Immerse yourself online in 160 years of Opel’s history…

In 2022, Opel is celebrating the company’s 160th birthday. To mark this anniversary, Opel Classic has a special gift for all fans and friends of autobile history: they can now indulge themselves in the company’s history in the new “160 Years of Opel” theme tour at opel.com/opelclassic.

Automotive buffs as we are, we certainly love everything historic about cars. So we applaud this initiative, meaning that you can enjoy from the comfort of your home a virtual tour back to the beginnings of the company and enjoy numerous highlights from 160 years of Opel engineering.

This Opel Classic tour will take you on a varied tour from the first sewing machines and bicycles “made in Rüsselsheim” to the current “Golden Steering Wheel” title holder Opel Mokka-e1.

Of course, this 160 year anniversary tour was developed with great attention to detail. The team first had to meticulously archive and document all the exhibits and precisely align them for filming so that online visitors can view the vehicles from all sides. The ‘160 Years of Opel’ tour is bilingual, offering some completely new Opel perspectives. “It’s really worth clicking on and taking the tour,” says the new Opel Classic Director Leif Rohwedder, looking forward to numerous online visitors.

“160 Years of Opel”: Virtual tour from its early beginnings to the present

This new 360-degree tour takes visitors virtually into the “hallowed halls” of the Opel Classic Collection in Rüsselsheim. Here, the brand with the Blitz shelters a veritable treasure trove of 600 historic vehicles and studies as well as 300 other exhibits ranging from Opel sewing machines to aircraft engines. The highlights of the “160 Years of Opel” tour include a look at the beginnings in the 1860s as well as the following decades. By clicking on the yellow info points, Opel Classic reveals important information about the selected exhibits – short and sweet, right to the point.

The “Wanderjahre Adam Opels” (Adam Opel’s wandering years) are discussed as well as historically valuable exhibits such as the “Quintuplet” – a five-seat bicycle – on which the five sons of the company founder had themselves photographed for publicity purposes at the end of the 19th century.

The pioneer among Opel automobiles can also be seen for the first time in a virtual tour: the Patentmotorwagen “System Lutzmann” from 1899, which marked the beginning of car production in Rüsselsheim.

Then interested visitors can continue on various paths through the historic halls. They will not only encounter numerous Opel icons and bestsellers, but also innovative record-breaking vehicles such as the Opel Elektro GT. Five decades ago, this car demonstrated at the Hockenheimring what is possible with zero emissions. The tour through 160 years of Opel history leads to further groundbreaking developments such as the first fully electric vehicle suitable for everyday use, the Opel Ampera, and the battery-electric Opel Mokka-e. The current e-car with the Blitz won the “Golden Steering Wheel 2021″1 with its convincing driving performance as well as its very own style and rounds off the journey through time in the Opel halls.

The “160 Years of Opel” tour now complements the Opel Classic online tours that were successfully launched in 2021.

Finally, we want to tell you here that visitors can also explore and enjoy more subjects Opel Classic has online in store for you: what to think of subjects like “Alternative Drives”, “Rally Racing”, “Roaring Twenties” and “Mobility for Millions”?  I would say, get tuned for an unforgettable online Opel session!

We just let you enjoy some photos here, but I suggest you grab your mouse and start a journey into history!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

2021 was another exceptional year for the Mercedes-Benz Museum…

Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

You servant is truly fond of car museums, and unfortunately, the present times are truly difficult. Also for the wonderful Mercedes-Benz Museum…

As in 2020, it was marked in many respects by the effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. “We look to 2022 with optimism, but also due caution, because the pandemic is not over,” says Bettina Haussmann, Director of the Museum. “Nevertheless, a suitable programme is already in preparation: under the motto ‘Take your mind off thingsʼ, we would like to provide distraction in stressful times and invite you to visit the Museum free of charge in the first week of March. And of course we are especially looking forward to the warmer season with a wide range of outdoor events, the relaunch of ‘Stadtkulturʼ (Urban Culture) and Classics & Coffee. The open-air cinema and the Mercedes-Benz Concert Summer are also scheduled to take place again this year.”

“Given the overall difficult situation worldwide, we are nevertheless satisfied with 2021. The number of visitors was hardly any different from 2020,” says Museum Director Haussmann.

