Maybach cars celebrate 90th anniversary
Posted on September 06, 2011
It was 90 years ago that the era of the Maybach motor car began. In September 1921, Maybach Motorenbau GmbH, the company which became the present-day Tognum subsidiary MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH, presented its first motor car to the public.
- Debut as car maker at 1921 Berlin Motor Show
- Innovative drivetrain technology set standards
- Keeping history alive at Maybach Club meeting in Friedrichshafen beginning of September
Friedrichshafen, 6 September 2011. It was 90 years ago that the era of the Maybach motor car began. In September 1921, Maybach Motorenbau GmbH, the company which became the present-day Tognum subsidiary MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH, presented its first motor car to the public. To mark the occasion of this major anniversary and to coincide with the celebrations for the Friedrichshafen bicentennial, the annual meeting of the Maybach Owner's Club is taking place on the second weekend in September in the town on the banks of Lake Constance. It is being organized by the Zeppelin Museum with support from Tognum AG. Today there are still around 160 Maybach cars in existence across the world. Most of them are still roadworthy and their owners regularly meet up at events organized by the Maybach Club in Germany.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the German luxury car industry enjoyed one of its golden eras. It was in those years that the legendary Maybach luxury limousines were built in Friedrichshafen. The marque made its debut 90 years ago. From 23 September to 2 October 1921, Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH exhibited its first car, the Type 22/70 HP (internally designated the W 3) at the Berlin Motor Show.
The W 3 offered a range of technical highlights that were enthusiastically received by the media. It was the first German car to feature braking of all four wheels. Another innovation and a substantial simplification for the driver was the Maybach two-speed planetary-gear transmission, because it no longer required double-declutching. And the engine was started by an electric starter motor.
The straight-six engine designated the Type W 2 combined proven technology with innovation. It carried over the principle of oversizing from the Maybach aircraft engines. The resulting high torque in the mid-power range firstly improved its responsiveness in a car and secondly made it suitable for commercial vehicles and boats. The 70 hp (51.5 kW) at 2,200 rpm that the power unit developed represented outstanding performance for the standards of the time.
The components of the car produced by Maybach comprised the complete chassis, i.e. including engine, gearbox and drive train. Throughout its period of automobile production ending in 1941, Maybach contracted out bodywork and interior fitting to the numerous specialist coach building firms in Germany in that era.
As well as making cars, the company devoted its main efforts to producing a comprehensive range of engines for numerous applications. There were petrol and diesel engines for use in boats, commercial vehicles, buses and, of course, the legendary Zeppelin airships. In 1924, Maybach presented the first diesel engine for railcars and in so doing made a large contribution to the conversion of the railways from steam power to diesel.
By 1941, when motor car production in Friedrichshafen came to an end, around 1,800 six and twelve-cylinder vehicles had been sold to the well-heeled clientele. Karl Maybach always emphasized that his aim was to produce the technically most superior motor car and satisfy the most demanding customer expectations. Outstanding among his creations was the Maybach Zeppelin DS 8 launched in 1931 which featured a high-performance engine capable of 200 hp (147 kW) and a highly advanced double overdrive transmission.