Author Topic: Wilhelm Maybach designs the first Mercedes  (Read 23642 times)

Offline fasteddy

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Wilhelm Maybach designs the first Mercedes
« on: October 31, 2006, 04:39:31 PM »
The blueprint

Commission for a completely new type of vehicle
First model delivered on December 22, 1900 to Emil Jellinek
Dawn of a new era in automotive technology
More power, improved roadholding, greater safety

Stuttgart, May 22, 2002
The Austrian businessman Emil Jellinek, who was living in Nice and Vienna at the turn of the 20th century, is beguiled by the fashionable new mode of transport, and by the cars' speed and performance. It is not just the sporting cars themselves that inspire him though, but the sales opportunities that their power and performance has opened up. He makes no secret of the fact that the Daimler cars are his personal favourite, and is particularly impressed by the precision craftsmanship down to the finest detail. He had collected his first car from Cannstatt back in 1897.

Just two years later, Jellinek is making a handsome living from export sales of the Daimler cars. Nice in the South of France proves to be a veritable goldmine, as it is here on the Cote d?Azur that the exclusive clientele who are able to afford their own car are to be found. In 1900 alone, the business-minded motoring enthusiast sells 28 Daimler vehicles, almost a third of the total production that year of the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG).

In spring 1900, motor racing is all the rage on the Cote d?Azur. March 30 marks the start of the Nice-La Turbie hill-climb, with the starting grid including a 23-hp Phoenix racing car from DMG driven by the plant foreman, Wilhelm Bauer. He is tragically killed, however, when his car comes off the racetrack. Following the accident, DMG adopts a much more reserved attitude towards motor racing. The unremitting sportsman and salesman Emil Jellinek is unfazed however: just a few days later on April 2, 1900 he commissions DMG to build a more competitive car for the next race season, with an output of at least 35 hp, a lighter engine and a lower centre of gravity. Those are his defining criteria, "light, attractive and quick," together with the proviso that the new cars sold by Jellinek would be named after the businessman's ten-year-old daughter, "Mercedes". To add extra substance to his detailed demands, Jellinek places an immediate order for 36 vehicles in the requested specification, a sensational order of unprecedented magnitude for DMG.

Jellinek is firmly convinced that the only person with the skill to match his stipulations is DMG's gifted design chief, Wilhelm Maybach. Maybach recognises instantly that the specifications warrant a fundamental redesign of the car. How could this possibly be achieved by October 15 though, the requested delivery date? It is an almost superhuman challenge.

35-hp four-cylinder engine marking a host of technical milestones

Maybach completely reworks the four-cylinder Phoenix engine: displacement is increased to nearly six litres. The horizontally split crankshaft is made from cast aluminium; the cast-iron cylinders are arranged in pairs and the removable cylinder heads are replaced by a cast-on design. Maybach uses magnalium, a special aluminium/magnesium alloy, for the main bearings. The intake valves, which were previously opened automatically by the vacuum forming in the engine, are controlled for the first time by a camshaft. The non-encapsulated camshafts on the left and right of the crankcase are driven by an open gearset on the flywheel side.

The exhaust camshaft also serves the low-voltage magneto ignition, the redesigned water pump and the radiator fan. Each pair of cylinders is fitted with a spray-nozzle carburettor, yet another first. A lever on the steering wheel is used for regulating the engine speed between 300 and a maximum of 1000 rpm. The engine has a power to weight ratio of just six kilograms per horsepower, a new benchmark figure at the time. And what is more, all these improvements together result in a revolutionary change in the quality of the engine characteristics, something which hardly anyone had believed possible.

When it comes to installing the drive unit in the chassis, Maybach opts to leave out the auxiliary frame which had been customary up until then. Instead, he simply narrows the front part of the frame and bolts the engine directly onto the side members, which are manufactured from pressed steel panelling for the first time. As well as trimming the weight, this method also allows Maybach to achieve the lower centre of gravity he is aiming for.

Jellinek enquires constantly about how work is progressing, first sending telegrams then eventually travelling to Cannstatt in person to see how his "Mercedes" is coming along. Maybach keeps explaining and drafting as he works tirelessly on this car which was to be unlike any other previously seen.

Easy-to-use four-speed transmission and revolutionary steering

The designer does not overlook even the tiniest detail. Another of the car's pioneering new features, for example, is the extremely compact, self-adjusting coil clutch. This consists of a coiled spring made of wound spring steel which is attached onto the transmission shaft and mounted within the flywheel by means of a small drum. A conical cam governs the tension in the spring while declutching. Later models benefit greatly from this particular development.