Currently until 15 February at the Mercedes-Benz Museum: Presentation on the hill of three championship cars from the 2021 motorsport season.

245,232 people visited the Mercedes-Benz Museum from June to December 2021 under the conditions of a well-thought-out hygiene concept. Despite a longer pandemic-related closure period than in 2020, this was only 1,573 visitors or 0.6 per cent less.

We list here for you the important dates (subject to change)

Champions@Mercedes-Benz Museum (until 15 February 2022) Special presentation on the hill of three championship cars from the 2021 motorsport season: Mercedes-AMG GT3, Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02, Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E-Performance.

Special exhibition “The Fascination of the SL – a dream car for 70 years” (until 9 October 2022).

Mercedes-Benz Museum, special exhibition “The Fascination of the SL – a dream car for 70 years”, 22 October 2021 to 9 October 2022.

 “Take your mind off things” (1 to 6 March 2022): Free admission to the permanent exhibition and special exhibition. Free guided tours daily at 4 p.m. (prior reservation recommended).

Hands-on exhibition for children aged 4 and over (29 March to 24 April 2022): “The whole world on one page – international hidden object books”.

Classics & Coffee (from mid-April): The popular classic car meeting every Sunday and from mid-May “after work” on numerous Thursday evenings.

Night of the Stars (mid-May 2022): The gastronomy event in a class of its own.

Long Night of the Museums (21 May 2022)

Concert Summer at the Mercedes-Benz Museum (7 to 10 July 2022).

Urban Culture (14 July to 14 August 2022): A diverse cultural programme on the open-air stage with partners from the region.

Open-air cinema (18 Ausgust to 4 September 2022)

Hands-on activities for children (every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

Let’s hope the spring and summer will bring better times!

Soon we will also bring you more news about the Porsche and BMW museums!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

New special exhibition at the Porsche Museum: 50 Years of Porsche Design

Here you see the new Porsche 911 Edition 50Y Porsche Design. This exclusive special edition is a limited run of 750 cars

The Porsche Museum is honouring the brand’s 50th anniversary with a special exhibition. Until July 10th 2022, visitors can find out how Porsche Design became what it is today.

Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the son of Ferry Porsche, founded Porsche Design together with his brother Hans-Peter in Stuttgart in 1972. Porsche Design has long since become an internationally renowned lifestyle brand.

Alongside a presentation of the life and work of F.A. Porsche, his design philosophy and his great creative influence, various exhibits from five decades of Porsche Design will also be on display.

The 911 S 2.4 Targa from the Porsche Design’s founding year of 1972 is in the background, viewed from the cockpit of the new 911 edition 50 yr. Porsche design…

If one thing symbolises the beginnings of Porsche Design, it is the Chronograph I, a milestone in the art of watchmaking. This is why the centrepiece of the special exhibition will be two different versions of the legendary timepiece: the Chronograph 1 – 1972 Limited Edition and the Chronograph 1 – 911 Edition 50 Porsche Design.

The anniversary exhibition also includes style-defining cars that F.A. Porsche created or which come from his private collection. Among them is the 904 Carrera GTS, which he himself once described as his masterpiece. A 911 (993) Speedster from his estate will also be on display. The 911 S 2.4 Targa from the Porsche Design’s founding year of 1972 that has been restored by the Porsche Classic department as part of the special request program will join the vehicle show, as will the new Porsche 911 Edition 50Y Porsche Design. The exclusive special edition is a limited run of 750 cars with numerous features reminiscent of the iconic designs of F.A. Porsche.

In addition to the plain Black exterior, the nods to the past include the classic check-patterned Sport-Tex centre panels of the seats and the red second hand of the Porsche Design Subsecond clock in the Sport Chrono Package, which comes as standard.

The quintessence of Porsche Design

“Good design must be honest,” F.A. Porsche always emphasized. He designed the legendary Porsche 911 and founded the design studio in 1972. Today, Managing Director Roland Heiler and his team still follow that philosophy. Using authentic materials, they design carefully thought-out, functional and durable products with a purist aesthetic. As the in-house design team of the Porsche Design brand, their inspiring high-quality products include watches, sunglasses, luggage and leather goods.

With locations in Zell am See, Berlin and Ludwigsburg, Los Angeles and Shanghai, the design office also offers its services to international clients. This results in first-class consumer goods, household appliances and industrial products – for example in collaboration with Elan, KEF, LaCie, Morita and Panasonic.

