Mercedes-Benz Museum Offers a One of a Kind Look at Automotive History

Words John Clark | July 10, 2012
The Mercedes-Benz Museum is the only museum that can document in a single continuous timeline over 125 years of automobile history
Words John Clark July 10, 2012

The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany is the only museum in the world that can document, in a single continuous timeline, over 125 years of automobile history from its very beginnings to the present day. On nine levels and covering a floor space of 16,500 square metres, the museum presents 160 vehicles and over 1,500 exhibits. As a place of innovation, it also demonstrates that history can point the way ahead.

The exhibition not only presents the fascinating history of the Mercedes-Benz brand, it also affords illuminating insights into the future. This dual function is also reflected in the architecture of the Mercedes-Benz Museum, designed by the UNStudio of Dutch architects van Berkel and Bos, Amsterdam, also responsible for Tribeca’s Five Franklin Place.  The museum’s interior is inspired by the double helix structure of the DNA spiral that carries the human genome. This in turn illustrates the Mercedes-Benz brand’s philosophy – to continuously create radically new products to advance the cause of human mobility.

During a two-hour tour of the exhibit, visitors experience a unique journey through automotive history. Transported by lift to the uppermost level of the museum, the visitor arrives back in the year 1886, where two museum tours gradually spiral their way down through the extensive collection and back to the museum exit.

The first of the tours consists of seven Legend rooms which narrate the chronological history of the brand. The second group tours five separate Collection rooms filled with vehicles, which thematically document the breadth and diversity of the brand portfolio and collection. Visitors may choose to switch from one tour to the other at any time as both tours finish at the banked curve entitled Silver Arrows – Races & Records. The exhibition is finished off by the Fascination of Technology display, which offers a glimpse into day-to-day work at Mercedes-Benz and also presents topics concerning the future of the automobile.

Continue reading for a more detailed look at the collections at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, or better yet, start planning your trip to Stuttgart now.

Museum Collections

The exhibition at the Mercedes-Benz Museum is divided into Legend rooms and Collection rooms. The Legend rooms narrate the history of the Mercedes-Benz brand, dividing it into themes and epochs. The rooms are ordered chronologically and the exhibition is fully through-designed. The Collection rooms are arranged thematically and document the breadth and diversity of the brand’s vehicles. The Fascination of Technology on Level 0 offers a glimpse into present-day Research & Development at Mercedes-Benz.

The seven Legend rooms, which take visitors on a chronological journey through the history of the automobile to the present day, are each linked by 80-metre ramps. With the exception of the first and last rooms, the Legend tour is designed in line with a consistent principle: along the outside of a curved, clover-leaf wall, a ramp sweeps down to the vehicles, which form the focal point of each display. While visitors can look down at the exhibits to the right-hand side, a chronological display on their left illustrates key events in corporate history as seen against their specific historical backdrop. The Legend rooms offer a striking illustration of the context in which epoch-making innovations in automotive engineering were made.

Each Legend room illustrates a particular era by developing a central theme. These include the invention of the independent, petrol-driven road vehicle, the origin of the Mercedes brand, the development of the supercharger and diesel engine, the Gullwing and semi-forward control trucks of the 1950s, the increasing importance of safety and environmental protection, the brand’s global presence, and in the final Legend room the complete history of racing and record-breaking cars.

  • Legend 1: Pioneers – The Invention of the Automobile, 1886 – 1900
  • Legend 2: Mercedes – Birth of the Brand, 1900 – 1914
  • Legend 3: Times of Change – Diesel and Supercharger, 1914 – 1945
  • Legend 4: Post-war Miracle – Form and Diversity, 1945 – 1960
  • Legend 5: Visionaries – Safety and Environment, 1960 – 1982
  • Legend 6: New Start – The Road to Emissionfree Mobility
  • Legend 7: Silver Arrows – Races & Records

The Collection rooms: thematic layout

The generously designed Collection rooms accommodate a large number of exhibits providing broad coverage of the background to each themed room.

The themes range from travel by bus, taxi or passenger car, goods transportation and distribution, the Gallery of Helpers documenting firefighting, the emergency services and municipal operations, celebrity cars, the Gallery of Heroes, with exhibits from everyday situations and changing special exhibitions.

Discreet floor graphics reminiscent of road markings indicate the topic of each Collection room and the direction to be taken through the vehicle layout. The vehicles in the Gallery of Helpers, for example, are all oriented towards a focal point in the centre of the space, while the Gallery of Celebrities is displayed on high-quality wooden plinths.

Alongside the ramp linking each Legend tour to one of the Collection rooms is a glass showcase, viewable from both sides. On the outside it displays model vehicles, on the inside smaller exhibits such as vehicle parts, accessories and promotional articles. A “micro-cinema” also shows films illustrating the topic of each Collection room.

  • Collection 1: Gallery of Voyagers
  • Collection 2: Gallery of Carriers
  • Collection 3: Gallery of Helpers
  • Collection 4: Gallery of Celebrities
  • Collection 5: Gallery of Heroes

Emotional finale at the banked curve

Both the Legend and Collection tours end up at the “Silver Arrows – Races & Records” display, where a steep banked curve sweeps around the entire exhibition space, gradually becoming a vertical, cylindrical wall studded with famous record-breaking cars.

Legend 7 is an emotional finale to the museum tour. On entering this area, visitors are able to take a seat on a grandstand opposite the banked curve, either to savour the impressive overall image for a while or view film footage of historic motor races shown on six different monitors. The grandstand is connected to a passageway behind the banked curve, which opens out into a “racing tunnel” leading to the Legend room devoted to “Races & Records”. Original memorabilia from famous racing drivers and two racing simulators offer visitors a further opportunity to immerse themselves in the fascinating world of motorsport.

The banked curve gradually becomes a vertical wall on which famous record-breaking cars are mounted – from the record-breaking W 125 of 1938 to the solar-powered Solarmobile, which won the Tour de Sol from Lake Constance to Lake Geneva in the mid 1980s. At the centre of this cylindrical display, five platforms rise from the lower level of the connecting building, displaying experimental vehicles past and present. These exhibits link the museum tour with the Fascination of Technology display area, which covers an area of 800 square metres and showcases the current state of development and gives a prospect of the future.