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    28/09/2005 Dr. Carl Benz automotive museum to move into the historical factory of C. Benz Söhne in Ladenburg ; Winfried A. Seidel Collection: Focus on Karl Benz and the C. Benz Söhne automotive brand

    ; Turn-of-the-century industrial architecture as the setting for an automotive-history collection

    Stuttgart/Ladenburg. The Dr. Carl Benz automotive museum in La-denburg will move, and the collection’s new domicile will be the fac-

    tory halls, almost 100 years old, of C. Benz Söhne. The historical fac-tory, in which the vehicles of the C. Benz Söhne brand were manufac-

    thtured in the early 20 century, was restored with the support of

    DaimlerChrysler AG and will provide an appropriate setting for the historical exhibits of collector Winfried A. Seidel. The objects include biographical exhibits relating to Karl Benz, among them his office and two rare vehicles of the C. Benz Söhne brand. In addition, the museum presents some 40 passenger cars, trucks and racing cars most of these

    of the Benz and Mercedes-Benz brands. These are complemented by bicycles, motorcycles and other exhibits relating to engineering history. The two-wheelers are also meant to build the bridge to Mannheim-born bicycle pioneer Karl von Drais.

    New life in the “old factory

    The “old Benz factory” is what Ladenburg’s citizens call the impres-

    sive building on the banks of the River Neckar. The venerable halls on Ilves-heimer Straße in Ladenburg look anything but old, however. The brick walls proudly glow in the sun; inside freshly painted iron girders

    DaimlerChrysler <Communications>, D-70546 Stuttgart (Germany), Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766 (USA)

    Page 2 of 11 are glistening, and the air is filled with the fragrance of the newly laid wooden industrial parquet floors. And the blue sun, the signet of C. Benz Söhne, Ladenburg bei Mannheim” (C. Benz & Sons, Laden-

    burg near Mannheim), hangs resplendent above the stairs leading up to the entrance.

    thDuring the first quarter of the 20 century, only around 320 vehicles of

    this brand were manufactured here. At the time, there were many au-tomotive factories as small as this one. But the company on the banks of the River Neckar differed from its competitors in one crucial aspect: its founder. It was no other than automotive pioneer Karl Benz who es-

    thtablished the company in Ladenburg in the early 20 century, initially

    to produce engines. In later years, he changed to manufacturing auto-mobiles together with his sons.

    The mechanical engineering company C. Benz Söhne still exists today but moved into more modern buildings in Ladenburg. With the Dr. Carl Benz automotive museum founded by Winfried A. Seidel, a chap-ter of automotive history will return to its roots in September 2005. The highlights of the collection include, among other things, the last two vehicles of the C. Benz Söhne brand built in Ladenburg. These two touring cars left the brick halls in 1924 and will return to their

    birthplace in the fall of 2005.

    Collector and classic car expert Winfried A. Seidel is well aware of the special significance this historical site has for his museum: “The facto-

    ry itself is now one of the most important exhibits.” After the extensive

    restoration of the building, financed by DaimlerChrysler AG, the Dr. Carl Benz museum will be enhanced not just by an exhibition area that is about a third larger. The new museum building is also an architec-tural memorial to the life and work of Karl Benz in Ladenburg, thus bearing witness to the region’s industrial history.

    DaimlerChrysler <Communications>, D-70546 Stuttgart (Germany), Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766 (USA)

    Page 3 of 11 Karl Benz

    Karl Benz was born on November 25, 1844 in Karlsruhe where he also grew up, went to school and subsequently studied at the polytechnic. After completing his studies, Benz worked first as an intern at Maschi-nenbau-Gesellschaft (a mechanical engineering company) in Karlsruhe and then as a design engineer in Germany and Austria. In 1871, he founded his first own company in Mannheim, an iron foundry and me-chanical workshop. In the following year, he married Bertha Ringer with whom he had five children: Eugen, Richard, Klara, Thilde and El-len.

    Alongside mechanical engineering, Benz soon discovered a new field of activity for himself, the development of engines, and as early as 1879 his factory presented an operational two-stroke engine. However, Benz left the company, meanwhile converted into a stockholding com-pany, as early as 1883 because he had had too little scope for decisions on technical developments.