The choice of materials plays a decisive role in Studio F. A. Porsche’s products. Titanium and carbon can turn them into lifetime companions and add new, unexpected functions. The combination of traditional, honest design approaches with ambitious innovations turns the products into genuine luxury items.

The Porsche Museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Information on the Porsche Museum’s current hygiene regulations can be found at http://www.porsche.com/Museum.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Centro Stile Fiat and Abarth creates a stunning one-off based on the beautiful ‘60s Abarth 1000SP…

The slender original ’60s Abarth 1000 SP on the left, alongside the new one-off successor…

Sometimes, things happen which make the heart of a car enthusiast beat faster. Like an initiative taken by the people of the Centro Stile Fiat & Abarth.

They have now rolled out a contemporary interpretation of the superbly stylish and iconic Abarth prototipo Designed in 1966 by the Milan engineer Mario Colucci. Just look at the accompanying photo. Of course, we can only hope and pray that this will not limit itself to this one-off styling and engineering exercise.

A beautiful evocation of the purity of the original Abarth 1000SP…

The points and lines of the original car’s design were respected to ensure continuity between the ’60s sports car and the concept car of the new millennium.

The contemporary Abarth 1000 SP respects three fundamental design principles already seen in the ’60s model. First and foremost, the lightness of its forms, its volumes and of course its weight.

The second principle is aerodynamics: modern design technologies have made it possible to combine the iconic lines of the 1000 SP with an aerodynamic coefficient worthy of a contemporary sports car.

Finally, ergonomics, aimed at improving the user experience, to optimize the vehicle’s control and agile driveability.

A faithful evocation…

The Abarth 1000 SP echoes the lines and aesthetics characteristic of its forerunner. The sinuous body, with the soft surfaces of the fenders highlighting the position of the wheels, takes up the pattern of the spider with a central engine.

The cockpit glazing features shaped side deflectors, with their profile lowered towards the roll bar, the latter strictly “in view”, to highlight our being in the presence of a “no-holds-barred” spider.

Of course, today’s passive safety requirements make the car taller and more imposing…

The rear geometries of the Abarth 1000 SP accentuate the harmony between the lights and the exhaust pipes.

Of course, The livery is strictly red and the characteristic air intakes appear all over, from the front bonnet to the cooling slots in its rear counterpart. 

The headlights also follow the minimalist scheme of the historic 1000 SP, with point lights on the nose and a single pair of round headlights to accentuate the car’s remarkable breadth when seen from behind.

The present Abarth 1000 SP thus maintains a very similar identity to its forerunner’s, courtesy of the meticulous work to update the historic, no-holds-barred Abarth 1000 SP.

Despite modern safety requirements, the designers of Centro Stile managed to retain the character of the original…

Conversely, the tubular chassis under the “skin” of the historic Sport Prototipo gives way to a hybrid frame, with a central cell in carbon fiber and an aluminum front. The “new” Abarth 1000 SP features a powerful turbocharged 4-cylinder, 1742-cc central engine, capable of 240 hp. The sophisticated mechanics of the concept boasts overlapping triangle suspension in the front, with an advanced MacPherson strut at the rear.

We will tell you more about the original 1966 Abarth later, so stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel.

Laurin & Klement S series: The first high-volume model from Mladá Boleslav made its debut 110 years ago…

This is already the second series of the Laurin & Klement, enjoying also success in the middle east, besides the many buyers in the vast Austro-Hungarian empire…

The car manufacturer Laurin & Klement enjoyed first economic and sporting success with bicycles immediately after it was founded in 1895. Bicycles were the product to begin with. But already 4 years later, the product range was expanded to include motorbikes before the company presented its first automobile in the autumn of 1905 – the Laurin & Klement Voiturette A.

The Austrian sales center of Laurin & Klement was eagerly looking for dealerships in the UK and Commonwealth, for its Type S.

Lets not forget, Laurin & Klement was embedded in the vast Austro-Hungarian empire, and this meant a domestic market good 50 million people. In 1908, 90 per cent of all automobiles in the voiturette segment manufactured during the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary were made by Laurin & Klement. And voiturettes were quite popular too.

