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Tracing The Mercedes-Benz S Class’ Roots

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1904 Simplex 60hp

1904 Simplex 60hp

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Next year a brand new generation of the Mercedes-Benz S Class will be launched. The new car, the W222 series, will be the sixth generation of the S Class, but the tradition of large flagship sedans from Mercedes-Benz dates back much farther than just six generations.

In fact, it goes all the way back to the early 1900s, a time when the Mercedes brand wasn't even in existence.

Since then, however, the reputation of the brand for offering high-end vehicles with an emphasis on luxury, comfort and safety has been firmly established.

It could be said that the S Class’ roots stretch right back to the very origins of the Mercedes brand, with a car known as the 1904 Simplex 60hp.

It was built by Daimler, on behalf of Emil Jellinek, who was helping to sell Daimler models to customers in France. The Austrian businessman required that his latest vehicle be much more luxurious than previous Simplex models, as he intended to use it to promote the new concept of holiday road trips to wealthy industrialists in Europe.  

The 1904 Simplex 60hp was much bigger and more powerful than the vehicles of its time, coming with an enclosed section for the driver, leather trim on all its seats, and polished metals around the cabin. Thus, Daimler’s first 'sonder' vehicle (the German word for special), which the “S” in S Class is derived, could be considered Jellinek’s car.    

Jellinek was already a long-time customer of Daimler, though his previous cars weren’t very luxurious and many were used for racing. He would sell these to wealthy individuals in France, using his daughter’s name, Mercedes, as the brand.

Emil Jellinek and daughter Mercedes

Emil Jellinek and daughter Mercedes

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Note, while it was thought for many years that Mercedes was just a nickname of Jellinek’s daughter, who was also known as Adriana, one of her original passports has been found where her name is listed as Mercedes.

Daimler would continue to do business with Jellinek for several more years. Eventually, Daimler decided to use the Mercedes name for its own cars, and when Daimler merged with Karl Benz's Benz & Cie. in 1926, the “Mercedes-Benz” brand name born.

It was around this time that the next flagship sedan from the newly merged German automaker was launched. That vehicle was the W08 series Mercedes-Benz Nürburg of 1928.

This was Mercedes’ first eight-cylinder model, and as you may have guessed its name was derived from the legendary Nürburgring circuit where it was extensively tested, just like modern Mercedes vehicles. The Mercedes Nürburg is significant as it was one of the first vehicles to not only be luxurious, but also fast.

It was also during the time of the Mercedes Nürburg that customers, due to ever more powerful engines and increasing volumes of traffic, were seeking vehicles that had optimal handling, safety and protection against the elements. This led to the increasing popularity of high-end, flagship sedans.

W08 Mercedes-Benz Nürburg (1928 to 1933)

W08 Mercedes-Benz Nürburg (1928 to 1933)

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Hit the next page to see the post-WWII Mercedes models that would eventually lead to the first S Class.

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