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Here's An Interesting Look at the Mercedes Benz ‘Measuring Car' Rolling Laboratory from 1960

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【Summary】The Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany offers a regular installment series named “Close-up” that tells an interesting, behind-the-scenes story of a vehicle, exhibit or an element of design from the automaker’s storied past. The latest is interesting, as it offers a more in-depth look at the “Mercedes-Benz 300” being used as a “Measuring Car” back in 1960. It was outfitted with electronics so that engineers could gather data from another test vehicle while traveling down the road.

FutureCar Staff    Feb 21, 2022 11:15 AM PT
Here's An Interesting Look at the Mercedes Benz ‘Measuring Car' Rolling Laboratory from 1960
The "Measuring Car "was tethered to a lead car with cables up to 30 meters long to collect data in real time.

The Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany offers a regular installment series named "Close-up" that tells an interesting, behind-the-scenes story of a vehicle, exhibit or an element of design from the automaker's storied past.

The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart spans 16,500 square meters and celebrates the history of the automaker from 1886. More than 160 vehicles are on display at the museum, ranging from the oldest Mercedes Benz models ever built to iconic race cars and futuristic research vehicles. 

The latest Close-up installment is interesting, as it offers a more in-depth look at the "Mercedes-Benz 300" being used as a "Measuring Car" back in 1960.

The Mercedes-Benz W186 Model 300 Measuring Car was outfitted with electronics so that the automaker's engineers could gather vehicle data from another test vehicle while traveling down the road. 

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As vehicles became more advanced in the 1950's and 1960's, analyzing sensor data became increasingly important for Mercedes Benz. It provided engineers with valuable information about whether a vehicle system or a new invention worked as intended, or how it could be improved. 

However the measuring instruments in the 1950s were large, heavy, and sensitive. Adding heavy equipment to a vehicle's suspension for example, changes its driving characteristics due to the added weight. The solution was ingeniously simple. Mercedes-Benz sent the data to a second vehicle for analysis as the two were driving down the road, thus the "measuring car" invention was born.

The measuring car was built using the Model 300 four-door luxury sedan produced by Mercedes-Benz between 1951 and 1957. However, this particular model was based on the custom-built estate cars, or station wagons, created for the first German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. 

 The vehicle eventually became known as an "Adenauer" due to the Chancellor's preference for this model. The rear of the Model 300 sedan was extended to resemble a station wagon and outfitted with panoramic rear windows.  

To serve as a measuring car in 1960, Mercedes-Benz engineers tethered the Model 300 to a Mercedes-Benz 220 S (W 111) using a bundle of electrical cables up to 30 meters long, which essentially connected the two vehicles together.

Mercedes referred to the setup as a type of early "local area network" (LAN). The cables transmit sensor data from the lead car to the measuring devices in the rear of the Model 300.

The flagship Model 300 was chosen since Mercedes-Benz engineers needed a fast and large vehicle to be able to transport a large amount of heavy and bulky measuring equipment and still be able to keep up with the lead car.

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The rear compartment of the Measuring Car was filled with electronic equipment.

Engineers guided the prototype (lead vehicle) through dynamic vehicle handling tests, while the rolling laboratory measuring car followed at a close distance and received the data via the cables from lead vehicle's subsystems, such as the suspension. 

The lead car was capable of transmitting 14 measured values simultaneously to the measuring car following closely behind.

The rear cabin of the vehicle was equipped with numerous measuring instruments, as well as two individual seats with narrow, wicker backrests resembling garden chairs to accommodate the engineers tasked with collecting data in the tight space.

Mercedes-Benz said every bit of available space in the rear of the 300 was utilized for the sensitive measuring devices. To supply the equipment with power, Mercedes engineers added a generator, as well as a radio link between the two vehicles. The data transmission was done via telemetry using radio signals.

The engineers in the back of the measuring car did not always enjoy top comfort, according to Mercedes. Headroom was limited and the large panoramic windows created something of a greenhouse effect. To help the engineers stay cool, the body had ventilation openings on the sides.

In most cases, the sensor data was recorded in the measuring car on magnetic tape, then taken to a more quiet and comfortable laboratory for further analysis.

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A bundle of cables up to 30 meters long connected the two Mercedes-Benz vehicles together for data collection.

The converted Mercedes-Benz 300 measuring car was successfully used for many years until the 1970's as a rolling laboratory, mainly on the automaker's test track in Untertürkheim. 

Today, data collection is much more advanced than in 1960 and the entire data collection system travels with a single prototype. Modern sensors and computer technology make it possible, since the electronic equipment can be made lighter and smaller. 

The number of simultaneously recorded data channels has also increased considerably from 14 in 1960 to more than 1,000 on the modern vehicles that Mercedes-Benz is testing today. It's safe to say that dynamic vehicle testing has come a long way since its humble beginnings.

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