Chronicle of a Century of Engines

Posted on March 10, 2009

Karl Maybach, Wilhelm Maybach and Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin – 100 years ago, these three pioneers of technology made engineering history when they founded Luftfahrzeug-Motorenbau GmbH.

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Friedrichshafen, 10 March 2009. Karl Maybach, Wilhelm Maybach and Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin – 100 years ago, these three pioneers of technology made engineering history when they founded Luftfahrzeug-Motorenbau GmbH. After a succession of partnership (the company entered into cooperation with Daimler-Benz in 1960; MAN joined nine years later), the company finally took on the name which today is synonymous with the successful development and production of diesel engines and propulsion plant: MTU Friedrichshafen.



1909 In 1908, in a letter to Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838 - 1917), Wilhelm Maybach (1846 - 1929) drew attention to an engine design developed by his son Karl (1879 - 1960). Count Zeppelin took up the idea and, on 23 March 1909, the Luftfahrzeug-Motorenbau GmbH company was founded with its headquarters at Bissingen an der Enz.
The first airship engine was already on the test stand by the fall of 1909. This was the Type AZ (107 kW / 145 HP), a 6-cylinder unit with outstanding power-to-weight ratio and tailored precisely to the needs of the aero-industry. It was designed so that pistons, cylinders and valves could be exchanged simply during a journey whilst the engine was switched off. The engine first went into service in the LZ 6 in 1910. The first zeppelin to fly exclusively with three AZ engines was the LZ 10 “Schwaben” (1911).
Over the course of 1911 and 1912, the company relocated to the site of the modern-day MTU Friedrichshafen, Plant 1. In May 1912 it changed its name to Motorenbau GmbH but continued to produce airship engines.
In 1916, Motorenbau GmbH developed an over-compressed aero-engine (Type Mb IVa), the first series-produced high-altitude engine, which was capable of generating 184kW (250HP). The 6-cylinder, in-line, gasoline engine underwent trials at an altitude of 1,800 meters on the Wendelstein mountain in Bavaria. The power loss experienced with aero-engines due to falling air density was compensated by increased cylinder capacity and greater compression, i.e. the engine was “over-dimensioned” and “over-compressed”. Until 1918, this high-altitude engine was primarily fitted in planes, reconnaissance aircraft and airship.
The company was renamed Maybach-Motorenbau on 18 May 1918. Thanks to a consistent demand for aero-engines, by the end of World War I the plant had undergone considerable growth with numerous new buildings and a workforce of up to 3,600.
The Treaty of Versailles prohibited German companies from producing aircraft and aero-equipment. Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH had to re-jig its production program virtually overnight and turned to the development of diesel engines for trains as well as automotive applications.
At the Berlin Automobile Exhibition in the fall of 1921, Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH presented the Maybach Type W 3 with an engine producing 51.5kW (70hp). This was a vehicle for the “gentleman driver” which gained status as the “German Rolls Royce”.
The rail company Eisenbahn-Verkehrsmittel-AG (EVA) from Wismar and Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH developed a diesel railcar with the Maybach G 4a engine (110kW/150hp) which was introduced in September 1924. In the 1930s, Maybach brought the GO-engine generation onto the market and in 1933, it was the GO 5 engine which helped the “Fliegender Hamburger” (Hamburg Flier) train set up a new speed record, covering the Berlin - Hamburg route in 2 hours 18 minutes.
Maybach-Motorenbau concentrated on the development of powerful, compact gasoline engines for tracked vehicles and half-tracks. These units were 6-cylinder, in-line and V12 engines. By 1945, the company had supplied a total of around 140,000 of these high-performance units delivering between 100 and 700hp.
From 1943, Friedrichshafen became a constant target for allied bombing raids which severely hampered production at Maybach-Motorenbau. During this period, production was kept going by forced laborers and prisoners-of-war from various countries. In 1943, the design office was relocated to Wangen in the Allgäu region.
By 1945, more than 70% of the company’s production facilities were destroyed. In September 1946, an agreement was reached on development work on a tank engine (Type HL 295) for the French Army and it was this cooperative venture which prevented the dismantling of the factory. In 1948, the development work which had been conducted at Vernon near Paris, led to the re-opening of the Friedrichshafen plant.
This year saw the birth of the first Maybach series, the MD series (MD stands for Maybach Diesel). Originally conceived for rail traction, MD engines were also used by customers to power work machines and, in particular, high-speed boats. As early as 1949/50, these engines laid the foundations for future production at the Friedrichshafen engine plant. High-performance turbocharging and charge-air cooling, pressure-oil-cooled pistons and units with three inlet and exhaust valves per cylinder enabled levels of performance and stability never before achieved.