A single lever in a shift gate is used to engage the four forward gears and reverse gear. Yet another new detail is the improved, lighter helical-spindle steering, which is installed even further towards the rear at a relatively slanted angle. The steering axles are extended to the outer edges of the vehicle to be near to the wheel hubs. The result of this is permanent damping of knocks transferred to the steering by irregularities in the road surface. The long wheelbase, wider track and the almost identical dimensions of the wheels at the front and rear ensure that one of the hallmarks of the first ever Mercedes is extremely stable handling.

The increase in engine performance needs to be matched by more powerful brakes. Drum brakes measuring 30 centimetres across are fitted to the rear wheels, which the driver is able to operate using a hand lever. A foot-operated service brake is also fitted in the form of a highly efficient, water-cooled cardan brake.

Powerful cooling system using honeycomb radiator

One of the inventions showcased in this first Mercedes which causes the greatest stir, and which has essentially remained unchanged until today, is the honeycomb radiator. The coiled-tube radiators which had been the norm up until this point, were barely able to contain the excessive water consumption of cars at the time. The radiator of the 23-hp Phoenix racing car had already been redesigned by Maybach: his "tubular radiator" as it was known comprised a whole series of tubes, which allowed a higher airflow through the water reservoir, which nevertheless had a capacity of 18 litres.

In the case of the Mercedes, the throughput of air is increased dramatically. Maybach recognises that small tubes with a square cross section improve the airflow, and consequently, the cooling capacity. A total of 8070 of these square-shaped tubes, each measuring six millimetres along its edge, are soldered together to form a revolutionary, rectangular-shaped radiator, including a small reservoir on top. The net result is a reduction in the volume of water needed to just nine litres. For the first time, a fan behind the radiator is used to boost cooling capacity at low road speeds. The honeycomb radiator is born and the problem of cooling in motor vehicles is finally laid to rest.

Record speed set during hill-climb race on the Cote d?Azur

The first trials of the new car take place on November 22, 1900 and Jellinek takes delivery of the first ever "Mercedes" on December 22 of the same year. Just three months later, a total of five Mercedes models join the starting line-up for the Nice Speed Week ? and dominate the race from start to finish, reaching speeds of up to 86 km/h. In the Nice?La Turbie hill-climb, the German-manufactured cars average a speed of 51.4 km/h, smashing the previous best of 31.3 km/h.

Automotive experts and the general public alike are enthralled. The general secretary of the Automobil Club de France, Paul Meyan, declares later with awe, "Nous sommes entres dans l?ere Mercedes" ? "We have entered the Mercedes era." Following the race, the French sports journal "L'Auto-Velo" is moved to comment, "If any vehicle is going to pose a threat to us in this international contest, then it is the Mercedes cars."

The design concept of history's first "true" car is soon pointing the way forward for the rest of the car industry, and opens up the design "floodgates". From now on, a sleek profile, high performance, honeycomb radiator, low bonnet line, long wheelbase, gate-type gearshift, slanted steering, almost identically sized wheels front and rear, plus low weight are the key ingredients, the "essence" as it were, of automotive engineering.

Technical data
35-hp Mercedes from 1900/1901

No. of cylinders 4 in-line, cast together in pairs
Bore x stroke  116 x 140 mm
Displacement 5913 cm?
Rated output 35 hp at 950 rpm
Carburettor two spray-nozzle carburettors
Valves vertical at side, two lateral camshafts
Cooling honeycomb radiator 
Ignition low-voltage magneto make-and-break ignition
Starter starting crank, decompressor
Drive train
Drive unit front-mounted engine, chain drive to rear wheels 
Clutch coil clutch
 four-speed sliding gear transmission
Gearshift gate-type shift lever mounted on outside right
Frame pressed steel frame made from U-shaped members 
Front axle rigid axle, semi-elliptic springs
Rear axle rigid axle, semi-elliptic springs
Steering helical-spindle steering, mounted on right
Service brake mechanical, water-cooled, acting on cardan shaft
Hand brake mechanical, acting on rear wheel drums
General data
Wheelbase 2330 mm
Track 1400 mm
Wheels wooden spokes with steel rims, not removable
Tyres 910 x 90 at front, 1020 x 120 at rear
Weight 1200 kg
Top speed 70 - 75 km/h