Author Topic: The rear shelf: Mercedes-Benz Museum Inside No. 29/2021  (Read 2077 times)

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The rear shelf: Mercedes-Benz Museum Inside No. 29/2021
« on: April 23, 2021, 03:51:38 PM »
Stuttgart. 160 vehicles and a total of 1,500 exhibits are presented in the varied permanent exhibition of 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 all about the rear shelf.

29/33: The rear shelf

Stylish stowage space: If you were a man in the middle of the 20th century and liked to dress elegantly, you probably wore a hat as headgear outside the house. However, in a closed car – especially in a saloon or coupé – this was not necessary and the hat could be removed. The permanently installed cover over the luggage compartment proved to be the perfect stowage space for fedora, homburg, panama and Co. This space is located between the backrests of the rear seats and the rear window and separates the luggage compartment below from the interior of the vehicle. Because it was typically used for this purpose, it was quickly given the prosaic name of “hat rack”, at least in Germany.

Free space for accessories: The term “hat rack” was, in reality, applied a little late, because the number of men wearing hats had already been declining since the German economic miracle of the 1950s. Then the area was used as a platform for displaying various accessories, which included bobblehead sausage dogs, crocheted toilet paper roll covers and embroidered cushions. All three examples are on display together at the Mercedes-Benz Museum as one of “33 Extras”.

Nodding favourite: The dachshund, or sausage dog, was one of the most popular dogs in Germany. It became established as a mascot in cars in the 1960s: the plastic figure of a brown, short-haired sausage dog had a movable head that bobbed up and down as the car moved. In the 1980s, this bobblehead was then removed from most cars because it was felt to be a rather bourgeois accessory. A short time later, however, the appreciators of young classics and other lovers of popular culture of the late 20th century rediscovered it as an iconic, popular figure. Anyone looking for such a figure today will find one at Mercedes-Benz: the item is available as an original accessory – including a collar with a Mercedes star.

The role of the roll: Toilet paper with a self-crocheted cover was also often found on the rear shelf when motoring became popular among broad sections of the population after the 1950s. The reason for this was that the sanitary infrastructure along trunk roads did not develop quite as fast as the enthusiasm for excursions in one’s own car. So it was a good idea to have backup on board.

Cushion-aid: The embroidered cushion on the rear shelf often looked like the twin brother of the kitschy Biedermeier sofa cushion. But there were also versions with more meaningful content: in the 1970s, many cars sported a first-aid kit disguised as a plastic cushion on the rear shelf.

Safety first: As humorous and whimsical as some of the ornaments on the rear shelf may seem, common sense strongly advises against leaving objects lying loosely in this area. If they are catapulted forward with considerable force in an accident, they pose a risk to passengers.

Innovation: The rear shelf is probably felt to be a rather inconspicuous component in the car. But at Mercedes-Benz, it also includes a certain innovative spirit. Over the years, recesses for retractable head restraints or a recess secured with a lid for the first-aid kit were incorporated in it.

The legend of Adenauer’s hat: Gentlemen’s hats have played a recurring role in the history of Mercedes-Benz – albeit not always on the “hat rack”. The first German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, for example, allegedly chose the Mercedes-Benz 300, introduced in 1951, as his official car partly because he wore a hat. He found that he could get into that spacious, representative saloon without knocking his hat off his head – as had happened with other makes.

The hat returns: But what about the common stereotype that many a conservative driver of a Mercedes-Benz Saloon insisted on keeping his hat on at the wheel? The brand made the most of this image as a welcome marketing tool: “Mercedes drivers are wearing hats again,” was used as a slogan nine years ago at the launch of the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class. In fact, for the launch in 2012, a fashionable trilby made of black wool felt with a smart contrasting check pattern in the band was available as an accessory to match the youthful, sporty image of these compact models. It was designed specifically for Mercedes-Benz – and certainly cut a fine figure on the rear shelf.

 

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