Wednesday 4 January 2023

Riding in a 3 Grand Deutsche Car

If there is one company that can claim to be there right at the start. it is Mercedes-Benz.

After all, it was Carl Benz who invented the internal combustion engine and with the help of Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach strapped it into a stagecoach and the automobile was born.
The name Mercedes was trademarked for the production and sale of horseless carriages, and as production and sales grew, the company name became Daimler-Benz, and Mercedes the brand name.  Wilhelm Maybach parted company and set up his own company to design and manufacture a variety of petrol and diesel engines - and becoming the supplier of choice for the Zeppelin aircraft and the German Military.  Whilst Military contracts remained, the demand for Zeppelin engines ceased following the Hindenburg disaster, Maybach focussed production on ultra-luxury limousines.
Mercedes also had a foot in the ultra-luxury limousine market.  The flagship vehicle being the Grosser Mercedes - it's biggest customer being Heads Of State including King Abdullah of Jordan, King Faisal of Iraq, Kaiser Willhelm, Mussoilini, Franco, and the Nazi Party (Hitler, Himmler and Goering are notable owners).
And to prove the Grosser Mercedes was not just a Dictators car, the Pope also had one.
Mercedes vehicles gained a reputation for reliability, build quality and longevity.  This reputation, and no doubt it's high profile statesman ownership, also increased desirability.
By 1960, Maybach was subsumed into the Daimler-Benz corporation and charged with overseeing the limousine output.

The existing Grosser Mercedes was re-designed, tinkered and fettled by Mercedes and Mybach - the result was the Mercedes-Benz 600.
A luxury limousine competing with Rolls-Royce for Head of State ownership.
OK, Mercedes didn't lose the "questionable" owners, with Idi Amin, Kim Jong-Il, François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, Ferdinand Marcos, PW Botha, Leonid Brezhnev, Nicolae Ceaușescu, and Saddam Hussein all owning a Grosser.
On the plus side, The Pope continued to use the Grosser his his main conveyance.  And Aristotle Onassis, Coco Chanel, Hugh Hefner, Elizabeth Taylor and Jack Nicholson also count as Grosser owners without dictatorial tendencies.

The 600 came in three main variants:

  • A short wheelbase 4-door saloon, available with a power divider window separating the front seats from the rear bench seat, although most were built without this feature.
  • A long wheelbase 4-door "Pullman" limousine (with two additional rear-facing seats separated from the driver compartment by a power divider window)
  • A long wheelbase 6-door limousine (with two forward-facing jump-seats at the middle two doors and a rear bench-seat)
With plenty of case, and plenty of entourage, the Grosser Mercedes also found favour with musicians in the 60s and 70s.
Elvis had probably the biggest entourage, and fitted them into the Grosser.
Both John Lennon and George Harrison owned one each (and Harrison bought Lennon's from him when he moved to the US in 1971).
Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, Ron Wood, and David Bowie have also been known to load the Grosser with their mates.
Bobby Womack states in his autobiography, that after ferrying her around in his 600 Grosser, Janis Joplin was so impressed with the vehicle she wrote a love-letter to it in the form of "Mercedes Benz" on the 'Pearl' album.

Status Quo had enjoyed some success with the singles "Pictures Of Matchstick Men" and "Ice In The Sun", but were having no luck on the album front.  Their record label Pye (as was the downfall for The Kinks) wanted to compete in the singles market, but not the album market.

So when the band ditched the psychedelic pop in favour the 12 Bar Boogie shuffle, and 2 further tanked albums with Pye, it was time to find a new home.  That home was Vertigo, and the first release in November 1972 was the single "Paper Plane" followed a month later by the album 'Piledriver'.

Status Quo had a Mercedes 600 as the prime mode of transport, and was referred to by the band as the "3 Grand Deutsche Car" (because that's how much it cost and it was German), and so to pad out the stream of conscience lyrics (written by Francis Rossi and Bob Young) a little bit of self-reference was included.

Success for both convinced the band there might just be something in this 3 chord trick they were peddling
(note: some songs actually have 5 chords in them)

And 50 years later, they are still boogie shuffling.  But this is where 12 Gold Bars began:

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