    In the fall of 1883, Karl Benz established a new company, “Benz & Co.

    Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik” (Rhenish Gas Engine Factory) in

    Mannheim and turned his attention to the design of a vehicle to be dri-ven by an internal combustion engine. In 1886, he was granted a patent on this “Motor Car” which he presented to the public the same year.

    The inventor’s wife, Bertha Benz, used the third version of this moto-

    rized three-wheeler for her famous long-distance journey from Mann-heim to Pforzheim in 1888. With this courageous trip, which also took her through Ladenburg, the energetic lady and her sons demonstrated the reliability of her husband’s motor car.

    By 1890, Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik had developed into Germa-

    DaimlerChrysler <Communications>, D-70546 Stuttgart (Germany), Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766 (USA)

    Page 4 of 11 ny’s second-largest engine factory. Innovations such as the double-pivot steering for automobiles (1893) and the horizontally-opposed piston engine (1896) consolidated the company’s position in the bud-

    ding market for motor vehicles. In 1903, however, Karl Benz largely retired from the company out of protest against the employment of French engineers at the Mannheim plant. They were to restore the competitiveness of the technically conservative Benz cars vis-à-vis Daimler’s Mercedes cars.

    Karl Benz remained a silent partner and served as a member of the su-pervisory board from 1904. He lived to see the merger of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft and Benz & Cie. in 1926 and remained a mem-ber of the supervisory board of the resulting Daimler-Benz AG until his death.

    Benz in Ladenburg

    Karl Benz’s time in Mannheim came to an end in 1903 as he no longer wished to live in Mannheim after the breach with his old company. He first moved to Darmstadt with his family and from there to Ladenburg. Karl Benz had come to know Ladenburg, which had been granted a town charter under Roman rule in 98 A.D., while he was still living in Mannheim. Excursions in his motor car had time and again taken the inventor to the scenic old town on the River Neckar. Benz not only held the local inn in high esteem, where he liked to stop for lunch and a glass of red wine from the region. Prompted by the reasonable prices of real estate, Karl Benz acquired farmland in 1898 as a possible new location for a factory. Another ten plots of land were added in the fol-lowing months, but a new factory was still not being built here. After the breach with Benz & Cie. in Mannheim, the Benz family lived

    DaimlerChrysler <Communications>, D-70546 Stuttgart (Germany), Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766 (USA)

    Page 5 of 11 in Darmstadt. When Karl Benz returned to the supervisory board of the company in 1904, he looked for a domicile closer to Mannheim. In-itially the family moved into a flat in Ladenburg’s Bahnhofstraße be-

    fore Karl and Bertha Benz acquired a magnificent house with a park-like garden on the River Neckar at a price of 48,500 Goldmarks in 1905.

    In this house, built in its present-day form by brewery owner Leonhard, Karl and Bertha Benz lived until their deaths in 1929 and 1944, respec-tively, and the estate remained the family’s property until 1969. In 1985, the Karl Benz House was acquired by Daimler-Benz AG, and today the building is the headquarters of the Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz Foundation. The ground floor rooms looking out onto the garden accommodate an exhibition dedicated to the engineering achievements of Karl Benz.

    C. Benz Söhne

    Despite the impressive house, the park and a garage built in the style of a fortified tower, Karl Benz had no wish to lead a pensioner’s life in

    Ladenburg. He commissioned architect Josef Battenstein with the de-sign of a mechanical engineering factory. The latter was built on the plots of land on the banks of the River Neckar, which Benz had ac-quired in 1898 and 1899. The company C. Benz Söhne started operat-ing in 1906. Initially, Karl Benz and his son Eugen built stationary en-gines in Ladenburg. But sales of naturally aspirated gas engines slumped when a growing number of companies switched to electric motors or diesel engines for driving their machinery. And so Karl Benz decided to design and build automobiles again.

