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Wilhelm Maybach [ˈvɪl.hɛlm ˈmai.bax] (February 9, 1846 – December 29, 1929) was an early German engine designer and industrialist. During the 1890s he was hailed in France, then the world centre for car production, as the "King of constructors".
From the late 19th century Willhelm Maybach, together with Gottlieb Daimler, developed light, high-speed internal combustion engines suitable for land, water and air use. These were fitted to the world's first motorcycle, motorboat and, after Daimler's death, to a new automobile introduced in late 1902, the Mercedes model, built to the specifications of Emil Jellinek.
Maybach rose to become technical director of the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, also known as Daimler Motor Company or DMG, but he did not get on well with its chairmen. As a result Maybach left DMG in 1907 to found Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH together with his son Karl in 1909, manufacturing Zeppelin engines. After the signing of the Versailles Treaty in 1919 the company started producing large luxury vehicles, branded as Maybach. This continued until the company joined the German war effort in 1940, ceasing automotive production in favour of engines for the Panzer and Tiger tanks.
In 1998 Daimler-Benz merged with Chrysler Corporation to become DaimlerChrysler. The new company revived the Maybach brand name as a luxury make in 2002.
Early life and career beginnings (1846 to 1869)
Wilhelm Maybach was born in Heilbronn in 1846, the son of a carpenter and his wife, Luise, from the town of Heilbronn. He had five sisters. When he was eight years old the family moved from Löwenstein near Heilbronn to Stuttgart. His mother died in 1856 and his father in 1859.
After his relatives published an announcement in a newspaper, the Stuttgarter Anzeiger, a philanthropic institution or Bruderhaus, at Reutlingen, took in Maybach as a student. Its founder and director, Gustav Werner, discovered Maybach's technical inclination and personally helped to stimulate his career by sending him to the school's engineering workshop. At fifteen years old (1861), Maybach was heading for a career in Industrial design and took extra classes in physics and mathematics at Reutlingen's public high-school.
By the time he was nineteen years old, he was a qualified designer, working on stationary engines and coming the attention of his workshop manager, Gottlieb Daimler. Daimler was a workaholic industrial designer then twenty-nine years old and until his death (at Cannstatt), in 1900, he adopted Maybach as his main assistant.
Daimler and Otto's four-stroke engine (1869 to 1880)
In 1869, Maybach then twenty-three years old, followed Daimler to Maschinenbau-Gesellschaft Karlsruhe AG in Karlsruhe, a manufacturer of heavy locomotives. Daimler was on the Executive Committee but they spent long nights discussing new designs for engines, pumps, lumber machinery, and metalworking.
In 1872, Daimler moved to Deutz-AG-Gasmotorenfabrik, in Cologne, then the world's largest manufacturer of stationary gas engines. Nikolaus Otto, its half owner, and Daimler together focused on engine development with Maybach joining them, as Chief Designer.
In 1876, Nikolaus Otto patented the Four-stroke cycle engine, a gas internal combustion engine with intake, compression, power, and exhaust strokes. This is now known as the "Otto cycle" in his honor. Later Otto's patent on this engine was challenged and overturned.
Also in 1876, Maybach was sent to show Deutz's engines at the Philadelphia World's Fair (USA). On returning to Cologne in 1877, at the age of thirty-one years, he concentrated on improving the Four-Stroke design to get it ready for its impending commercial launch.
In 1878, Maybach (now thirty-two) married Bertha Wilhelmine Habermaas a friend of Daimler's wife, Emma Kunz. Her family members were landowners in Maulbronn and also ran a post-office. On July 6, 1879 Karl Maybach was born, the first of their three sons.
Gottlieb Daimler and Nikolaus Otto had serious disagreements which resulted, in 1880, with Daimler leaving Deutz-AG. Daimler received 112.000 Goldmark in Deutz-AG shares as compensation for patents granted to him and Maybach. Maybach shortly after also left and followed his friend to found a new company in Cannstatt.
Daimler Motors: fast and small engines (1882)
In 1882, Maybach (36 years) moved to Southern Germany, to the upmarket suburb of Taubenheimstrasse in Cannstatt, Stuttgart where Daimler had purchased a house with 75,000 Goldmark from his Deutz compensation. In its garden they added a brick extension to the roomy glass-fronted summerhouse which became their workshop.
Their activities alarmed the neighbours who suspected they were engaged in counterfeiting and, in their absence, the police raided the property using the gardener's key, but found only engines.
In 1884, Maybach's second son, Adolf was born.
