The experts at Mercedes-Benz Classic Insight in August 2017

Oct 19, 2017

Dr.-Ing. Jörg Abthoff
Born on 10 September 1940 in Dresden

Jörg Abthoff, a native of Dresden, was already interested in engines as a youth. After obtaining his high school leaving certificate – first in the GDR and for a second time in the Federal Republic after escaping to West Berlin in 1958 – he began a course of study in mechanical engineering at the University of Hanover, which he completed with a diploma in engineering. As a next stage he added an additional qualification which would be decisive for his further career: in 1968 he obtained a doctorate at the Institute of Chemical Technology and Fuel Technology of the Technical University of Clausthal-Zellerfeld, where he gained a thorough knowledge of chemical processes. His dissertation subject, the measurement and formation of nitrogen oxides in diesel engines, was tailor-made for him and his subsequent career – though at the time nobody could know this, as emissions control and aftertreatment were still in their infancy in the automobile industry. They were to become the topics for Abthoff’s subsequent career. This began on 1 November 1968, after his doctorate, when he joined the then Daimler-Benz AG in the pre-development department headed by Prof. Dr. Erwin Eisele.

From the mid-1970s the automobile industry began to pay closer attention to the catalytic converter – and Abthoff was the right man at the right time. For the purpose of highly efficient emissions control, he and Mercedes-Benz devoted themselves to a monolithic structure which became the norm in the industry after just a few years. But it was not just emissions control that preoccupied him. From 1977 onwards he was responsible for all engine types as a senior department manager for engine pre-development. In 1980 he was asked to make contact with the British engine manufacturer Cosworth regarding the development of a four-valve cylinder head for the M 102 engine of the 201 series. The power unit entered series production in the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 presented in 1983, and in the same year the car broke several world records on the Nardò circuit in southern Italy.

The great performance potential of this engine also led Daimler-Benz to take part in the German Touring Car Championships (DTM) – with outstanding success.

The next challenging assignment for Abthoff was the construction of an exhaust gas measuring centre, and this was opened in 1985. The list of further engine highlights that were created under his aegis is long. They include the M 120 V12 petrol engine for the 140-series S-Class (1991), the changeover of all existing petrol engines to four-valve technology (1992), the introduction of supercharging in the four-cylinder petrol engines (1995), the OM 628 V8 diesel engine (series production debut in mid-2000 in the S 400 CDI), the compact M 137 V12 petrol engines (early 2000 in the 220-series S 600 and the C 215-series CL 600) and, as the succeeding engine, the turbocharged M 275 (2002 in the S 600 and CL 600).

In mid-January 1999 Dr. Jörg Abthoff entered retirement. Looking back, he is particularly proud of two things in which he was involved: the leading role of Mercedes-Benz in emissions control, and the successful introduction of four-valve petrol and diesel engines.

Dipl.-Ing. Karl-Heinz Baumann
Born on 11 Mai 1951 in Villingen

Karl-Heinz Baumann had a decisive and lasting influence on the safety features of numerous Mercedes-Benz and smart models. The long list of his inventions and innovations includes e.g. the automatic rollover bar (1989 in the R 129 SL series), the preventive occupant protection system PRE-SAFE® (introduced in 2002 in the 220-series S-Class) and the Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 2009.

Baumann was that type of development engineer who ideally combined theory and practice in his profession and vocation. From 1966 to 1969 he initially underwent an apprenticeship as a toolmaker. From 1974 to 1977, after obtaining his technical college entry qualification, he studied mechanical and production engineering and graduated with a diploma in engineering. This was followed by an additional course of study at the Technical University of Constance and the college of welding technology in Mannheim, where he was trained as a specialist welding engineer. Thus equipped in both theory and practice, he joined the then Daimler-Benz AG in May 1977 in the development department for passenger car body accident safety – a specialist area that would forever preoccupy him.

In 1986 Baumann was appointed as group leader in the bodyshell research department, also with responsibility for the passive safety of passenger cars. In 1994 he became deputy head of department in bodyshell testing. In 1997 he became a senior manager and head of strategies and concepts for passive safety, as well as child safety for Mercedes-Benz and smart passenger cars. Over the years Baumann was decisively involved in the development of passive safety in model series 126, 201, 124, 129, 140, 202, 210, 203, 170, 220 and smart.

