Retro Classics 2017 – Gaggenau plant
Centre of competence for mechanical and automated truck transmissions.
The Mercedes-Benz Gaggenau plant was founded in 1894 as "Bergmann-Industriewerke GmbH" and is thus the oldest automotive manufacturing plant in the world.
After more than 50 years of producing the Unimog, in 2002 the Gaggenau plant handed over its final remaining complete vehicle production branch to the Wörth plant and took on its current function as a centre of competence for mechanical and automated transmissions.
With around 6,600 employees, it is not only the biggest employer in the town but also the region's most active company for apprenticeships. The plant manufactures manual and automated manual transmissions, planetary and portal axles, torque converters and pressed components.
The product range for transmissions ranges from manual transmissions for passenger cars to units for heavy-duty commercial vehicles. Thus, the plant in the Murg Valley today functions as a supplier for other Mercedes-Benz plants. Up to the present day, around ten million transmissions have left the Gaggenau plant en route for distribution in the wider world.
An efficient engine concept in economically difficult times: In 1932, the Lo 2000 came onto the market as the first light-duty truck in the world with a diesel engine as standard and provided the breakthrough for the diesel engine in the commercial vehicle sector.
In an extremely difficult period, Daimler-Benz AG took the bold step of extending its commercial vehicle program more than ever before and also offering a diesel engine as standard in the so-called fast truck. Lo 2000 was the name of the light-duty truck which Daimler-Benz exhibited in 1932 at the Geneva Motor Show. It was equipped with the newly designed 3.8-litre pre-chamber diesel engine OM 59 and helped the diesel engine to gain a widespread breakthrough.
With the advent of the Lo 2000, there was a turnaround: the world was coming apart at the seams. Inflation, the world economic crisis and political upheaval were in full swing when Daimler-Benz AG decided to comprehensively modernise and diversify its truck programme as never before. The all-encompassing crisis had also left its mark on Daimler-Benz: buyers for trucks were in short supply. Whereas commercial vehicle production in 1928 reached 4,692 units, the year 1932 saw just 1,595 vehicles leave the production facility in Gaggenau. This plant had been given the task of manufacturing commercial vehicles after the merging of Benz & Cie and Daimler Motorengesellschaft (Daimler Engine Company) in 1926 to form Daimler-Benz AG.
Universal design: manoeuvrable, quick and economical, this vehicle became very popular. Its multi-purpose design allowed it to be used as a dump truck, a furniture van, a tanker truck and a refrigerated truck as well doubling as a special-purpose vehicle for local councils, police and fire services. The Lo 2000 was also used from the beginning as an ambulance. Starting in 1934, the first semitrailer combinations were added to the programme.
The 'short-nosed' truck: in 1959 Mercedes-Benz presented a generation of new commercial vehicles: The 'short-nosed' trucks. The LK 338 introduced in 1960 is an early example of this model series built at the Gaggenau plant. The new trucks had a short, separate engine bonnet – in contrast to the cab-over-engine trucks which had become more and more common. Compared to their predecessors, the so-called long-nosed trucks, the short-nosed trucks had one important advantage: although the total length of the truck was the same, the effective length was greater and therefore they were more cost-efficient. This was an important factor at the end of the 1950s because the length of truck trailers was limited by law to 14 metres.
The short-nosed trucks were powered by in-line six-cylinder diesel engines which functioned according to the well-established pre-chamber principle. With a capacity of between 4.5 and 10.8 litres, they achieved an output of 100 to 180 hp. In 1964, Mercedes-Benz converted its engines in the whole of its truck and bus programme to direct injection - a procedure which offers advantages with regard to fuel consumption and mileage.
In Germany, the 'short-nosed' trucks were replaced in 1973 by a new generation of cab-over-engine trucks but for export, individual short-nosed models were still produced up to 1995: all over the world, they had a unique reputation for reliability and performance.