    In 1908, his second son Richard joined the Ladenburg-based company, and the first vehicles were supplied to customers. Buyers responded

    DaimlerChrysler <Communications>, D-70546 Stuttgart (Germany), Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766 (USA)

    Page 6 of 11 well to the new Benz car, and after just a few units of the 6/10 hp car, the 8/18 model became the first to be built in larger numbers by C. Benz Söhne.

    The trade journal Allgemeine Automobil Zeitung assessed the future of

    the new brand positively: “So there will be two types of Benz car in fu-

    ture.” And indeed the number of cars built by C. Benz Söhne rose con-

    tinuously, due not only to the name but also, and above all, to ongoing technical development. In 1913 the company introduced as many as three models with sleeve-valve engines.

    At the time World War I broke out, the company had built some 300 chassis and supplied them to bodybuilders. After the war, however, C. Benz Söhne was unable to continue on its successful course. The last custom-built car was completed in 1923, and in the following year, only two touring cars were manufactured which served as a company car and the Benz family’s private car, respectively. These two cars are today among the exhibits of the Dr. Carl Benz automotive museum. When the company’s automotive production was discontinued, the fac-

    tory of C. Benz Söhne was initially used for the assembly of cars from the Badenia brand. During World War II, the company repaired ve-hicles from different brands.

    The first post-war years saw changing users of the old halls, among them the Mannheim-based Mercedes-Benz company-owned sales and service outlet which repaired customer cars here. For a while, Ameri-can GMC army trucks were converted into civilian dump trucks in La-denburg.

    A new era began for C. Benz Söhne in the early 1950s when Carl Benz, the company founder’s grandson, and his brother-in-law Wolfgang

    DaimlerChrysler <Communications>, D-70546 Stuttgart (Germany), Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766 (USA)

    Page 7 of 11 Elbe established contacts with Daimler-Benz AG. Initially, the family-owned company in Ladenburg contracted work for the test department and the legendary racing department. At a later stage, C. Benz Söhne became a supplier of axle components for the commercial vehicles of Daimler-Benz. Today, the company is operating at a new location with modern buildings in Ladenburg.

    It was at that point in time that classic car enthusiast Winfried A. Sei-del grabbed the opportunity and acquired the premises with the old Benz halls. For the founder and owner of the Dr. Carl Benz automotive museum, this was a unique chance of documenting the engineering history of the brand in a historical setting. DaimlerChrysler AG sup-ported the project and financed the restoration of the historical factory halls.

    Winfried A. Seidel

    Winfried A. Seidel was born in 1939 and raised in Bielefeld. In the 1950s, he trained as a telecommunications technician. Seidel had been interested in automobiles ever since his childhood days and was even close to buying an old Mercedes-Benz 170 V in 1955. His father, how-ever, though being a mechanical engineer himself, had little under-standing for his son’s love of vintage cars there were new and better

    cars after all. And so Seidel was still riding his Lambretta scooter when love brought him to Mannheim. At the time, the young man was a drama student and after finishing drama school, he played at theaters in Mannheim and Heidelberg for 15 years. Parallel to this, he set up a toy shop together with his wife.

    It was during this time that Seidel bought his first vintage car. This his-torical vehicle sparked off a passion in Winfried A. Seidel who was al-ready living in Ladenburg at the time. He not only began setting up a

    DaimlerChrysler <Communications>, D-70546 Stuttgart (Germany), Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766 (USA)

    Page 8 of 11 collection for himself but also endeavored to engage in an exchange with other classic car buffs. In the upshot, he became one of the found-ers of the active classic car scene in Germany. In 1971, he was elected president of the Mercedes Veteranen-Club a position he held until

    1995. Upon his retirement, he was appointed honorary president by the club members in recognition of his merits. The classic car specialist organized the Veterama for the first time in 1975 an event that has

    since developed into the greatest veteran and vintage car marketplace in Europe, staged in Mannheim and Ludwigshafen.

    Seidel’s own collection of automobiles, two-wheelers and technical

    memorabilia has been growing continuously over the years. In addition, the engineering freak, actor and Veterama organizer established close contacts with the family of Karl Benz, being increasingly fascinated by the life and work of the automotive pioneer who had died in Laden-burg in 1929. This is borne out by Seidel’s Benz biography “Carl Benz.

