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The Majesty of Maybach

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Hello again dear readers! Today we are looking at one of European automotive history’s most important engineers and designers, Wilhelm Maybach. Though many of us today are familiar with the Maybach Mercedes series of elite sedans, fewer people know that they are named after one of the originators of the Mercedes brand.

On February 9, 1846, Wilhelm Maybach was born in Heilbronn, Germany. Maybach was only 19 years old and studying industrial engineering when Gottlieb Daimler hired him as an apprentice in his workshop. This relationship lasted nearly 35 years until Daimler’s death in 1900. When Daimler moved to Cologne to work with Nikolaus Otto, he brought Maybach as his chief designer, and together they invented the Otto four-stroke engine, which would be the foundation for many commercial engines at the time and was also one of the most important breakthroughs in gas-powered engines.

Daimler and Maybach struck out on their own and initially experienced a rough road full of trial and error and some financial upheaval, but their greatest successes were applying their engines to boats and prototype motorcoaches before finally building the world’s first motorcycle, the Reitwagen, in 1884.

After this incredible breakthrough, the duo built what they referred to as a “grandfather clock engine,” which would be the progenitor for most every petrol-powered engine in history. They used it for numerous applications, including boats, early motorcoaches, and even the world’s first motorized airship - a balloon - which launched in August 1888.

From this point forward, Maybach used his experience working on Otto’s and Daimler’s four-stroke coupled with the grandfather clock design to produce one of the earliest and most widespread automobile engines in the world. Daimler and Maybach set up facilities in the United Kingdom, in the US under the Steinway brand, in France under Peugeot, and at home in Germany. Their engines and automobiles were considered the finest in the world at the end of the 19th century, and Maybach soon established his own business, financed by Daimler. Unfortunately, Maybach suffered from two major tragedies at the turn of the century - his son was diagnosed with schizophrenia (and would much later be murdered by Nazis in forced euthanasia), and his dear friend Gottlieb Daimler passed away.

Maybach was determined not let these setbacks best him, and in 1902, he released a 35 hp race car named Mercedes. It had a longer and wider wheelbase than any other car at the time, and it sat very low and was quite fast, hitting up to 75 mph. The newly minted automobile company was named DMG for Daimler-Mercedes Group.

This newfound fame would ultimately attract the attention of Ferdinand von Zeppelin, and Maybach would go on to apply his engines to those namesake airships built throughout the entire First World War.

The final achievement in Maybach’s fabled career was the establishment of his own independent automobile company, which would again produce some of the finest and most luxurious vehicles in the world from 1922 to 1945.

Thanks for stopping in, dear readers. We truly hope that you enjoyed today’s little history lesson. Check in with us next week to see what new roads we explore!

-Trey Fennell



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