Wilhelm Maybach was born in Heilbronn on February 9, 1846, where he grew up with his five siblings. He became an orphan at the age of ten. He went to school at the Bruderhaus Reutlingen, a Christian institution founded to give homes and work to the socially disadvantaged, whose founder and head master recognized Maybach’s technical talent at a very early stage and gave him encouragement. In Reutlingen Maybach also made the acquaintance of Gottlieb Daimler in 1865, becoming his collaborator and devoted friend until the latter’s death. From September 1869 Maybach worked together with Daimler in Karlsruhe, then moved to the Deutz gas engine company. There he was inspired to design a lightweight, high-speed internal combustion engine which would be suitable for vehicles on land, on water and in the air. Daimler had left Gasmotorenfabrik Deutz in mid-1882, following differences of opinion with the management. In October 1882 Wilhelm Maybach followed him to Cannstatt to realize the idea of a lightweight, high-speed internal combustion engine.
During his extensive research Maybach came across a patent by the Englishman Watson describing an unregulated hot-tube ignition system – an important precondition for higher engine speeds. In 1883 he developed the first experimental horizontal engine which was followed by the so-called Grandfather Clock, an engine with a vertical cylinder which was suitable for installation in a vehicle. In 1885 a wooden Riding Car was equipped with this engine, followed by a coach in the subsequent year. But Maybach was not content merely to build engines for coaches. The invention resulting from these efforts was the steel-wheeled car, and it was with this vehicle that Maybach introduced the gearwheel transmission to automotive engineering. Maybach’s design was first presented to the world public at the 1889 World Fair in Paris. In this respect Maybach was even partly responsible for the creation of the French motor industry.
When Gottlieb Daimler founded Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) together with Max Duttenhofer and Wilhelm Lorenz in November 1890, Maybach was appointed Chief Engineer, however he already left the company again in February 1891 owing to the unfavourable terms of his employment contract. For one and a half years Maybach carried out further design work in his own home. In the fall of 1892 he began development work financed by Daimler at the Hermann Hotel in Cannstatt, producing major designs such as the spray-nozzle carburetor and the Phoenix engine, as well as detailed improvements to the belt drive. At the instigation of the English industrialist Frederick Simms, Maybach returned to DMG as Chief Engineer in November 1895. There he initially developed the tubular radiator with a ventilator, and later the honeycomb radiator. As a further technical masterpiece, the King of Designers – as the French called him – designed the first four-cylinder automotive engine. In 1898/99 he also designed a new engine generation with five models from 6 PS (4 kW) to 23 PS (17 kW).
Maybach created what is probably his most outstanding design after Daimler’s death in 1900: in March 1901 the first Mercedes caused a sensation at the Nice Week. This car was significantly different from any other vehicle previously designed and built by Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, and put an end to the era of the coach in automotive engineering. In subsequent years Mercedes cars met with great success. Maybach, however, fell victim to several intrigues. He was replaced as Chief Engineer and limited his activities to an Invention Department. In 1907 he left DMG an embittered man.
After a squall destroyed Zeppelin LZ 4 on 5 August 1908, Maybach suggested to Count Zeppelin that he could build a new and better airship engine. In 1909, they joined forces to found the Luftfahrzeug-Motorenbau-GmbH in Bissingen and Wilhelm Maybach’s son, Karl Maybach, was made technical director of the company. In 1912, the company relocated to Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance and Karl designed the new engine.
After the end of the First World War the company, now trading as Maybach-Motorenbau, launched into automotive engineering. The vehicles were designed by Karl Maybach. The first series-production car, the Maybach 22/70 PS (W 3), was presented in 1921 and remained in production until 1928.
By producing this car and the other Maybach cars, that were built until 1941, the company was in direct competition with the then Daimler-Benz AG. With such models as the Mercedes-Benz “Nürburg”, the model 770 “Grand Mercedes” or the 500 K/540 K models, for example, that company in turn set standards during this period. But there was one common factor that united both companies, and that was the aim of satisfying the wishes of the most demanding customers with highly exclusive vehicles that were outstanding in terms of technology, design, equipment and quality.
In the last year of his life, Maybach witnessed the LZ 127 “Graf Zeppelin” airship’s flight around the world. The airship was powered by Maybach twelve-cylinder engines. He died on 29 December 1929.
In 1960, Daimler-Benz AG acquired Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH, including its trademark rights. At that time, the large engine division was of particular interest. In 2002, the legendary name was reborn as a luxury brand of what was DaimlerChrysler AG at the time. Model series 240 Maybach 62 and Maybach 57 luxury saloons redefined the standard at the pinnacle of automotive engineering. In autumn 2008, the Maybach 62 S Landaulet was added to the range. The highest position in the high-end class was marked by the Maybach Zeppelin, which was a limited edition consisting of only 100 units.
In November 2014, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class (model series 222) celebrated its world premiere. Ever since, the brand has been a synonym for highly exclusive vehicles providing a unique level of comfort and elegant design – on the basis of cutting-edge technology.
Highlights included the debuts of the Mercedes-Maybach S 600 Pullman (2015) and the S 600 Pullman Guard with special protection (2016). The new Mercedes-Maybach S-Class (model series 223) has been continuing with this outstanding tradition since the end of 2020. The Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC also forms part of the brand's exclusive car range.
Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC: Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 12 l/100 km; CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert: 275 g/km.1