During his professional activities he was repeatedly able to achieve striking breakthroughs. One of his outstanding innovations was undoubtedly the rollover-protected convertible, realised for the first time in 1989, in the R 129-series Mercedes-Benz SL. This set a new standard throughout the industry: the concept of the automatically extending rollover bar created under Baumann’s aegis began a new era in safe open-top driving. The concept of the ellipsoid firewall in the R 170-series SLK as a short, open-top car also opened up a new dimension in crash safety for this vehicle class. No less of a triumph was the rigid, impact-resistant safety cell of the two-seater smart, an absolute world first in this vehicle category.

Baumann was never satisfied with one-sided results. His expectations were only met by cross-disciplinary and multifunctional solutions. One result of this approach was the seven-phase concept first sketched out in 1997, which saw safety in passenger cars as a comprehensive task and a combination of active and passive safety.

The long list of Baumann’s other inventions and innovations includes e.g. the alternative energy absorber, the braking bag, crash-active head restraints, the Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 2009 and integral safety concepts such as are e.g. realised in the preventive occupant protection system PRE-SAFE®.

In 2003, as the intellectual father of PRE-SAFE® , Baumann received the US Government Award for Safety Engineering Excellence from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

In 2007 Baumann became a lecturer at the Technical University of Dresden, where like Professor Rodolfo Schöneburg, Head of Safety, Durability and Corrosion Protection at Mercedes-Benz Cars, he gave lectures on “Integral safety for passenger cars”. For Baumann it is immensely important not to keep experience and knowledge to oneself as a mark of superiority. One of his primary intentions for up-and-coming generations of technicians is to awaken their interest in this field by imparting experiences.

The enthusiastic car driver and active paraglider is aware of risks and the critical limits in real life. Perhaps that is what makes Baumann so successful and creative in avoiding them by preventive measures, for the benefit of all. He went into retirement in spring 2012. He remains active for Daimler as a Senior Expert, and runs his engineering consultancy KHBSafetyFirst on a freelance basis. Since 2011 he has held a lecturership at Dresden International University on the subject of “Passive safety of passenger cars”. His awards include the “Golden Seat Belt” from Motor Presse Club e.V. for his major achievements in the areas of passive and integral safety – there is no doubt that many car drivers owe their lives to the inventiveness and creativity of Karl-Heinz Baumann.

Dipl.-Ing. Frank Knothe
Born on 24 February 1942 in Dresden

During his career as an engineer, Frank Knothe was involved in numerous Mercedes-Benz passenger car series. On 1 July 1991 he succeeded the well-known head of testing Hans Werner (“Long Werner”) to become head of the overall vehicle testing department. Following the restructuring to individual model series, he took on overall vehicle development for the S-Class, SL-Class and SLK-Class from 1 July 1994. He carried out this task until his retirement in 2006.

Frank Knothe studied at the Technical University of Karlsruhe, ending his studies in 1966 with a diploma in engineering. In the same year he entered the then Daimler-Benz AG. His career is marked by very versatile development and testing activities.

In 1971, in the test department, Knothe became group leader for the medium-class six-cylinder models (E-Class predecessor) in the department for initial assembly and testing. In 1972 he became a senior group manager and model patron for the 114, 107 and 123 series. Always working in passenger car development and testing, Knothe was active for various model series. From 1978 he took over the medium-class department, and in 1984 the main department for initial vehicle assembly and testing of all then current model series, i.e. the luxury class (S-Class), medium class (E-Class and predecessors), compact class (201 series) and the SL-Class.

From 1991 Knothe succeeded Hans Werner as head of overall vehicle testing, which included all model series. In 1994, with the introduction of a new organisational structure, he was given responsibility as head of model series for overall vehicle development of product group 2, which he headed until his retirement in 2006. This comprised the S-Class, SL and SLK.

To this day Knothe regards it as an honour to have influenced wide aspects of the E-Class, S-Class and SL-Class together with his team. This also includes his conviction that for generations, the S-Class in particular has been the pacemaker in its segment and the very model of safety, ride comfort, technology and luxury, and that the SL as a dynamic, highly emotional roadster with long-distance comfort has defined its segment from the very start.

Frank Knothe judges the time spent with his only employer and in his various teams to have been extremely exciting and good. Until the end of his active career on 31 December 2006, he was head of development for the S-Class, SL-Class and SLK-Class, also looking after the SLR McLaren. The crowning glory of his career were the 221-series S-Class presented in autumn 2005 and the C 216-series CL-Coupé presented in 2006. Afterwards Knothe still played a consultative role in the configuration of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

Dipl.-Ing. Jürgen Paul
Born on 2 August 1941 in Berlin-Köpenick

Jürgen Paul was one of the engineers behind the anti-lock braking system (ABS), which had its production debut and world premiere in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in 1978. He was also involved in various subsequent developments based on ABS, for example acceleration skid control (ASR) and the Electronic Stability Program ESP®. He also helped to prepare the way for ABS in motorsport vehicles.

