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Mercedes' roots as the first real auto manufacturer

Mercedes' roots as the first real auto manufacturer

History of Mercedes

Mercedes' roots as the first real auto manufacturer

It’s often said that to know where we’re going it’s a good idea to know where we came from – so, take a deep breath and let’s start this meaningful journey with Alphonse Beau de Rochas. Born in 1815, this French engineer is remembered for his achievements in conceiving the four-stroke internal combustion engine, working out previously overlooked principles of fuel-air mixture prior to the combustion stage. His findings and evaluations on this process were published in 1861, receiving a patent in 1862, but as he did not build the engine history tends to forget him in favour of Nikolaus A. Otto and Étienne Lenoir.

History of Mercedes

The Internal-Combustion Engine and Étienne Lenoir

Étienne Lenoir, born in 1822, devised the first internal-combustion engine that was commercially successful. How did he achieve this? In an ingenious step, Lenoir converted a double-acting steam engine with slide valves to, effectively, inject a mixture of coal gas and air – at the time the performance of just 4 percent fuel efficient consumption was considered an unheard-of triumph. More than this, because of the careful building practices, many machines operated without issue for over 20 years – reaching a distribution quantity of over 1,400 units in France and Britain – mostly being utilized for pumping and printing.

In 1862 Lenoir constructed his first automobile with an adapted engine that would run on liquid fuel. It was able to travel 10 kilometres in 2 to 3 hours. Among his other successful inventions, Lenoir is credited with the invention of electric brakes and a motorboat alongside a method of tanning using ozone (but we won’t hold that against him too much).

History of Mercedes

Nikolaus A. Otto and the Early Steps towards Mercedes

At the same time as Lenoir, over in Germany, Nikolaus A. Otto was working on designs for an internal-combustion engine. Some may remember the name Otto for the Otto Cycle. This describes what happens gas as it is subjected to changes of temperature, pressure, addition of heat, volume, and removal of heat – often elaborated further as:

“An Otto cycle is an idealized thermodynamic cycle that describes the functioning of a typical spark ignition piston engine. It is the thermodynamic cycle most commonly found in automobile engines.”

Now, while the patent exists with Alphonse Beau de Rochas, the first person to have built the engine was Otto.

But Really What Does this Have to Do With Mercedes?

In 1864 Otto founded N. A. Otto & Cie (or, more popularly now known as Deutz AG) and partnered with Eugen Langen and a technical director Goittlieb Daimler. Now, Otto and Langen were more interested in the potential of creating stationary engines and not automobiles – which, as you may have guessed based on the name, was definitely a focus Daimler had in his sights.

Notable people that, at one time or another worked for Deutz AG include: Wilhelm Maybach, Prosper L'Orange, Rudolf Diesel, Robert Bosch and Ettore Bugatti.
Now, Daimler realized that his vision for automobile work would simply not happen under Otto and Deutz, so, he along with Wilhelm Maybach left and founded their own company: Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG), intending to build small, high-speed engines for the automotive industry. Their symbol was created as a three-pointed star to indicate the intended market their products to be used in vehicles for the land, air, and sea.

At the end of World War One, sufficient problems had left the company in economy dire straits, forcing a merger in 1926 between Benz & Cie., changing the name to Daimler-Benz and adopting the popular Mercedes brand that started in 1902 – with the product line of Mercedes-Benz. We’d like to make an honourable mention here to Emil Jellinek, whose fascination with DMG’s products would create a lifelong relationship that saw Jellinek offer his advice and opinions on the vehicles lines (which he sold).

History of Mercedes

Emil Jellinek – The Man Who Named Mercedes

Jellinek was someone who enjoyed being seen and having his vehicles seen – and entered his race-team under the pseudonym Mercedes, taking on the alias Monsieur Mercedes, winning a number of races at the annual event in the French Riviera.

He was not satisfied with the speed on his car, however, and promised a huge sum of money if DMG could make one that would satisfy his speed lust. In this way the Mercedes name became an ingrained part of DMG. Producing a 1900 model that could produce 35 horsepower – not only did the result impress Jellinek, it amazed the entire automotive world with newspapers stating, “We have entered the Mercedes era”.

So, there you have it, from the first real internal-combustion engine being invented and applied, through to the development of what you might call the first luxury sports car – and a legacy that has continued on to see both the Mercedes name and the brand reach worldwide recognition.

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