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Benz history on display

The inventor of the automobile has also reinvented the auto museum, blending an ubercool atmosphere with an intensely historic (yet at the same time wonderfully stylish) edge.

STUTTGART, Germany — The inventor of the automobile has also reinvented the auto museum, blending an ubercool atmosphere with an intensely historic (yet at the same time wonderfully stylish) edge.

The remarkable design of the ultra-modern nine-story building twists and turns you like a sculpture full of contradictions; now you see things and people, now you don’t. Although you can tour the Museum’s nine floors in a couple of hours, it could take up to six hours to see every car and display.

The structure itself illustrates the genetic makeup of the Mercedes-Benz brand. The interior of the building is modelled on the double-helix form of the DNA spiral, which carries the human genes. This, in turn, shows the original philosophy of the carmaker — the continuous invention of new things to maintain personal mobility, from the invention of the automobile to a future-oriented vision of accident-free driving.

The presentation of the 160 or so vehicles on display is simply superb, the architecture is super-cool and the cars, well, they’re Mercedes, each one playing its part in presenting the 120-year history of the automotive industry from day one.

Your progress begins from a starting point at the top floor where you’ll find the two oldest cars (created by Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz) dedicated to the invention of the car. From there, two spiralling ramps steer you down to a series of Legend rooms and Collection rooms.

The Legend rooms are sheltered and artificially lit, like theatrical spaces. Entering them is like walking onto a stage. Each of the seven rooms tells a story within the car’s historical context, from the invention of the automobile to the birth of the brand and all the way to the race and record accomplishments of the company’s famed Silver Arrows.

The Collection rooms are exposed and day-lit, surrounded by huge panoramic windows. Here, you’ll see the enormous variety of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, assembled according to topic areas in galleries such as the Gallery of Trucks, Gallery of Loads and Gallery of Names. The latter includes everything from Princess Di’s 500SL roadster, to Pope John Paul II’s ‘Popemobile’, a well-used 190 AMG sedan once owned by the Beatle’s drummer Ringo Starr, and the team bus that transported the victorious German national soccer squad during the 1974 World Cup. There’s also a Gallery of Helpers, devoted to emergency vehicles bearing the three-pointed star.

But the pice de rsistance is the Legends room with its array of race cars and record breakers. Everything you could wish to see is here: the original Blitzen Benz; pre- and post-war Silver Arrows Grand Prix cars; the 300 SLR Stirling Moss drove to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia; Mika Hkkinen’s F1 world championship winner; the Penske PC23 that won the ’94 Indy 500 with a Mercedes engine designed and built in just 10 months; and modern day winners such as the world Sports-Protoype and DTM champions.

If you’re looking for an intense ‘hit’ on the history of Mercedes-Benz — and the history of the automobile — it doesn’t come any purer than this magnificent museum and its mammoth collection, arguably the ultimate auto museum experience.

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