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Maybach: The Man, The Car, The Model Continued...
May 15, 2003, by Bill Cawthon
In the last column, I wrote about Wilhelm and Karl Maybach and the classic cars that bore their name. This time, we'll cover the modern interpretation of the Maybach and Herpa's 1:87-scale model of the Maybach 57.
After a few years of rumors and spy shots, the new Maybach went on sale in Europe last year and it had its first public showing at the 2002 Paris Auto Show (see "You'll always have Paris"). Late this spring, DaimlerChrysler says American buyers will be able to begin placing their orders.
The modern Maybach was originally conceived in the late 1990s as an "Über-Benz," a supreme Mercedes sedan positioned above the S500 that would recall the classic Mercedes 300 and 600 limousines of the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, the concept unveiled in 1997 for the Tokyo Auto Show had a three-pointed star and an S-Class grille. However, early consumer feedback indicated any Mercedes, no matter how luxurious, would have difficulty commanding a price in excess of a quarter-million dollars. So, in early 2001, to effectively compete with a Rolls-Royce from BMW and a Bentley from Volkswagen, DaimlerChrysler decided to make Maybach a standalone brand with two models, the 57 and the longer 62. Taking a cue from the yachting world, the model designations come from the lengths of the cars in meters.
While the new-generation Maybachs no longer have the custom bodies of the legendary Zeppelins, they still have a powerful V12 engine capable of propelling the 3-ton car to 150 MPH and each is built to the buyer's specifications. If you have the requisite $330,000 or so, you can be one of the thousand to twelve hundred people in the world who will be able to "commission" a Maybach each year. As with a Rolls-Royce, the process begins by contacting a representative at a specially selected Mercedes dealer.
Once you have specified the details of your Maybach, the "Manufaktur," a special factory in Sindelfingen, Germany, begins the actual construction. As your new car approaches completion, DaimlerChrysler will arrange for your trip to the plant to be on hand when it is complete. You need not worry about crowds of other Maybach customers: the Manufaktur completes only about five cars a day.
For those of us in the real world, Herpa has produced a much more affordable version. Appropriately, it is the most expensive Herpa car model offered in North America (the Brilliant series cars are about 11¢ more in Germany, but they are only available through Herpa's eXtra Shop). However, as with the real Maybach, you are paying for the extra touches and you do get your money's worth. You even get a presentation case.
In my opinion, Herpa's No. 101455 Maybach 57 is one of the finest models I have seen come out of Dietenhofen. The detailing is exquisite and the two-tone metallic green paint job deserves an in-person viewing.
One of the most commanding features of the model is the front end with its chrome grille topped by a delicate hood ornament with the trademark intertwined Ms of Maybach Motorenbau (DaimlerChrysler says they now stand for "Maybach Manufaktur"). Every detail of the Maybach's distinctive headlight arrangement is captured. The view from the rear of the car is equally nice. The Maybach logo is not just printed; it is molded on the rear deck lid. The stripes on the taillight inserts duplicate the transparent section of the real Maybach's lights. Incidentally, the real Maybach uses incandescent bulbs only for the backup lights. A total of 528 LEDs are used for the taillights, brake lights and turn signals.
The interior is one of Herpa's best with none of the (ahem) shortcuts found on other models I could mention. In addition to a separate steering wheel, the seats, front and rear consoles and dashboard details are clearly molded and capture the prototype's fittings very well.
The Herpa Maybach 57 is a surprisingly big, just like its prototype. If the only Maybach pictures you have ever seen are DaimlerChrysler's publicity photos of the car standing by itself, you may not realize just how large it is. DaimlerChrysler has a tendency to photograph Maybachs next to large buildings, city skylines and such, which make it difficult to gauge the size of the car. The Maybach 57 is 5.73 meters long, or about 18 feet, 10 inches for the metrically challenged. That's more than four inches longer than the stretched Lincoln Cartier L Town Car or Cadillac Escalade ESV. The Maybach 62 is longer still, coming at 6.17 meters or roughly 20 feet, 3 inches. It's also a tall car, measuring 5 feet, 2 inches from ground to roof. Of course, no one wealthy enough to afford a Maybach will have any trouble building an extra-large garage and who worries about parking spaces when one has a chauffeur?
I didn't a have real Maybach handy, so I popped the model off its base and placed it next to Herpa's Mercedes S-Class sedan. If I hadn't already checked the measurements with digital calipers, I would swear the two models were different scales. The S-Class looked positively petite.
As nice as the miniature Maybach is, Herpa has left the door open for even an even nicer version. I hope the Maybach will get the "Brilliant" treatment with premium lacquer finish and more real chrome trim: That's a model I would buy in a heartbeat. I would also like to see Herpa offer some of the colors they produced as promotional models for DaimlerChrysler or the classic Zeppelin combination of black and maroon.
For now, the Herpa Maybach is alone as the only 1:87-scale model of a modern, ultra-luxury car. Despite earlier rumors, it's unlikely BMW will commission an HO-scale model of the new Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Today, the leading German modelmakers are in a competition just like the one between DaimlerChrysler and BMW. Each is producing incredibly detailed models with beautiful finishes and each generation keeps getting better. If you enjoy outstanding models of modern automobiles, you will want to add the Herpa Maybach to your collection. For model railroaders, dealers in the U.S. will soon start to take orders for the real thing, so the Maybach will be prototypical by late summer or fall. Perhaps you could spend the intervening time adding a yacht club or polo field to your layout.
Many thanks to my friend Bob Johnson for all the work he did taking the beautiful model photos I used in the illustrations. The photos of Wilhelm and Karl Maybach and classic Mercedes and Maybach vehicles are from the DaimlerChrysler archives and are copyright © 2003 by DaimlerChrysler AG.
See you next time!
- Bill Cawthon
Bill Cawthon is an award-winning modeller and collector. His primary modeling interests are model railroading and vehicle models in 1:87 and 1:160 scales. He has written numerous articles for regional and division NMRA publications and is a contributor to the newsletter of the 1-87 Vehicle Club. He follows both the automobile industry and the European scale vehicle industry.
In real life, Bill is a full-time marketing and public relations consultant for the high-tech industry. He lives in Houston, Texas with his wife and four children.
Bill writes bi-weekly for Promotex Online. To learn more about him, click here.
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