In addition to its high utility value, the vehicle also had a particularly attractive price-performance ratio and low fuel consumption.

Laurin & Klement presented its best-selling model, the S series, on 16 April 1911. It sold in high numbers: more than 2000 units had been built by 1924 in numerous versions, including the Lady coupé and the Kavalier ‘double saloon’.

Laurin & Klement’s vehicles also appealed to international customers, finding buyers as far afield as the British and Russian Empires. The S series performed well in the most demanding races and competitions, finishing 6th overall in the 1914 Targa Florio, for example.

The additional designation 12/14 HP resulted from 12 ‘tax horsepower’, a value calculated for tax purposes according to an officially defined formula, as well as from the actual output of 14 hp (10.3 kW). This was produced by a water-cooled four-cylinder petrol engine with a displacement of 1,771 cm3 and side valves.

The engine, with a flywheel positioned at the front, closely behind the radiator, formed a single unit with the clutch and the three-speed gearbox. This meant that only one oil level had to be checked and changed. In addition, the car manufacturer installed a special lubricator made by Friedmann, which served as an oil pump and oil reservoir. It ensured the supply of oil, thus increasing the service life of the mechanical assemblies. The Eisenmann magneto-electric system was used for the ignition.

There were several versions of the robust chassis, and the four-cylinder petrol engines with a displacement of up to 2,413 cm3 generated 30 hp (22.1 kW) at this stage of development.

The fifth series of the celebrated Model S was quite powerful and fast for its time.

The range quickly grew with the addition of models in higher vehicle classes, and the number of units produced in the individual model series soon numbered in the dozens or even hundreds.

A robust ladder frame made of U-shaped steel profiles riveted together formed the basis of the L&K S. The rigid axles at the front and rear were each suspended with two longitudinally mounted leaf springs. The pedal-operated main service brake acted on the cardan shaft behind the gearbox, while the drum brakes on the rear wheels were connected to the handbrake lever. The standard equipment included special spoked wheels, the steel rim of which was firmly bolted to a wooden hub cap. This made it easier to repair the 710 x 90 mm tyres when they were damaged, which was a common occurrence at the time. For an additional charge, the manufacturer also offered wire-spoke wheels, followed by full steel rims from Michelin after the First World War. The complete road-ready chassis of the Model S with a wheelbase of 2,688 mm weighed 650 to 700 kg.

Wide range of variants to meet all requirements

The early Laurin & Klement S reached a top speed of 50 to 60 km/h, depending on whether it was completed with a light commercial vehicle body or passenger car body. The basic versions could be adapted to the specific needs of each customer. At first, the open-top models with two or four seats were most in demand, but later the range was expanded to include other versions, such as the ‘Vienna’ landaulet, the ‘Karlovy Vary’ saloon, the ‘Kavalier’ double saloon and the ‘Lady’ or ‘Doctor’ coupés, each with a specific ladies’ or gents’ interior. The light commercial vehicle derivatives included the ‘Fortschritt’ platform truck and the ‘Express’ luggage carrier.

The “series” production of the sixth and last series of the Model “S”: cars and bodies were already on stands to make work easier…

Customer demand continued to rise, not least because of the regular modernisation of the Laurin & Klement S vehicles. Each stage of development was denoted by a type designation with a subsequent letter from Sa to So. The designations complemented each other, and there were overlaps in the production periods. Over time, the wheelbase grew in numerous steps from the original 2,688 millimetres to 3,220 millimetres. The basic configuration of the in-line four-cylinder engines was retained; however, the displacement increased from 1,771 cm3 to 2,413 cm3 over several stages. In turn, the power output increased from 14 hp (10.3 kW) to 30 hp (22.1 kW). In addition, the three-speed gearbox was replaced by a four-speed transmission to enhance the dynamic characteristics of the S-series vehicles. A modern electric starter became available from 1918 – initially only at the customer’s request – although it was still possible to crank the engine as before. Due to the larger displacement and the higher compression ratio, however, cranking was very strenuous. The original acetylene lights with carbide gas generators were replaced at the beginning of the 1920s by electric light bulbs, which were much easier to operate.