Born in Berlin, Jürgen Paul completed his mechanical engineering studies at the Technical University in West Berlin with a diploma in engineering. On 1 January 1969 he began his career with the then Daimler-Benz AG, initially as a specialist in ABS sensors – a field that was to accompany him throughout his working life. In the following years Paul worked together with the then development partner Teldix on the development of ABS on the basis of analogue electronics. In 1970 this was also presented to the public in the medium-class Mercedes-Benz model series W 115/W 114 (“Stroke/8”)  – with a resounding response by a delighted specialist world and the press. The principle was compelling: this world first ensured that the vehicle remained steerable even under emergency braking, and considerably shortened braking distances, especially in the wet. However it was not yet mature enough for series production, lacking the necessary reliability.

In 1974 Paul accompanied the changeover to digital electronics. It was only the invention of integrated circuits that made it possible to build small, robust computers that were capable of converting the data from the wheel sensors into e.g. acceleration information within a minimal time, and of consistently and reliably actuating the valves to control the brake pressure. Moreover, mechanical rotating mass sensors were no longer used, with wheel acceleration and rpm calculated purely electronically from the signals of the rpm sensors. ABS test vehicles and a large-scale trial with 100 test vehicles covering a total of around 35 million kilometres with no failures verified the operating safety of the new system. This work led to the world premiere of ABS in the 116-series S-Class in 1978, a joint development with Bosch and initially available as optional equipment at a price of 2217.60 DM.

From the end of 1984, ABS started to become standard equipment in Mercedes-Benz passenger cars – first in the 190 E 2.3‑1 6 and the eight-cylinder models. Ten years after its first introduction, no less than one million Mercedes-Benz cars equipped with ABS were on the roads of the world. In 1987 Paul became head of the main department for car hydraulics, where not only all the control systems but also the conventional brake components such as brake callipers and brake servo units were developed. Other control systems based on ABS include e.g. acceleration skid control ASR (September 1985), the Electronic Stability Program ESP® first introduced as standard in the S-Class in 1995 and Brake Assist (BAS), which was installed in Mercedes-Benz passenger cars as standard from 1996.

Mercedes-Benz also took on the leading role when it came to commercial vehicles. ABS for compressed air braking systems already became available in 1981, a joint development with WABCO. Since 1986 the large touring coaches and since 1991 also the brand’s trucks have been equipped with ABS as standard.

When Roland Asch suggested the introduction of ABS in Mercedes-Benz racing cars in the early 1990s, Jürgen Paul once again performed pioneering work in adapting the system to the special conditions in motorsport. At the end of 1990 it had its first race outing in the DTM invitation race in Kyalami, and in the 1991 season it was included in the Mercedes-Benz racing touring cars for the German touring car championships (DTM).

Paul received many awards for his achievements relating to automotive safety systems. On 5 June 1979, for example, he received the “U.S. Government Safety Award for Engineering Excellence” presented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the development of ABS. On 27 March 1981, together with the Bosch engineer Heinz Leiber, he received the “Porsche Prize” in Vienna, also for the development of ABS. On 17 October 1996 this was followed by the “Prince Michael Road Safety Award” founded in 1987, which was presented to him and the then technical director of the automotive supplier Lucas, Heinz Rath, by Prince Michael of Kent for the development of Brake Assist (BAS). On 1 July 1994 Jürgen Paul became head of the centre for braking and control systems at Mercedes-Benz Development. A good three years later, he entered retirement on 31 December 1997.

Dr. h.c. Bruno Sacco
Born on 12 November 1933 in Udine/Italy

Bruno Sacco joined the then Daimler-Benz AG in 1958, and worked for the company until 1999. From 1975 until his retirement he was Head of Design for the Mercedes-Benz brand. He followed one principle throughout his career: “I am not a designer at Mercedes-Benz because I believe in “l’art pour l’art”, i.e. ‘art for art’s sake’, but because I want the cars for which I am responsible to sell really well.”

Sacco’s love for automobiles was awoken by vehicles styled by the French designer Raymond Loewy. In April 1951, for example, Sacco paid a visit to the motor show in Turin and was electrified and fascinated by Loewy’s creative work on the exhibited Studebaker Starlight. The vehicle was a sculpture in motion, with stylistic hints of an aircraft combined with futuristic touches. Sacco was so fascinated with this automobile that the encounter set the scene for his future career. When Sacco had completed his examinations as Italy’s youngest geometrician in Udine in 1951, the family moved to Turin in 1952. This is where he attended the Polytechnical College.

