Heyday: 1981.
Transport Magazine

Heyday: 1981.

A look back at the Mercedes‑Benz Transport highlights of 40 years ago.

The year 1981 marked the dawn of a new decade and Mercedes‑Benz Transport always keeps up with the times. Let’s take a look back at the new trucks and other exciting projects of the time.

In its first edition, the editorial team of Mercedes‑Benz Transport invited its readers to learn all about the new Mercedes‑Benz heavy‑duty vehicles of the 1980s. At the “Meeting in Marseille” – as the article title is called – more than 70 specialist journalists from all over Europe had the opportunity to test several vehicles ranging from the 1625 S to the 2028 LS to the 2223 with a large cab. “The length of the route was 36.7 kilometres with gradients of up to ten percent. All of the journalists took advantage of the opportunity to go for a test drive. The unanimous opinion of the experts: According to the article, ‘With its new models, Daimler‑Benz AG is well‑equipped for the future.’”

1981: Other events that moved the world.

1 January
Greece becomes the 10th country to become a full member of the European Community.
12 April
Maiden flight of the space shuttle Columbia.
7 May
The first successful heart transplant takes place in Germany.
1 August
The TV channel MTV is launched.
12 August
IBM launches the first personal computer (PC) IBM 5150.
22 September
François Mitterrand inaugurates the French high‑speed train TGV.

Journalists from all over Europe test the new Mercedes‑Benz models in Marseille, with the bulletin board saying who can get in and when.

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Sometimes, progress actually means coming to a standstill – a timely standstill to be precise. From 1981 onwards, a safety standard developed by Daimler‑Benz AG and which has since become indispensable has guaranteed an anti‑lock braking system (ABS) for all heavy trucks.

More than 100 specialist journalists streamed into Rovaniemi, Finland, to learn about the new system. Its development was significantly more complex than the car solution. “Think of articulated lorries and juggernauts with their higher number of joints, the large differences in weight and load and the large dynamic axle loads that the ABS must handle.” However, all the effort has paid off: “Only the further development of the commercial vehicle brake systems takes into account in the braking process both the most extreme weather and road conditions as well as the driver – regardless of the quality”, explained the editorial team.

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A test drive without ABS – swerving out of the lane is inevitable.
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Can’t take a step out of line here – the Gutachtal bridge near Titisee‑Neustadt.
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Can’t take a step out of line here – the Gutachtal bridge near Titisee‑Neustadt.

The construction of the Gutachtal in the Black Forest in 1981, was “a show like no other, with acrobats in the form of the bridge builders performing a dazzling display between heaven and earth,” says the editorial team. “Two men squat down on narrow iron girders at the edge of the abyss, 94 metres above the ground. Secured only by ropes, they install the next section of the Gutachtal bridge.” All while trucks carried on driving below: “Concrete mixer on Mercedes‑Benz chassis 2224 B/6×4 or 2626 B/6×4. Reliability is paramount, and not just for the big juggernauts.” Concreting is carried out on site in the cantilever method by means of a moveable formwork system. Every week, four to five metres of bridges are “glued” to the already completed structure.

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The construction is cloaked in around 17,000 cubic metres of concrete…
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… as well as 2,700 tonnes of steel.
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Transport magazine also gave credit to behind‑the‑wheel‑achievements in 1981. The magazine reported on drivers Wendorff and Susen under the title “Drivers happy with Haribo”. The two employees of the confectionery manufacturer were recognised as “kilometre‑millionaires” by Mercedes‑Benz AG in Bonn. Wendorff and Susen travelled for the company every day with their 1632s and clocked up a total of more than one million kilometres with the first engine, which at the time was no mean feat. They were awarded a certificate, a badge of honour and a gift.

In June 1981, the “star for Brussels” was launched. The largest pivoting Mercedes star outside of Germany, a copy of which is situated on the Berlin Europa Center, was transported from Stuttgart to Brussels with a low loader. With the help of a crane, it reached its destination– at a height of 122 metres on the roof of the Centre International Rogier.

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Diameter: 10 metres. Weight with substructure: 23.7 tonnes.
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“A star even on dull nights,” says the editorial team.
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The fluorescent tubes installed in the star, one behind the other, would cover a distance of 681 metres.

Photos: Daimler