This O 302 coach in Collection 4: Gallery of Celebrities stands out. The striking design with the “WM 74” (World Cup 74) logo, the inscription “BR Deutschland” (FR Germany) and the applied national colours of black, red and gold give a hint of the former use. It is the bus of the West German team during the tenth football World Cup 48 years ago. The tournament took place from 13 June to 7 July 1974 in West Germany and West Berlin. Sixteen nations took part, and each of them had an O 302 at their disposal for all journeys, complete with their country’s name and colours. On top of the roof, flags of the respective team fluttered in the wind.
The doors of the World Cup bus are always open to Museum visitors. A walk through the bus is like a journey back in time to the bus comfort levels of the 1970s. The red-orange seat cover fabric glows vibrantly. There is a head restraint cover on each armchair. The individual equipment also includes ashtrays at every seat, an on-board toilet and even a tap for fresh beer. Yes, times were different – non-alcoholic barley juice would not become widespread until much later, and smoking was still socially acceptable, even for competitive athletes.
On his well-suspended seat, the driver turned the large black steering wheel and set his sights on the next venue through the large panoramic window. In the seat next to him? Probably national coach Helmut Schön, perhaps also assistant coach Jupp Derwall or captain Franz Beckenbauer. It is known that each player had their own assigned seat. The World Cup song “Fußball ist unser Leben” was certainly played on the Blaupunkt stereo radio-cassette player quite often. The players in the senior national team of the DFB (German Football Association) sang it in person in the recording studio before the tournament. The song also plays as soon as Museum visitors enter the bus.
The 1974 World Cup logo on the outside of the bus represents a stylised rolling football. The mascots of the West German team greet us from the rear: Tip and Tap – two laughing boys with red cheeks in the black and white DFB kit. They were created by Saarbrücken graphic artist Horst Schäfer. The mascots were available as soft toys and key rings, as well as on ties, children’s pyjamas, beer mugs and mustard jars, among other things.
Why is “BR Deutschland” (FR Germany) written on the outside of the bus? At that time, Germany was still divided, and the team of the German Democratic Republic from the other side of the “Iron Curtain” also took part in the tournament. On their bus it read “DDR” (GDR). The GDR was eliminated in the second round.
The O 302 bus was built from spring 1965 onwards. With it, Mercedes-Benz met high-end requirements in terms of speed, suspension comfort and ease of use. Available for the first time as special equipment: air conditioning. The 1974 World Cup buses were equipped with it – the “Thermo King” system was located at the back on the roof.
By 1976, Mercedes-Benz had produced more than 32,000 model O 302 vehicles. The air suspension, initially special equipment, was fitted as standard from 1971 onwards. The bus was available with a choice of four six-cylinder in-line naturally aspirated diesel engines and outputs ranging from 93 kW to 176 kW (126 PS to 240 PS). The next generation, the O 303, had already gone into production in 1974, which raised the bar for travel comfort to an even higher level.
For three and a half weeks, the footballers travelled to match venues all over West Germany in “their” O 302. In the final on 7 July 1974 in Munich, the German team met their Dutch counterparts. 25 minutes after kick-off, the score was 1-1. Gerd Müller scored to make it 2-1 with a skilful pivot before the break after good work from Rainer Bonhof during the build-up. This is how the game ended after the second half. Germany celebrated winning the World Cup for the second time, the first being in 1954. It is assumed that plenty of celebratory beer flowed from the tap on the bus on the way back to the team hotel.
After the World Cup, the coaches of the sixteen teams were used in normal travel operations, only without the special exterior design. At some point, traces of them disappeared, including those of the O 302 vehicle used by the West German footballers. And so the popular bus in the Mercedes-Benz Museum is a faithful replica – and one of the most popular exhibits there.