At the time Turin was a melting pot of new design ideas coming from the USA to Europe and combining with Italian flair and elegance to form new creations. Pinin Farina, Nuccio Bertone, Gigi Michelotti or Carozzeria Ghia, alongside the automobile manufacturers Fiat and Lancia, were the prophets of a new automobile design in the 1950s. Fascinated by the creativity in the world of automobile shapes, Sacco soon discovered the attractions of the design studios and became a frequent visitor. From the end of 1955 he was able to gain experience as a model-maker at Ghia –& nbsp;at a time when Ghia was creating e.g. the Chrysler-based Gilda dream car, or the Karmann-Ghia based on the Volkswagen. Sacco worked with major figures such as Giovanni Savonuzzi or Sergio Sartorelli, and benefitted from their experience. It was in Turin that he also made the acquaintance of Karl Wilfert. At the end of 1957 Wilfert, who was head of body development at Daimler-Benz at the time, and therefore responsible for body construction and design, invited him to the Sindelfingen plant – and a little later recruited the young and enthusiastic designer. On 13 January 1958 Sacco took on his position of second stylist, after Paul Bracq who had been recruited as first stylist in 1957. This was to be his life’s work.

As a stylist and designer he worked on various projects under the guidance of Karl Wilfert, Friedrich Geiger and Béla Barényi, for example the Mercedes-Benz 600 (W 100 series) and the 230 SL Roadster (R 113). He was also the design project manager for the safety exhibitions then taking place, and for the C 111-I and C 111-II experimental vehicles. In 1970 Sacco became manager of the body design and dimensional concept department at Daimler-Benz. In this time he was involved in the creation of the ESF prototypes (Experimental Safety Vehicles) and the medium-class 123 series.

In 1975, with the title of “senior engineer”, Bruno Sacco succeeded Friedrich Geiger as head of the main department for styling and henceforth made his mark on the appearance of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. The most important stages in this constant formal evolution were the record-breaking C 111-III diesel (1978) and the 126-series S-Class (1979). In 1978 the company formally recognised the increasing importance of design: the main department was upgraded into a specialist department, and Sacco became head of Styling.

In 1980 the Styling department presented a number of guidelines for Mercedes-Benz design at the “German Designer Days”. Design, it said there, is one of the major elements in the mixture that makes for a successful car: its outstanding characteristics and strength of character make the difference when cars are less and less distinguishable by their technical qualities.

One prominent example from Sacco’s era is undoubtedly the Mercedes-Benz compact class (W 201), which successfully carried both the technical qualities and the design principles of Mercedes-Benz into what was then known as the compact class. Sacco himself said that “the 190 is the ideal example of the combination of innovation with tradition, apart from the S-Class. The 190 was the car that convinced many people that Mercedes-Benz is capable of change”. After the Estate model (S 123) and off-roader (460 series), the W 201 was at the same time the first step in opening up the brand to numerous segments, which were then systematically addressed as a model initiative in the 1990s. Representative models were e.g. the SLK (R 170), the V-Class (638 series), the A-Class (168 series), the CLK (208 series) and the M-Class (163 series). Striking design highlights were also achieved by research vehicles such as the C 112, the F 100 (1991), the F 200 Imagination (1996) and the in every way remarkable F 300 Life-Jet (1997). And naturally it was again and again the S-Class that put its stamp on the brand and on the industry. Under Bruno Sacco these were the 126, 140 and 220 series.

In 1993 Bruno Sacco became one of the company’s circle of directors as Head of Design. In this function he also held a mandate for the design of products in the commercial vehicle sector. In March 1999, Bruno Sacco handed the Mercedes-Benz design department over to Peter Pfeiffer after 41 years.

During his years of employment at Daimler-Benz, Bruno Sacco received numerous personal awards. In 1985, for example, he became an honorary member of the “Academia Mexicana de Diseño”. In 1991 he was awarded the “Grande Ufficiale dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana” medal, and in 1993 in Turin the “Cover Award – Auto & Design”. In 1994 he was awarded the “Premio Mexico” (Patronato Nacional de las Asociaciones de Diseño AC, Mexico), in 1994 the “Apulia Award for Professional Achievement” and in 1996 the “Best Designer” and also “Designer’s Designer” award by the magazine “Car”. In 1997 he was presented with the “Lifetime Design Achievement Award” in Detroit, and also in 1997 with the “Raymond Loewy Designer Award” by the brand “Lucky Strike”. In 2002 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Udine. In 2006 he was received into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, and in 2007 into the European Automotive Hall of Fame in Geneva.