The Dr. Carl Benz automotive museum in Ladenburg will move, and the collection’s new domicile will be the factory halls, almost 100 years old, of C. Benz Söhne. The historical factory, in which the vehicles of the C. Benz Söhne brand were manufactured in the early 20th century, was restored with the support of DaimlerChrysler AG and will provide an appropriate setting for the historical exhibits of collector Winfried A. Seidel. The objects include biographical exhibits relating to Karl Benz, among them his office and two rare vehicles of the C. Benz Söhne brand. In addition, the museum presents some 40 passenger cars, trucks and racing cars – most of these of the Benz and Mercedes-Benz brands. These are complemented by bicycles, motorcycles and other exhibits relating to engineering history. The two-wheelers are also meant to build the bridge to Mannheim-born bicycle pioneer Karl von Drais.
New life in the “old factory”
The “old Benz factory” is what Ladenburg’s citizens call the impressive building on the banks of the River Neckar. The venerable halls on Ilvesheimer Straße in Ladenburg look anything but old, however. The brick walls proudly glow in the sun; inside freshly painted iron girders are glistening, and the air is filled with the fragrance of the newly laid wooden industrial parquet floors. And the blue sun, the signet of “C. Benz Söhne, Ladenburg bei Mannheim” (C. Benz & Sons, Ladenburg near Mannheim), hangs resplendent above the stairs leading up to the entrance.
During the first quarter of the 20th century, only around 320 vehicles of this brand were manufactured here. At the time, there were many automotive factories as small as this one. But the company on the banks of the River Neckar differed from its competitors in one crucial aspect: its founder. It was no other than automotive pioneer Karl Benz who established the company in Ladenburg in the early 20th century, initially to produce engines. In later years, he changed to manufacturing automobiles together with his sons.
The mechanical engineering company C. Benz Söhne still exists today but moved into more modern buildings in Ladenburg. With the Dr. Carl Benz automotive museum founded by Winfried A. Seidel, a chapter of automotive history will return to its roots in September 2005. The highlights of the collection include, among other things, the last two vehicles of the C. Benz Söhne brand built in Ladenburg. These two touring cars left the brick halls in 1924 – and will return to their birth-place in the fall of 2005.
Collector and classic car expert Winfried A. Seidel is well aware of the special significance this historical site has for his museum: “The factory itself is now one of the most important exhibits.” After the extensive restoration of the building, financed by DaimlerChrysler AG, the Dr. Carl Benz museum will be enhanced not just by an exhibition area that is about a third larger. The new museum building is also an architectural memorial to the life and work of Karl Benz in Ladenburg, thus bearing witness to the region’s industrial history.