Every name has a story behind it, whether it’s why your parents chose your name, or in this case how a very iconic car brand was born.
Mercedes has been a well known female name for centuries, especially in Spain and Spanish speaking countries, but in 1898 the name was given to a race team which eventuated in the Mercedes Benz that we know now.
In October 1897, a very well known Austrian businessman – and car buff – by the name of Emil Jellinek travelled from Nice, France to buy a car from DMG in Cannstatt, Germany after seeing it advertised in the newspaper. The first car that was delivered had six-hp two-cylinder engine and was belt driven. The car had a top speed of 24 km/h though this was too slow for Jellinek so he placed an order for two more cars and demanded a speed of 40 km/h.
He finally convinced both Mr Daimler and the designer Wilhelm Maybach that the future of the automobile lay in speed and elegance. For him, speed was not about the attraction of being careless, rather the actual purpose of a motor vehicle:
“If I can’t get any more from a car than I would get from a horse and carriage, I might as well stick with the horse!”
Two Daimler Phoenix 28hp were delivered to Emil in September 1898, sporting four front-mounted eight-hp engines and an electronic ignition.
This new vehicle made such an impression on Emil, that he decided to enter the local touring competition in 1899 known as the “Nice Week”, where he registered his “Daimler Phoenix 28hp” car as “Mercedes” after his young daughter, and himself under the pseudonym Mr “Mercedes”.
After the tragic race accident in 1900 of Whilhem Bauer in a Daimler “Phoenix” 23 hp registered as “Mercedes II”, the reaction from Stuttgart was to blame the excessive engine power, and they planned to stay away from all high-speed driving in future. However, Emil Jellinek managed to convince Wilhelm Maybach that the car’s high centre of gravity was the reason behind the accident.
“Victories make you world-famous. People buy the winning brand, and always will. It would be commercial suicide to stay away from racing,” argued Jellinek.”
DMG yielded to Jellinek’s urgings and, in April 1900, decided to develop an all-new car with an all-new engine. Following Jellinek’s suggestion, the new model series (36 cars in total) was to appear under the name “Daimler-Mercedes“.
The first new model, a Mercedes 35 hp racing car, was delivered to Jellinek on 22 December 1900. Developed by Wilhelm Maybach, it caused a sensation at the start of the century, as it was the world’s most sophisticated car to date.