During the 14 years that the Laurin & Klement S models were built, the car manufacturer achieved numerous motor racing successes with the series. Among the most noteworthy are the victories in the Trieste – Opicina and Troppau – Moravian Ostrava races (1911) as well as the Grand Gold Medal at the race in Parma, Italy (1913), 6th place in the overall standings at the challenging Sicilian mountain race Targa Florio (1914) and the special prize awarded by the Chairman of the Czechoslovak Automobile Club Prof. Otakar Kukula for the ‘L&K Se’ model in the 2,000-kilometre reliability race of 1921. In the same competition, the larger ‘L&K So’ model was awarded the silver plaque. In addition, the cars drove to victories in the Zbraslav – Jíloviště and Ecce Homo hill climbs as well as in the Schöber race (1922).

By the First World War, the Laurin & Klement company had become the largest car manufacturer in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A significant proportion of the vehicles produced in Mladá Boleslav went to foreign customers on all continents.

Tradition of volume models from Mladá Boleslav

After more than 2,000 vehicles of the S series had been produced, the Laurin & Klement / ŠKODA 110 model became the best-selling model of the Mladá Boleslav-based manufacturer; a total of 2,985 units were produced between 1925 and 1929. These were the last cars to be developed in the Laurin & Klement era, though they already bore the ŠKODA logo.

The tradition of affordable volume models, which began 110 years ago with this Laurin & Klement S series, continued after ŠKODA entered as a strong strategic partner.

The ŠKODA 422 was the brand’s first vehicle to be produced on an assembly line using efficient production methods and was available from the spring of 1930 at a starting price of 33,000 crowns. The average annual salary of a civil servant at that time was 18,000 crowns. Between 1930 and 1932, 3,466 customers opted for the Š 422.

In March 1934, the Baťa company took delivery of the first model of a completely new generation of cars from Mladá Boleslav – the ŠKODA POPULAR. The model was the answer to the economic crisis at the time. The POPULAR’s technical innovations included its central tubular frame and independent suspension. The price of the vehicle, which was also in high demand abroad, started at just 17,800 crowns. This was one of the reasons the car won over more than 22,500 customers between 1934 and 1947.

Other milestones in the Czech automaker’s history include the introduction of rear-engined vehicles (1964: ŠKODA 1000 MB), and transversely mounted front engine and drivetrain (1987: ŠKODA FAVORIT). In 2020, ŠKODA presented the ENYAQ iV, the first series-production model based on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform for battery-electric vehicles.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We personally witnessed the unfolding of the Audi Quattro (Rally) Saga…

We were there: your servant in conversation with Michèle Mouton in Sankt Moritz, on December 8, 1982…

Your servant was already active as a freelance car journalist from the mid-seventies of last century, so we witnessed up close the birth of the Audi 5-cylinder engines and the (rally) cars powered by it were quite familiar. When we were telling you the long career of Audi’s 5 cylinder engine, we told you how your servant remembered a drive behind the wheel of the Audi 80 Quattro with this magnificent engine. Just look at our pages on this site, and more especially https://autoprova.be/2016/09/18/sweet-memories-our-drive-with-the-5-cylinder-audi-80-5e-quattro-in-sankt-moritz/

This memorable test drive of this Audi 80 5E Quattro took place in Sankt Moritz, on 8 and 9 December 1982. For the assembled international journalists, Audi had also organized a demonstration run with the Quattro Rally Cars, and had brought Michèle Mouton and Stig Blomquist to the venue.

You see me here chatting with Michèle Mouton before having a demo drive with her at the wheel in her Quattro Rally machine…

Sweet memories!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Volkswagen celebrates its history in Autoworld…

Traditionally, in February and March, the Brussels based Autoworld Museum organizes a special for Volkswagen historical exhibition, culminating in a Beetle love parade on St. Valentine’s day.

However, the parade will not take place in 2021 for obvious reasons, but the exhibition organized in collaboration with Volkswagen is very special indeed!

The exhibition is dubbed “Volkswagen Milestones” and reflects the historical zeitgeist of the car of “Everyone and everbody” on the basis of the three important models in the history of the brand: the Beetle from the 50s – 60s, the Golf from the 70s to the early 80s and last but not least, the “Electrical Age”, with the new ID.3.

