“The utmost originality” was the mission of the Mercedes-Benz Oldtimer Center when it was established 25 years ago in Fellbach, near Stuttgart.
“Since then it has set standards as an unrivaled center of competence for the utmost originality and authenticity relating to the brand’s classic vehicles,” the company said in its anniversary news release. “Its services include work restorations, the supply of original replacement parts, the care of vehicle collections and the support for the ClassicPartners.”
In the meantime, the company’s Oldtimer preservation and restoration effort has changed its name to the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center and has established, in 2006, a center in Irvine, California, to serve the North American market.
In Germany, the Classic Center maintains the 1,000 vehicles in the Mercedes-Benz collection, including the 160 on display in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. It also prepares those vehicles for participation in nearly two dozen events around the world, such as the Mille Miglia and Goodwood Festival of Speed.
It also works with the more than 100,000 members of the 80 official Mercedes-Benz owners clubs around the world on providing information, replacement parts and other support.
Further, it has established a ClassicPartner network of 25 dealerships and other businesses in Germany where it shares its expertise to additional customers through sales, workshops and service.
Following Mercedes’ example, several other long-time European automakers have established their own vintage vehicle departments to provide similar services to their customers interested in maintaining brand heritage and authenticity.
In its news release, Mercedes Classic noted that authenticity extends to “authentic replicas.”
“Authentic replicas of vehicles by Mercedes-Benz and its preceding brands go another step further than works restorations,” the news release said. “Highlights in this category include the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner (W 29) presented in 2014. This one-off car built at the end of 1938, which was long thought to be lost forever, came back to life as an absolutely true replica following a highly demanding and complex restoration project under the aegis of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center.
“Contemporary techniques, methods and materials are used during such projects. Key documents from the (corporate) archives are the basis for ensuring that such vehicles can be resurrected.
“Intense consultation with the Mercedes-Benz archives is essential for this many-faceted work, so as to achieve the greatest possible level of originality. On the one hand, this applies to the research work for restorations or the duplication of parts. On the other hand, the Classic Center and the archives work together closely when preparing reports on the originality of very valuable Mercedes-Benz classics.”
Back on May 19, 1993, “The time has come: Mercedes-Benz is the first automobile company to open its own Oldtimer Center,” the original news release reported 25 years ago.
“In this way the Stuttgart-based company is doing justice to the great brand tradition and the high esteem in which even older products bearing the Mercedes star are held.”
Max-Gerrit von Pein, then manager of the Mercedes-Benz Museum who pushed for the Oldtimer Center’s establishment, noted that the first proposals for such a facility were advanced in the late 1970s. The center originally was housed in a former factory facility.
“The initial focus was particularly on original replacement parts, as interest in classic vehicles was already growing continuously at that time,” the company said. “In Germany from the early 1970s to 1993, the population of lovingly cared-for automobiles which are over 20 years old increased more than ten-fold. During this period, the demand for original replacement parts for older and more recent classics increased in the same proportion. It was precisely this demand that Mercedes-Benz met with the Classic Center.”