The Mercedes Museum
A quick trip at the heart of Merc's history
Every time we come to Glemseck to attend the huge Cafe Racer meeting it's impossible not to take a trip to one of Suttgart's pride. Being this city the birthplace of two of the most decorated car companies in the world you have the opportunity to see in the flesh some great pieces of the automotive world in just a few hours and few miles.
Last year we visited the Porsche Museum and its incredible collection of racing icons: lots of friend started telling us that the Mercedes Museum was even bigger and better so exactly an year later we were in front of the ticket office to check ourselves.
The structure is actually huge and is conceived in a very unique way: the huge initial square is the "launch base" for 3 large elevators that are designed to look like you're a caracter in Metropolis by Fritz Lang.
The path of the visit in fact starts from the top. at the 8th floor and goes down to the ground. in the lower part, before entering the actual visit, you can find a bookshop, some cool concepts from various eras, record machines and a bar to take a break before or after the visit.
Almost everything is designed to work in a circular way, like an helix. Actually the museum concept is a double helix , one dedicated to the personal vehicles and one dedicated to public services and special vehicles designed for commercial use.
Once you step off the retrofuturistic elevators you're in front of the true beginning of the modern mobility as we know it. A series of pioneristic examples of internal combustion engines are diplayed together with the first experimental 2, 3 and 4 wheelers.
They're more familiar to bicycles and carriages than real cars but it's so cool to see how much road has gone since those early years.
Then the course starts to go down and at every floor lots of examples from a particular age are displayed together with all the historical references of same period. This is really useful because helps the spectator in evaluating Mercedes products compared to the years they have been designed and built.
These objects are really a non-stop surprise beacuse the miss almost all the features we're used to see on our everyday commutes.
The external helix is one of the many unexpected characteristics of this exposition: when i think about the Mercedes brand i'm more focused on luxury, performance and big 4 door saloon models but visiting the Museum you can discover how much involvement they put in developing work-spec machines.
Public transportation is one of the first areas of intervention and you can see examples coming from the first half of the last century.
Every floor gets a little bit easier in recognizing the Mercedes icons we all are more used to.
Classic and super sleek lines start to find their place on the streamlined bodywork of these models.
The interior are just incredible too and they're a true evidence of how the concept of luxury was conceived more than 70 years ago.
These cars are really huge compared to nowadays examples but thank to the incredible skills of the coachbuilders their dimensions are not an issue for the observer.
Speaking of dimensions let's go for something completely different and miles away from luxurious two seaters convertibles: lorries!
Merdedes has a strong tradition in building strong workhorses and lots of them are on display in the exposition. Among them it's possible to see in the flesh one of the vehicles that pushed the boundaries of "commercial transport": in the 50s Mercedes built a superfast transporter for their F1 team that could travel at more than 100 mph to bring the cars from the factory to the tracks and back to the factory in case of accident or upgrades.
The next floor shows the unmistakable shape of the 300 SL gullwing, probably one of the nicest cars ever produced.
And, behind the classic models, a super-rare 300 Slr Uhlenhaut Coupe is displayed in all its glory.
The color combination - silver bodywork and red leather interior - looks stunning even by today's standards. I can't imagine how cool it would be to take a journey inside one of these..
The visit is going fast towards the eighties and the peculiar boxy design. These are the standard of the Mercs i got used to considering i was born in those years.
On the special vehicles side this floor is dedicated to all the cars that were produced for vips and unique situations like the carrier for the Deutsch football team, the rides of many presidents and kings and even the "Papa-mobile".
The second to last floor is dedicated to the experimental vehicles that were used to study alternative fuels like hydrogen and electric motors. Here you can see some example of contemporary technlogies that for me are hard to understand due to my little experience in hybrids and generators.
Speaking of something more faithful to my attitudes we've finally arrived to the bottom of the bulding: this part is completely dedicated to the racing tradition of the brand and lots of the most recognizable racing vehicles are deployed in a banked turn-like display.
They're displayed in a chronological order, from the first experimental vehicles of the first decades of the XX century to the last winning F1. Some of their gorgeous power units are also visible.
This solution is very functional n showing the evolution of the shape and of the mechanichal solutions throughout more than 100 years of competitions.
Not only the cars but even the outfits , equipments and prizes from various times are displayed beside the main exibition area.
Many "Silver Arrows" share the first circuit section with their simple but super effective design.
One of Fangio's winning models and one of Mika Hakkinen rides have been dismantled and presented in a super cool structure that unveils most of the way they wer built.
The generational gap among them is just unbelievable, like the skill and the courage that is needed to drive them flat out.
The hardest part is to find a subject to focus on because there are so many fantastic vehicles that you'd like the time to stop.
The group C cars are always a great shock for me because they've always been among my favourites in the racing universe and i have so many informations because i sometimes try to build scale models of them.
Anothere interesting point is the incredible level of the details of the late F1 models with all thier aero tweaks and miniaturized mechanical parts.
In the end it's not an easy task to say whichof the two museum is the best and i'm convinced there's no point in trying to sort this question out. Because, as a petrolhead, i think there always is so many things to see and to learn in every occasion that i really enjoy every bit of it.
But if you want a turistical advice, here you have: while the Porsche museum is a actually a racing history museum, the Mercedes one is just more an automotive history museum. But you have to see both, no doubts about it!