    Eine badische Geschichte” (Carl Benz A Tale from Baden) which

    was published in the summer of 2005.

    The Dr. Carl Benz automotive museum

    Winfried A. Seidel had highlighted the significance of Ladenburg as a “Karl Benz Town” as early as 1996 when he opened the Dr. Carl Benz automotive museum. On an area of some 1,100 square meters, the mu-seum today houses a collection of over 40 historical cars plus motor-cycles, bicycles and automotive-history artifacts ranging from gasoline pump to winner’s cup. Many vehicles and exhibits are arranged in groups together with accessories and figures so as to convey the at-mosphere of the relevant era.

    Karl Benz’s work and heritage are reflected by vehicles from the Benz and C. Benz Söhne brands as well as by Mercedes-Benz models. Out-

    DaimlerChrysler <Communications>, D-70546 Stuttgart (Germany), Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766 (USA)

    Page 9 of 11 standing exhibits are the two C. Benz Söhne touring cars of 1924, a replica of the Benz Patent Motor Car, a Benz Victoria of 1893 and dif-ferent models from the Benz and Mercedes-Benz brands. The collec-tion comprises not only passenger cars but also commercial vehicles and racing cars, among them a Mercedes-Benz 190 SLR.

    The collection also includes artifacts such as a ticket Richard Benz, the automotive pioneer’s son, was given by a junior forest warden for

    speeding. There is also the lithographic limestone with which Karl Benz had his business cards printed, his first lathe, an old textbook, his pocket watch and the first spark plug he had built.

    Restoration of the historical factory

    With its brick walls, semi-glazed roof and massive iron-girder struc-ture, the interior of the historical C. Benz Söhne factory is a typical ex-

    thample of early 20 century industrial architecture. When Winfried Sei-del acquired the premises and buildings to accommodate his Dr. Carl Benz automotive museum there, however, thorough restoration was called for in a first step. The cost of this was assumed by Daimler-Chrysler.

    After the move of C. Benz Söhne, restoration and reconstruction work began in October 2004, and this work had to meet the demands made on listed buildings in much the same way as the requirements arising from a modern museum concept. The historical substance was retained to the greatest possible extent. Facades were exposed and cleaned; the impressive iron skeleton construction inside the great hall was newly painted and now looks exactly as it does in the historical photographs. The old roof and the binders and joists were beyond repair, however, and were rebuilt in the traditional carpenters’ style.

    DaimlerChrysler <Communications>, D-70546 Stuttgart (Germany), Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766 (USA)

    Page 10 of 11 A compromise was found for the floor covering, combining modern constructional engineering with true-to-the-original historical appeal: modeled on the floor shown in old photographs, a major part of the hall was given a wooden floor, with the old wooden strips replaced by solid industrial parquet. The areas underneath the cars are paved. The

    thlighting also combines the style of the early 20 century with modern

    engineering: old factory lamps with black enamel coating are sus-pended from the roof girders, fitted with modern energy-saving bulbs. A glimpse into Karl Benz’s office

    With some 1,750 square meters, the new exhibition area is about a third larger than before, but Winfried A. Seidel will refrain from fun-amentally changing the museum concept. On the contrary, the the-d

    matic focuses will be retained and in part expanded. Overall, the mu-seum will in future present itself in a more generous setting, providing better opportunities for events.

    In itself, the new museum impresses the visitor with its architecture and the unique lighting conditions created by the semi-glazed roof and the large windows with their iron glazing bars. The space conditions also provide the opportunity to create new exhibition scenes. Karl Benz’s old office can for instance be seen through a window from the

    great hall. Old machinery from the collection will in future be shown together with the factory’s historical energy transmitter facility; the themes of workshop and motorsport will be given their own rooms. A museum shop is being set up in the factory’s old foreman’s office.

    The museum’s move this fall will revive the historical factory build-

    ings, and one of the region’s industrial locations of historical relevance will acquire new significance and attractiveness. To underline the spe-cial position of the Dr. Carl Benz automotive museum, the latter will

    DaimlerChrysler <Communications>, D-70546 Stuttgart (Germany), Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766 (USA)

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