles that Mercedes-Benz continues to produce to this day. Here, some of the most fascinating highlights of the storied motor-car corporation's contributions to automotive history.
1. Gottlieb Daimler inadvertently invented the first motorcycle
When Daimler created a vertical, one-cylinder engine in 1885 that ran on gasoline, he stuck it into a wooden frame based off of a bicycle. This cool contraption-monikered the Daimler Reitwagen (riding wagon) or Einspur (single track)-is now considered the very first true motorcycle.
2. The first Mercedes-Benz introduced the modern automobile to the world
Karl Benz patented his three-wheeled, petrol-powered Motorwagen in 1886, which his wife Bertha Benz proceeded to take on a 120-mile tour through Germany without his knowledge. It was powered by a 954cc single-piston, four-stroke engine that boasted a blistering-for-that-time 0.9 hp.
3. Mercedes-Benz made a hybrid vehicle in 1906
Early car companies toyed with a mix of electric- and gasoline-powered vehicles before pure petrol-powered engines took over, and Mercedes-Benz’ Mixte model was their first true hybrid. It had a gas engine in front with a dynamo that supplied spark for the two motors in the rear hubs. The Mixte had a claimed top speed of 75 mph.
4. They were one of the first to stick brakes and suspension on all four wheels
By the summer of 1924, all Mercedes-Benz cars had brakes on all four wheels, helping to solidify the company's commitment to safety. Then, in 1931, they introduced the Mercedes-Benz 170, which had suspension on each corner of the vehicle-leaf springs in the front and an innovative coil spring set-up in the rear.
5. The iconic silver color came from saving weight for a race
Most Mercedes-Benz race cars-and some special and flagship vehicles-are clad in the company’s recognizable silver shade, but that color was originally an off-the-cuff improvisation. In 1934 at the Nürburgring, Mercedes-Benz's white, aluminum-bodied W 25 race car had to be under 750 kg to race, but it came in at one kilogram over weight. The racing team manager decided to have the paint ground off, resulting in a sparkling silver racer that ended up winning the race-and cementing an archetypal color.
6. Safety crumple zones appeared first on a Mercedes-Benz
In 1951, when most American cars subscribed to the more-metal-is-safer philosophy, Mercedes-Benz engineer Béla Barényi’s research led to a patent on special cells within a car body that would deform upon impact. These “crumple zones” helped redistribute the force of impact during a crash and ended up being implemented on Mercedes-Benz cars in 1959.
7. Mercedes-Benz’s high-performance tuning arm, AMG, started in a German garage
Currently, more than 50 cars in Mercedes-Benz's book are AMG vehicles, meaning they contain the brute power of meticulously massaged engines and sublime handling of race-tuned suspension inside relatively mild-mannered models. Mercedes-Benz officially recognized the iconic performance brand-which was founded in the ’60s by two former Daimler-Benz motorsport engineers-after their heavily modified 300 SEL 6.8 sedan (called the Red Pig) took second place at the 24 Hours of Spa in 1971. AMG was officially brought into the fold in 1990.
8. Anti-lock brakes were created specifically for the S-Class in 1978
Brakes that don’t lock up under full pressure on the pedal are now ubiquitous. They've helped save countless lives by allowing the driver to continue to steer the car-and, hopefully, avoid a collision-while braking hard. Mercedes-Benz first refined the technology with Bosch in the ’70s, then added the technology to the S-Class in 1978. Soon after, anti-lock breaks became standard on all Mercedes-Benz models.
9. Certified Pre-owned Mercedes-Benz cars come with an unlimited-mileage warranty
Building on nearly a century worth of precision engineering and safety innovation, today's Mercedes-Benz vehicles come at a premium. Thankfully, through the Mercedes-Benz Certified Pre-owned (CPO) program you can get into an iconic car at a more accessible price point. On top of a more manageable price tag, every CPO Mercedes-Benz is paired with industry-leading coverage: an unlimited-mileage warranty for up to five years, among other perks only offered by Authorized Mercedes-Benz dealers.
10. Mercedes-Benz first unveiled a self-driving car over two decades ago
Self-driving cars are having their moment now, but way back in the ’90s, Mercedes-Benz developed an autonomous system installed in a 1995 W140 S-Class. The car, packed full of microprocessors-making it the equivalent of a supercomputer at the time-drove over 1,000 miles on the Autobahn and hit up to 115 mph with little to no input from a human driver. The systems onboard eventually developed into what you'll find in Mercedes-Benz’s latest safe-driving tech.
11. All CPO cars are certified and reconditioned by skilled Mercedes-Benz technicians
Continuing their commitment to quality without compromise, the Mercedes-Benz CPO program offers the most coveted late model cars-covering sedans, coupes, wagons, and SUVs-that have been certified and reconditioned by skilled Mercedes-Benz technicians to bring them as close to new as the laws of physics and time will allow. This ensures a like-new experience, inside and out.
This story originally appeared on Road & Track.
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