We like to give German automakers a lot of guff for their, complicated model nomenclature schemes, which seem to get shuffled around every few years for no apparent reason. But on the anniversary of the formation of Mercedes-Benz, which turns 92 today, it’s worth noting: Model names that need a decoder ring to understand are nothing new.
Mercedes-Benz — a brand used by Daimler-Benz (see, it gets complicated with the naming) — was created on June 28, 1926 when Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, a.k.a. DMG (founded 1890) merged with Benz & Companie Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik, a.k.a Benz & Cie. (founded 1883). And the first car to wear the newly forged marque’s name was the 1926 Mercedes-Benz 24/100/140, a.ka. the Mercedes-Benz Typ 630, which actually started off as just a Mercedes 24/100/140 in 1924. (The Mercedes name was introduced to DMG by a certain Emil Jellinek in 1901– another fascinating story for another time.)
The 24/10/140 was by all accounts an all-around well-made car, but its 6.25-liter inline-six has one very cool standout feature: its Roots-type supercharger, or kompressor if you want to be all Teutonic about it, automatically engaged when the accelerator was between two-thirds and three-quarters depressed, providing a six PSI of boost to goose output.
The powerplant was crammed into a car that was typically quite heavy — north of 5,000 pounds, depending on the body style — so while performance was quite respectable for the time, the engine wouldn’t see its full potential for speed realized until Mercedes-Benz crammed it into sport specials and race cars.
The 24/100/140 could be had as a bare chassis, which the buyer would then have fitted with a custom coach built body, but the car we examined in the April 27, 1981 issue of Autoweek was an enormous tourer with a folding top and an on-road presence the G-Wagen wishes it possessed.
But why was the 24/100/140 burdened with such a dry name? As it turns out, it’s actually quite logical. But what did you expect? The 100 denotes its horsepower when running in naturally aspirated mode, the 140 indicates its output with kompressor engaged, and the 24 is “derived from a complicated calculation used to tax car owners in Germany during the era and was known as ‘taxable horsepower.’” OK, sure.
So next time you’re trying to wrap your head around the chrome alpha-numeric soup stuck on the trunk of some high-performance German luxury touring crossover coupe, at least you’ll know that enthusiasts have been doing more or less the same thing for well over 92 years.
Read all about the glorious Mercedes-Benz 24/100/140 in the excerpt from the April 27, 1981 below.