When I saw the cars on the exhibition, via a magnificent photo portfolio shot by Yves Noël, I couldn’t help reflecting back to my early days of motoring. Because, of course, I started out myself behind the wheel of a Beetle. I had bought, as a student, this ’55 (I believe) Beetle De Luxe Export from the famous and iconic television, arts and performance critic and column writer Johan Anthierens, who had learned the craft of journalism from my father, then Chief Editor of the illustrated weekly magazine “De Post”. He had hired Johan to write the Television column in “De Post”. Johan Anthierens bought a new car, and he sold his Beetle to me for the modest sum of 500 Belgian Frank, which is the equivalent of…some 12,5 Euros.

This Beetle is the exact same car as figures here on Yves Noël’s magnificent shots, with – if I recall well, the indestructible 30 HP 1200 cc version of the famous boxer in the back. Indestructible, well, almost. At higher mileages the third cylinder suffered unavoidably rather more from lean mixture than the others, and compression losses in this cylinder due to worn exhaust valves were often de result. This situation was however not bad with this one.

This beetle, with dark green livery, had soon its hubcaps removed and its wheels painted silver, and looked the part! We drove four years with it with the greatest joy throughout Europe, from Copenhagen to Bordeaux, over Routes Nationales and Autobahnen, and our greatest admiration for Porsche and its designs was born then.

Then, I stumbled on another bargain Beetle, the exact self same car as the black one here on the photo. It still had the 30 PS (manual choke) engine, but an “American type” steering wheel, with a big chromed claxon ring, and, progress, the bigger rear window.

Performance was basically the same as the first one, but I adorned the dual exhaust with slightly bigger diameter tail-end pipes, and this gave a deeper, throaty exhaust note, very similar to a 356 Porsche.

Boy, did I love driving this Beetle with zest… I drove it for another 3 years, until I got engaged to my present wife. Her father changed cars, and so I became as a “welcoming present” suddenly the happy and proud owner of the famous big Volkswagen 411 L, donned in dark British Racing Green paint, which suited it very well. That was my (big) Volkswagen during the Golf era, being also the last creation by VW within the air cooled boxer engine at the rear philosophy. A very comfortable and fast car, which would have merited an even greater success than it had. But other times were coming, also for the “bigger” VW’s. Not only the Passats were soon to come, but in those days also another beauty which was born on the drawing tables in Neckarsulm, the VW K70. This car fitted better in the Golf era, where thermal efficiency, economy, light construction and excellent road manners together with style became the norm.

The Golf era started in 1974, and these cars changed the perceptions about what a small car could do. Winners, I found, were the Golf GTD, which could cruise along all day at 140 km/h and consume still only 6 litres/100 km or thereabouts, with its 1,5 litre Diesel being a pleasant and eagerly revving machine. Then, there was the ultimate Golf, the GTI. Originally 110 PS, but what zest and panache. Also the styling details are absolutely iconic, to say nothing about its handling and performance.

There were also the three spoked steering wheel, the chequered seats, the wheels, the paint scheme, the throaty exhaust note…

Of course, there is also VW’s electric future on display, and indeed the ID.3 is a very convincing car. Just read our test report in these columns. We have just left hospital last week after two major operations, but around easter we are able to take the wheel again. The new VW hybrids are cars we are looking forward to. We will ask Joke Boon, Press Events Coordinator and VW Press and PR Director Jean Marc Ponteville to have a look in their calendar… and thank Joke Boon here for all the Autoworld photo’s she sent me!

Just some practical info: Autoworld – Jubelpark 11 – 1000 Brussels. Open every day, also Monday, from 10 AM to 17 PM (Saturdays and Sundays until 18 PM)

Admission: €12/adult – €10/senior – €9/student – €5/child (6-12 yr) free for children below 6 yr. Tickets bought online cost 1 Euro less.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Porsche opens the exhibition “Porsche – Pioneer of Electric Mobility” in Berlin

Porsche is introducing its first fully electric sports car as part of the exhibition series “Start to Drive Electric” in the capital city. You can already visit the special exhibition “Porsche – Pioneer of Electric Mobility”, as it started from Thursday, 16 July 2020 , and this until 1 November 2020 at “DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum” at Unter den Linden in Berlin. Entry is free of charge.

The exhibition not only deals with topics from the world of electric mobility such as range and energy recuperation, infrastructure and charging, but also takes a good look at the pioneering spirit of the Porsche brand. Sustainability, zero-impact factory, Formula E and the vision of climate-neutral mobility are other areas included in the special exhibition.

