The beautiful design continues as you enter the exhibits. Logically, it starts with the first self-powered vehicles. The very first "car" was invented by Karl Benz in 1886, a replica is seen here on the left. On the right, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach's Motorized Carriage, which first ran a few months later. In the foreground, Daimler's single-cylinder internal combustion engine that made it all work.
The museum has a clever layout, with a sort of double-helix floor structure. This maximizes exhibit space, though you have to be careful to see everything on each helix side before you descend to the next group of floors.
While one helix tells a roughly chronological progression of the history of Mercedes, the other groups together cars into a specific theme. This is the Gallery of Voyagers that highlights some of the many buses, limos and long distance cruisers built by Mercedes over the decades.
Some early London double-decker buses used Mercedes truck chassis built in Germany with bodies built in England. This example, from 1907, was used by Vanguard, which would get bought out by the London General Omnibus Company.
Before heading back to the "timeline" helix, I checked out the next Collection down, the Gallery of Carriers, Mercedes trucks designed to haul all sorts of things. This, for example, is a mobile post office from the 1930s.
One of my favorite vehicles at the museum, this weird looking oddball is a 1955 high-speed race car transporter, a Rennwagen-Schnelltransporter. The original prototype was presumably destroyed, so this one was built more recently using the original blueprints. Top speed was 106 mph.
Mercedes stopped racing before the hardtop 300 SLR could tear up a track in anger. The head of the racing program used it as his personal vehicle instead. Interestingly, the clutch is on one side of the bellhousing/driveshaft tunnel, the brake and gas on the other, meaning you had to drive with your legs splayed wide. Hope there wasn't much traffic on his commute.
In order to get accurate and useful measurements while a car was in motion, in an era of limited computer and wireless technology, Mercedes connected two cars with a wire bundle umbilical and drove them together around a track.
This exhibit featured MB's efforts toward fuel economy over the years. The lovely and boxy Auto 2000 wagon seen here featured a body with a low drag coefficient of 0.28, and was used as a test bed for three engines: a V8 with cylinder deactivation, V6 turbo-diesel, and a gas turbine. All were promising tech in 1981 when the car was built.
Mercedes has a long history in motorsport. The exhibit celebrating these race machines is one of the most impressive at the museum. A huge curved display that wraps almost completely around the museum.
There's something more than a little alarming about seeing a massive truck hanging at such an angle. This is a 1450S, the first generation of MB racing trucks. The 18.3-liter V10 developed 1,578 hp and powered it to many victories.
Driving a W196 with its new streamlined "Type Monza" body, Juan Fangio and teammate Karl Kling came in first and second at the 1954 French Grand Prix. The following year, Fangio won the Championship in a slightly improved version, seen here.
The T80, built in 1939 and designed by Ferdinand Porsche, was supposed to break land speed records, but never got the chance due to the start of WWII. Inside was a 44.5-liter V12, larger but related to the one in the Bf 109. It developed over 3,000 hp.