Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche are among the most famous German brands in the world. It is a reflection of a long tradition of building excellent and groundbreaking cars that has long been the pride of Germany, starting with the first car made by Karl Benz in 1886. You can share in this experience with a visit to the museums dedicated to these great marques.
A museum to Mercedes
The Mercedes-Benz museum is located in Stuttgart-Unterturkheim. It is housed within what is today the oldest automobile factory in the world. The museum chronicles the early days of the automobile, with the early Daimler Motor Carriage, early innovations such as belt-driven automobiles and the first motor buses. The exhibition proceeds with a display of the race winning cars from the early years of the 20th century, and the elegant touring cars that were derived from the competition models.
World War II only put a temporary halt to the progress of Mercedes. In the 1950s, a rejuvenated Mercedes, in partnership with the racing legend Juan Manuel Fangio, dominated the World Racing Championship with models like the W 196 Monoposto. Apart from cars, the display also includes aeroplanes, motorcycles and advertising material which forms the narrative of the Mercedes story.
The Mercedes Benz Museum is designed with disabled-friendly ramps. Exhibit descriptions are mostly audio, using a radio device distributed to visitors and providing commentary in English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese.
Right across town, in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, is the home of yet another seminal name in motoring. The Porsche Museum at Porsche Strasse may seem modest in comparison to their cross-town rivals, but ask any car enthusiast to name the sexier brand, and chances are Porsche will be the one.
Interesting exhibits here include the numerous Le Mans race winners over the years, rare one-off models such as a 914 derivative model that was presented to founder Ferdinand Porsche by his company. You will also find a record of the evolution which has taken place over the years within one single model —the 911.
From aircraft to ultimate driving machines — in Munich
Now regarded as the sports car with the longest production run ever, the 911 is the model that people on the street most closely associate with the Porsche brand. With its distinctive round lights and sleek back housing the rear engine, this model has incorporated state of the art technologies developed over its long lifetime, and bears a mere cosmetic resemblance to its ancestors.
The marque most people regard as Mercedes’ No. 1 rival is BMW, and they have a museum too. The BMW Museum is located in Munich, near the Olympics Village used for the 1972 Olympic Games. Housed in a unique mushroom-shaped building, which has been nicknamed the “salad bowl”, the Museum was built within the BMW Headquarters complex.
Featured here are displays about the early history of BMW and its links to the aviation industry. There are numerous motorcycles as well, including models used by the German Army during World War II. While BMW today is closely associated with performance motoring, the Isetta will remind you of the days when BMW also produced humble utilitarian motor transports.
As Germany regained its preeminent position in the world, culminating in the 1972 Olympics, BMW join the celebration with the Turbo concept car. This car features a gull-wing design, and a sleek front design adopted by the M1 and 8 series production models. Only two were ever built, and one is on display at the museum. The exhibits are rounded off with BMW concepts for tomorrow — prototypes and models which they have envisioned for the future.
Entry to the Mercedes and Porsche Museums is free. The Mercedes-Benz Museum is open 9 am — 5 pm Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed on Mondays and public holidays. The Porsche Museum is open 9 am — 4 pm Monday to Friday, and 9 am — 5 pm on weekends and public holidays.
The BMW Museum is open daily from 9 am — 5 pm. There is an entrance fee.