“The Porsche Museum does not see itself as an institution that just preserves collections and is a guardian of the past,” explains Achim Stejskal, Head of Heritage and the Porsche Museum.

The visitors will see a number of cars, including a Taycan 4S, two Taycan Turbo, the endurance test car of the brand, the record car from the Nürburgring Nordschleife, as well as the Formula E display model. Further highlights:

At Unter den Linden, a cutaway model of the Porsche Taycan, the Formula E race simulator, touch points with information on the milestones of electric mobility at Porsche, the Taycan cockpit, charging stations, the electric motors of the front and rear axles as well as a Carrera track await the visitors. The latter will prove especially energetic as visitors can pedal to generate electricity for the small slot cars themselves. The different experiences provide interaction between digital and analogue.

Visitors can choose between various themes in the media room “Accelerator” and can start projections. Protagonists from different sectors of Porsche who played an important role in the development of the Taycan are introduced there. They talk about their personal Taycan moment, their connection with the car, a pioneering approach and heritage of the brand, about design, sustainability, production, but also performance and adrenaline. Further information as well as film and photographic material can be found at www.porsche.com/museum.

So if you happen to be in the neighborhood of Berlin on your holiday travels, don’t miss this!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We all take it into our hands: the history of the steering wheel…

The dynamic PR people of the Mercedes-Benz Museum have recently launched a so-called “33 Extras” exhibit series. These “33 Extras” bring the history of personal mobility and motoring culture to life highlighting details and aspects that are often surprising. Here they focus on the steering wheel, and we found their story interesting enough to present it here to you…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The world´s first car race from Paris to Rouen, 22 July 1894. Alfred Vacheron´s vehicle with petrol engine. Vacheron was awarded joint 4th place in the contest.

It all started in in 1894: the steering wheel made its debut in the first motorsport competition in history – the race from Paris to Rouen. French engineer Alfred Vacheron equipped his Panhard & Levassor vehicle, powered by a Daimler engine, with a … genuine steering wheel. Compared to the control levers that had been used up to that point, the steering wheel allowed him to steer more accurately – and therefore also to increase his speed. His steering wheel consisted of a circular grip ring connected to the steering column by spokes – a basic principle which is still valid to this day.

Mercedes-Simplex in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Insight Nice-–La Turbie in 2017. The steering wheel was equipped with additional levers for adjusting various engine functions.

The end of the handlebar…

Before the steering wheel became the norm at the turn of the century, there were many solutions, including some that resembled bicycle handlebars. In his three-wheeled Patent Motor Car of 1886, Carl Benz used a rotary crank that transmitted the driver’s steering action to the steering column. Gottlieb Daimler equipped his four-wheeled motor carriage from 1886 with a cross-shaped handle.

In the end, the steering wheel prevailed quite simply because it could be operated intuitively. Along with the pedals and seat, it is the most important interface between the driver and the car. Key advantage: It was possible to determine the exact driving direction much more accurately than with levers because the wheel principle allowed the steering lock to be translated through the gearing into several revolutions.

Additional functions already 120 years ago…

Sectional view of a steering wheel with airbag from 1992. The folded airbag (white) can be seen above the propellant charge.

On the Mercedes-Simplex models, from 1902 on, the steering wheel was equipped with levers that were used to adjust important engine functions ─ in particular, ignition timing and mixture formation. In the 1920s, a steering wheel ring for operating the horn was added – an early implementation of Car-2-X communication, so to speak.

…and now

Today’s steering wheels are used to operate numerous systems, such as the on-board computer, voice control, telecommunications and multimedia. In addition, there are a number of stalks arranged in the immediate vicinity. In the summer of 2020, Mercedes-Benz will be presenting the next generation of the steering wheel as a command centre – the capacitive steering wheel with digital control zones.

Touch, “feel” and emotion…

There are considerable technical demands placed on the steering wheel – and the tactile experience. If the steering wheel is not perceived as pleasant to touch, this can have an effect on the way the vehicle is driven. In addition to the materials, the design also plays an important role.

Steering wheel and instrument cluster from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, model series 221. Photo from 2005.