The Grandfather's Clock engine (1885)
By the end of 1885, Maybach and Daimler developed the first of their engines which is regarded as a precursor to all modern petrol engines It featured:
- single horizontal cylinder
- air cooling
- large cast iron flywheel
- revolutionary hot tube ignition (Patent 28022)
- exhaust valve controlled by a camshaft allowing high speeds.
- a speed of 600 rpm, when at the time most engines could only achieve about 120 to 180 rpm.
In 1885, they also created the first carburetor allowing evaporated gasoline to mix with air to allow its efficient use as fuel . It was used that year on a larger, but still compact version of the engine, now with a vertical cylinder, that featured:
- 1 hp at 600 rpm, output
- 100 cc engine displacement
- non cooled insulated cylinder with unregulated hot-tube ignition (patent DRP-28-022)
Daimler baptized it the Grandfather Clock (Standuhr) because of its resemblance to an old pendulum clock.
In November 1885, Daimler installed a smaller version into a wooden bicycle, creating the first motorcycle, (patent 36-423 - Vehicle with gas or petroleum engine) and Maybach drove it 3 kilometers from Cannstatt to Untertürkheim, reaching 7.5 mph (12 km/h). It became known as the Reitwagen.
In March 8, 1886, the inventors took a stagecoach built by Wilhelm Wimpff & Sohn secretly inside the house, telling the neighbours that it was a birthday gift for Mrs. Daimler. But, in fact, Maybach supervised the installation into it of an enlarged 1.5 hp Grandfather Clock engine and belt drive to the wheels. The vehicle reached 10 mph (15 km/h) when tested on the road to Untertürkheim.
Enthusiastically, Maybach and Daimler went on to prove the engine in many other ways including:
- On water (1887). It was mounted in a 4.5-metre-long boat which achieved 6 knots (11 km/h). The boat was called the Neckar after the river it was tested on and gained patent number DRP 39-367. Motor boat engines would become their main product until the first decade of the 1900s.
- More road vehicles including street cars
- In the air, the first motorized airship, a Balloon based on designs by Dr. Friedrich Hermann Wölfert from Leipzig. They replaced his hand operated drive system and flew over Seelberg successfully on August 10, 1888.
By 1887 they were licensing their first patents abroad, and Maybach represented the company at the great Paris' World Design Exhibition (1886 to 1889).
First Daimler-Maybach automobile (1889)
|high speed four stroke petrol engine|
|2 cylinders V-configured|
|mushroom shaped valves|
|4 speed toothed gearbox|
|pioneer axle-pivot steering system|
Sales increased, mostly from the Neckar motorboat. So, in June 1887, Daimler bought land in the Seelberg Hills of Cannstatt. The workshop was some distance from the town on Ludwig Route 67, because Cannstatt's Mayor objected to the presence of the workshop in the town. It covered 2,903 square meters and cost 30,200 Goldmark. They initially employed twenty-three people. Daimler managed the commercial issues and Maybach the design department.
In 1889 they built their first automobile to be designed in its entirety rather than an adaptation of a stagecoach. It was publicly launched by both inventors in Paris in October 1889.
Daimler's engine licenses began to be taken up throughout the world, starting the modern car industry in:
- France, 1890, Panhard & Levassor and Peugeot
- United Kingdom, 1896, Daimler
- United States of America, 1891, Steinway
Daimler's "devil pact", DMG, and the Phoenix engine (1890 to 1900)
The resources were scant to keep the business going as neither the selling of engines nor the worldwide proceeds from their patent were yielding enough. Fresh capital was injected by bringing in the financiers Max von Duttenhofer and William Lorenz, former munitions makers, who were associated with the influential Kilian von Steiner owner of a German investment bank, and in the process taking the company public.
In 1890, Daimler and Maybach together founded the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, Daimler Motor Company, DMG for short, which was dedicated to the construction of small high speed internal combustion engines for land, water, or air transport use with Maybach as Chief Designer. After spending long hours debating which fuel was best to use in Otto's Four-Stroke engine, which had normally used town gas as a fuel, they turned to petroleum which until then had been used mainly as a cleaner and sold in pharmacies.
The company's re-foundation took place on November 28, 1890. This has been regarded as a "devil pact" by some German historians, as the following decade was chaotic for Daimler and Maybach. DMG continued to expand, however, selling engines from Moscow to New York, and additional stationary engine making capacity was added, but the belief continued that automobile production wouldn't be profitable. The new chairmen also planned to merge DMG and Deutz-AG, in spite of Gottlieb's disagreement with Nikolaus Otto.