In 1947, under the terms of the statutes, the assets of the Zeppelin Foundation, which owned shares in Maybach-Motorenbau both in its own right and through Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH, reverted to the town of Friedrichshafen. Karl Maybach sought a means of extricating the company from this situation and his efforts met with success: in 1952 the Friedrichshafen authorities sold their shares. At the same time, the industrial magnate Friedrich Flick acquired a 50% shareholding in Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH.
In 1958, together with the Company Manager Jean Raebel and the Chairman of the Works Council Walter Beig, Karl Maybach founded the ‘Karl-Maybach Charitable Fund’ with a capital of DM 100,000. Its aim was to improve retirement provision for the workforce and to provide fast, unbeaurocratic support in cases of hardship.
On 10 August 1960, the Daimler-Benz subsidiary Industriemotorenbau GmbH and Maybach-Motorenbau began cooperation in the production of large, high-speed engines. On 23 July 1963, Daimler-Benz founded Mercedes-Benz Motorenbau Friedrichshafen GmbH and started the relocation of its large engine production to Friedrichshafen-Manzell. On 28 October 1966, the two companies announced their merger under the name Maybach Mercedes-Benz Motorenbau GmbH.
On 11 July 1969, Daimler-Benz AG (via Maybach Mercedes-Benz Motorenbau GmbH) and MAN AG (via MAN Turbo GmbH) founded mtu companies in Friedrichshafen and Munich. mtu stands for ’Motoren- und Turbinen-Union’. mtu Munich developed and built advanced aero engines whilst MTU Friedrichshafen produced large high-speed diesel engines.
1969 From 1969, the production of drive shafts at the Mercedes-Benz facility in Gaggenau was relocated to Friedrichshafen. The machines remained the property of Mercedes-Benz until the end of 1996 when they were taken over by mtu.
mtu engineers developed the new Series 396 which was specially targeted at the marine and genset markets. Largely similar in design to the Series 331, the new engines had a longer stroke and consequently covered a new performance class. Series 396 came onto the market in 1973.
On 2 May 1974, mtu founded its first subsidiary, mtu Singapore Pte. Ltd (today: MTU Asia). The event was the initial step in the growth of mtu’s international presence in all the world’s important markets. Further mtu subsidiaries followed, for example, mtu Australia Pty. Ltd. in 1977 and mtu North America in 1978.
Deutsche Aerospace AG (DASA) was created in Munich. In this company, Daimler-Benz AG consolidated its activities in the aero-space, defense, aero-engines and high-speed diesel (MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH) sectors.
During the 1990s, MTU Friedrichshafen enhanced its product range with gas engines derived from already existing and planned engine series. The power range covered by the General Electric gas turbines which were included in the product portfolio at the beginning of the 1990s, was also extended. By this time, MTU Friedrichshafen had also already begun work on a carbonate fuel cell for use in cogeneration plants.
In September 1994, MTU Friedrichshafen entered a cooperative venture with the US-American Detroit Diesel Corporation (DDC) which was founded in 1938. Daimler-Benz AG had acquired shares in the company in 1993. The two companies later merged their off-highway activities.
In 1995, MTU Friedrichshafen acquired a 100% shareholding (from mtu Aero Engines München) in L’Orange GmbH, the Stuttgart-based injection specialists for large diesel and heavy fuel engines which had been founded in 1933. A year later, in 1996, mtu introduced its Series 4000 – the world’s first series-produced, large diesel engine with common rail injection.
1 October 1996 saw celebrations marking the debut of the Series 2000 and Series 4000 which had been jointly developed by MTU Friedrichshafen and Detroit Diesel Corporation. The guiding principles underlying development of these engine series were economy, reliability and ease of maintenance. The new engines provided the impetus for the company’s remarkable growth in the commercial sector.
Tailor-made for large, fast ferries, yachts, and governmental vessels, the Series 8000 was introduced in the year 2000. With the 20-cylinder version, producing 9,100 kW and equipped with common rail injection and sequential turbo charging, MTU Friedrichshafen had moved into a new class of engine power.
In December 2005, the DaimlerChrysler corporation sold its Off-Highway Business Unit, consisting of MTU Friedrichshafen and the off-highway division of Detroit Diesel, to the Swedish investment company EQT Partners. In July 2006, EQT founded Tognum GmbH with MTU Friedrichshafen as its core company.
Tognum GmbH gave way to Tognum AG whose shares were listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange for the first time on 2 July 2007. Just two months later, on 24 September 2007, Tognum was listed in the MDAX.
In September 2008, the Tognum subsidiaries specializing in distributed energy systems (MDE in Augsburg, CFC Solutions in Munich, Katolight in Mankato (USA) and the mtu Power Generation division) were consolidated under the “mtu Onsite Energy” brand. The move was preceded by a re-structuring of the Tognum Group into the business units “Engines” and “Onsite Energy & Components” at the beginning of July 2008.
This year, MTU Friedrichshafen celebrates one hundred years of pioneering spirit, drive, power and success. The centenary year will be initiated with an inaugural ceremony in March. This will be followed by an international centenary gala and in July, the company will be inviting staff and their families from all its German locations to a works festival.
Wolfgang Boller Spokesman Regional and Business Media
+49 7541 90 2159
Julia Höchel Spokeswoman Business and Financial Media
+49 7541 90 3989