Steering wheel ergonomics also includes its position in the vehicle. The Daimler Phoenix racing car from 1900 and the innovative Mercedes 35 hp from 1901 had already proved this point: Their steering columns were inclined much more than before. This made it possible to steer the cars much more effectively and more dynamically. This contributed both to driving safety and also to the overwhelming sporting success of the Mercedes 35 hp in Nice Week in 1901.

Steering wheel from a Formula One Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport racing car. Photograph from 2018.

Size did matter…

The first steering wheels provided a fair guide as to how big and heavy a vehicle was. Trucks and  buses initially needed enormous steering wheels. It was not until the advent of power steering that it became possible to make steering wheels smaller in large vehicles. Power steering was first fitted on the Mercedes-Benz 300 saloon car, in 1958. From the 1960s onwards, Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles were also equipped to an increasing extent with power-assisted steering.

Passive safety started in 1959

As part of the safety concept implemented in 1959 in the W 111 model series, the “tail fin” or “Heckflosse” saloon was the first to feature a steering wheel with a large, padded impact cushion, which reduced the risk of injury. In 1967, Mercedes-Benz introduced safety steering with a telescopic steering column and impact absorber as standard equipment for all vehicles. Then, in 1981, the driver’s airbag fitted in the steering wheel was introduced. This world-first innovation in production cars was introduced by Mercedes-Benz in the S-Class model series 126.

Im Forschungsfahrzeug Mercedes-Benz F 200 Imagination wird 1996 die Fahrzeugsteuerung über Sidesticks erprobt. The Mercedes-Benz F 200 Imagination concept vehicle from 1996 tested the use of side-mounted joysticks for steering.

Cars without a steering wheel?

Mercedes-Benz has toyed with this scenario at least in test and research vehicles. The F 200 Imagination concept vehicle presented in 1996 was controlled with the aid of side-mounted joysticks. The innovative system worked perfectly. However, the steering wheel remains the preferred option, which applies just as much to production cars as to modern racing cars with their highly complex control systems. Perhaps tomorrow’s autonomous cars will be able to do without a steering wheel completely. Until then, however, the new Mercedes-Benz capacitive steering wheel supports autonomous driving functions more comprehensively than ever before. A brief history of the steering wheel is also given in a press release from Mercedes-Benz Cars.

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Porsche opens its museum and offers digital live tours on 17 May 2020!

For the 43rd International Museum Day, the Porsche Museum is throwing open its doors to everyone on 17 May 2020, free of charge.

But that is not all. In line with this year‘s motto “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion”, digital live tours will be also be available this Sunday on Instagram: just tick in the app “@porsche.museum.” 

Porsche has since years expanded its offerings into digital…

“Digital diversity is more important than ever in times like these, where travel is a greater challenge than ever before“, says Achim Stejskal, Head of Heritage and Porsche Museum. “We have been consistently driving forward the expansion of digital offerings over the last years, not only since the Corina crisis. We have committed ourselves to the ’Mission Future Heritage’. We would like to use modern channels to demonstrate the heritage and future of the brand, not just at our site in Zuffenhausen, but beyond the museum as well”.

On International Museum Day, two guides will guide through the exhibition for one hour each in German and English, which currently includes more than 80 cars over 5,600 square metres. They will look at special exhibits and offer an insight into the company history. The digital live tours will include prototypes, small exhibits, racing cars and series production cars. Anyone who is interested can watch the first tour on Instagram which starts in German at 18:30 hrs, or the second one which starts in English at 00:00 hrs (CEST). The times have purposefully been set outside the regular opening times – true to the motto: “The museum for everyone”.

On Sunday, youcan watch everything on Porsche News TV… 

The tours will also be recorded in the following languages and be available on Porsche News TV (https://newstv.porsche.com/en/) from Sunday onwards: Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Croatian, Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish. “There is a native speaker for each of these languages in the Porsche Museum. We would like to use the videos that have live character to thank our fans around the world and to bring a bit of the Porsche Museum into their homes,” explains Stejskal.

What is the International Museum Day?  

The special promotional day is organised annually by the International Council of Museums ICOM to draw attention to the wide range of work museums do and to the thematic diversity of museums around the world. This Sunday, museums throughout Germany will provide special initiatives, exhibits or a glimpse behind the scenes.   

Needless to say we will be looking at our Instagram next Friday!

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