Daimler and Chief Engineer Maybach preferred to produce automobiles and reacted against Duttenhofer and Lorenz in particular. Maybach, now aged forty-five, was rejected as a member of the Board of Management and left the company on February 11, 1891, continuing his design work from his own house financed by Gottlieb Daimler and, from late 1892, from the former Hermann Hotel's ballroom and Winter Garden where he employed twelve workers and five paid for by Daimler.
Maybach together with Daimler and his son Paul designed their third engine model, used in the Phoenix in 1894. It gained worldwide attention, pioneering the use of four cylinders in the automobile and featuring:
- single block casting of cylinders, arranged vertical and parallel to each other
- camshaft controlled exhaust valves
- spray-nozzle carburetor (patented by Maybach in 1893)
- improved belt drive.
Some of these cars gained first place in the petrol engine category in the first auto race in history, the Paris to Rouen 1894.
Maybach's creations are considered some of the finest of the second half of the 19th century. His inventions became indispensable for any model by any automaker in the World. He became recognised as the backbone of France's early automobile industry where he was hailed as the "King of Constructors".
Daimler was forced out of his post as Technical Director at DMG resigning in 1893 which damaged DMG's prestige. However, in 1894, a British industrialist, Frederick Simms, purchased for 350,000 marks the rights to the Phoenix engine and so stabilised the companies finances, but also made it a condition that Daimler was re-employed. In 1895 DMG assembled its 1,000th engine, and Maybach returned also, as Chief Engineer, obtaining 30,000 Goldmark worth of shares through his original contract with Gottlieb Daimler.
Maybach kept patenting more automobile inventions including:
- a revolutionary cooling system, tubular radiator with fan
- the honeycomb radiator
Around this time though Maybach suffered two setbacks. His teenage second son, Adolf, suffered a Schizophrenia attack and spent the rest of his life in various mental institutions (In 1940 he was murdered by the Nazis as part of the Euthanasia Program). Also, in 1900, Gottlieb Daimler died of heart disease.
Daimler-Mercedes engine of 1900
|Large wheelbase. Wide track.|
|Pressed steel framework. Lightweight metals.|
|Low center of gravity (lower engine).|
|75 km/h (45 mph). 35 hp (950 rpm). 300 to 1000 rpm (driver controlled).|
|Light and high performance engine: 4 in-line cylinders. Bore/stroke ratio: 116x140 mm. Displacement: 5918 cc. Cylinder heads part of the castings. Two carburetors, one for each cylinder pair. Driver controlled intake valve throttling. Two camshafts.|
|Low voltage ignition magnetos.|
|Aluminium crankcase (pioneer), horizontally divided.|
In 1900, between April and October, Maybach designed a completely new kind of car inspired by racing which, when released in 1902, would be called the Mercedes 35 hp. It featured:
- long wheelbase
- wide track
- low height
- unheard-of power from its 35 hp engine allowing it to reach 40 mph (64,4 km/h).
Its engine was baptized Daimler-Mercedes (Spanish for mercy) after Mercedes Jellinek the ten year old daughter of Emil Jellinek a successful Austrian dealer and racing driver on the French Riviera who greatly admired Maybach's work. Jellinek had promised to buy a large shipment, of 36 automobiles, for 550,000 Goldmark if Maybach, now fifty-four, could design a great race car for him following his specifications.
Jellinek stipulated that the engine should be named Daimler-Mercedes and DMG agreed to this because in France its name was already used as a trademark for their engines used by Panhard & Levassor.
The prototype was finally finished in December 1900 and, in 1901 went on to have a string of racing successes. European high society also bought the car in large numbers making it the commercial success that convinced the compnmay directors there was a future in automobiles. Production increased greatly and DMG rapidly increased in size and number of employees. DMG officially registered the Mercedes (car) trademark in June 1902.
In 1902, a great blaze destroyed DMG's Cannstatt facilities and the company moved to Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. Maybach continued however with his innovations:
- a 6-cylinder/70 hp engine (1903-04)
- the origin of aviation with a high speed racing engine of 120 hp, with overhead inlet and exhaust valves and double ignition (1906, at age sixty)
But, again, DMG demoted him to an insignificant "Inventor's Office" causing him again to leave the company in 1907 when sixty-one years old. DMG replaced him with Paul Daimler.
Zeppelin engines (1908)
In the year 1900, Maybach had had his first contact with Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin who sought to improve the engines of the Zeppelin-LZ1 airship. Maybach built some engines for him based on sketches of a 150 hp unit created by his son, Karl, while at DMG.
