Maybach Zeppelin – 1928

The Maybach company produced airship engines for Zeppelins until the end of World War I, when legendary engineer Wilhelm Maybach and son Karl turned their attention to the production of luxury motorcars succeeding to such good effect that they constructed some of the finest automobiles over built.

Such was the enduring reputation of Maybach that when Mercedes Benz was developing a new top-of the-range limousine in the 1990s the name Maybach was chosen, reviving a prestigious marque that vanished with the advent of World War II.

Inside twenty years Maybach, with its distinctive double-M logo, established an enviable reputation for producing superb bespoke vehicles that were among the most powerful production cars of their era. The most famous model was the Zeppelin, a name harking back to the company’s roots. This enormous luxury limo was launched in 1928 as the DS7. The imposing Maybach flagship weighed in at a massive 6,600 lb (3,000 kg) or more, calling for a large V12 engine.

In 1932 came the Maybach Zeppelin DS8, an opulent extravagance of a car with an even larger motor. The company supplied some of Germany’s finest coachbuilders – especially Hermann Spohn of Ravensburg – and the sort of bespoke bodies routinely commissioned by rich owners were duly added, including limousines, cabriolets, coupes and drophead tourers. Each one was an expensive work of automotive art.

Is this awe inspiring classic a pleasure to drive? Not necessarily – despite advanced feat tires like the lever on the steering wheel for clutchless gear changes and effective brakes, the steering is heavy, turning sharp corners is almost impossible and piloting such a large car through modern traffic is an ordeal. Never mind – anyone given the opportunity to try should grab it with both hands, for it’s a motoring experience that can only he described as imperious.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

 Germany

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1928 (until 1939)

ENGINE:

7,000 CC or 7,922 CCV12

PERFORMANCE:

The lightest variants were capable of 115 mph (185 km/h)

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

The Maybach engines that powered those huge Zeppelin cars so successfully also proved eminently suitable for propelling Germany’s feared Panther and Tiger tanks in world War II.

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