In 1908, Count Zeppelin attempted to sell his models LZ3 and LZ4 to the government but LZ4 suffered a catastrophe on August 5 when its engines failed, and in attempting an emergency landing at Echterdingen exploded against a row of trees. This was far from being the end for the airship project as Germans spontaneously donated 6.25 million Goldmark and Count Zeppelin founded the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH company the builder of Zeppelin Airships.
Maybach had to hold off joining the new company for a while as he was still in litigation with DMG so Karl took his place. In March 23, 1909, a deal was finally signed, creating an engine subsidiary to Luftschiffbau Zeppelin at Bissingen/Enz, in Württemberg. Wilhelm Maybach was Technical Assistant and Karl was Technical Manager. Their first designs reached 20 m/s (72000 m/h - 72 km/h or 0.0124742 mps (miles/seconds) - 44.73873 mph).
Wilhelm Maybach moved the company to Friedrichshafen and renamed it Luftfahrzeug-Motoren-GmbH with father and son holding 20% of the shares with an arrangement for Karl to inherit. They kept supplying Zeppelin, but worked on other airship engines too. In 1912, the company finally adopted the name Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH (Maybach engine construction company). During the war, in 1916, they developed a 160 hp aircraft engine which sold 2000 units before the end of the conflict.
Maybach automobiles (1922)
After the first world war, the Versailles Treaty of 1919 prohibited airship production in Germany so Maybach was forced to turn to making high-speed diesel engines for naval and railroad use, and petrol engines for automobiles, but not complete automobiles.
Many of the small automakers in Germany built their own engines for cost reasons and only the Dutch Spyker company was interested in taking Maybach engines. Wilhelm Maybach, now aged seventy-four turned down the contract because he could not agree to its conditions. Instead, he opted to build complete automobiles and from 1921, the factory began to produce Maybach limousines.
The first model, the Maybach W3, was shown at the 1921 Automobile Exposition in Berlin and featured
- 6 cylinder engine
- 4-wheel brakes
- new transmission system
- maximum speed of 105 km/h (65 mph)
It was produced until 1928, selling 300 units mostly with sedan bodies; the two-seat sport version was less successful. The Maybach W5 followed, with top speed increased to 135 km/h (84 mph), with 250 sold 1927 and 1929.
Next Maybach produced their V12 car:
- first 12-cylinder German automobile
- lightweight aluminium engine based on his airship work
- light alloy pistons
- 7-litre capacity
- high torque and power - 150 hp (110 kW) at 2800 rpm
Only a few dozen were sold due to the German postwar economic crisis. In 1930, its successor the DS7-Zeppelin also featured a 12 cylinder engine of 7 liters.
In August 1929, the Zeppelin LZ-127 used five Maybach-V12 petrol engines of 550 hp (410 kW) each.
Final years of DMG (1924-1929)
By 1924 DMG was suffering from the post war economic crisis and under pressure from the banks, it began the process that would result in a merger with Karl Benz's Benz & Cie., Rheinische Gasmotorenfabrik Mannheim in 1926 to form Daimler-Benz AG.
Wilhelm Maybach died at the age of 83 in Stuttgart on December 29, 1929.
|Lists of miscellaneous information should be avoided. Please relocate any relevant information into appropriate sections or articles. (June 2007)|
- Ironically, in 1907, the same year he left DMG, the German Engineers Association (VDI) recognized Wilhelm Maybach as an honorary member.
- During the war, in 1916, Wilhelm Maybach (seventy) was honoured by the Technical University of Stuttgart with an Honorary Doctorate.
- Wilhelm Maybach was accepted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1996.
- Three technical Schools in Germany are named Wilhelm Maybach: Stuttgart, Heilbronn, and Berlin-Spandau.
- In 2002, Daimler AG began to produce models under the Maybach name.
- Gottlieb Daimler
- Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft
- Mercedes 35 hp (1900)
- Mercedes Simplex
- Mercedes (car)
- Karl Benz
- Niemann, Harry: Mythos Maybach, 4. Aufl., Stuttgart 2002
- Niemann, Harry: Maybach - der Vater des Mercedes, 3. Aufl., Stuttgart 2000
- Niemann, Harry: Wilhelm Maybach - König der Konstrukteure, 1. Aufl., Stuttgart 1995
- Rathke, Kurt: Wilhelm Maybach - Anbruch eines neuen Zeitalters, 1. Aufl., Friedrichshafen 1953
- Rauck, Max J.: Wilhelm Maybach: der grosse Automobilkonstrukteur. Baar 1979.
- Dokumentarfilm im Auftrag der Mercedes-Benz AG 1995: Wilhelm Maybach - König der Konstrukteure