Pullman limousines from Mercedes-Benz
State limousines from Mercedes-Benz with long wheelbase and classic seating configuration
Comfort and innovation are the hallmarks of the premium Pullman
Mercedes-Benz once gave buses and trucks the noble title of Pullman
Stuttgart. Mercedes-Benz can look back on a long tradition of exclusive limousines bearing the name Pullman. In modern usage the term typically denotes a representational vehicle with highly luxurious equipment, extra-long wheelbase and two rows of seats in the rear – the individual seats are generally arranged as two pairs of “vis-à-vis” (facing) seats. The most recent example is the Mercedes-Benz S 600 Pullman Guard (W 221 series), which will be delivered for the first time at the end of 2008.
Back in 1960, three 300s – the model known popularly as the “Adenauer-Mercedes” – were customised and built to Pullman specifications; Mercedes-Benz offered this body variant as a production model for the first time in the 600 model (W 100 series) in 1963. Over the next few years, Pullman versions of the S-Class 109 and 126 series (special production versions) followed, as well as the 140 and 220 series (both standard).
However, the history of the Pullman limousine body form in automotive engineering goes back much further, although the vehicles from the 1920s and 1930s did not always have a longer wheelbase than standard production models. At the time the Pullman limousine basically denoted an automobile with spacious interior for the purposes of travel and representational engagements, with a partition separating the driver’s seat and front seat bench from the passenger compartment.
The name Pullman originates not from the automotive industry, but from the railway sleeping cars that were built by the American Pullman Palace Car Company from the second half of the nineteenth century. At a later date, omnibuses were also built by the Pullman Co., the name George M. Pullman’s company has operated under since the turn of the twentieth century.
Mercedes-Benz also used the term for vehicles offering a special degree of comfort from the 1930s to the 1950s for cab-over-engine omnibuses, and from the 1950s to the 1970s for trucks with cab-over-engine technology. Today, the term Pullman is still used for buses in various countries in Europe and South America.
Started out as railway sleeping cars of exceptional comfort
Later the name becomes associated with luxury travel
First Pullman automobiles built at the beginning of the twentieth century
The businessman George Mortimer Pullman (1831–1897) is mainly known for having giving the railway sleeping car a modern, luxurious design. However, Pullman had already demonstrated his skill as an engineer in the 1850s, when he raised several buildings in Chicago, the ground floors of which had suddenly been left partly below street level after the construction of paved roads and a sewerage system. He achieved this by lifting the entire buildings with mechanical hoists and filling the resulting void with new foundations, leaving the building entrances level with the new road.
George M. Pullman’s revolutionary sleeping car
After real estate, Pullman next turned his attention to movables, and in the late 1850s designed a new kind of railway sleeping car. Unlike the rather austere carriages used up until then on long trips across the United States, Pullman’s design offered a high level of comfort. He found the inspiration for his innovation in the postal boats that operated on the Erie Canal, which also transported passengers in considerable comfort and style. After being patented in 1863, the ‘Pioneer’ model Pullman sleeping car first rode the rails in 1864. Later generations of the ‘Pullman Sleeper’ would be truly luxurious carriages.
As early as the 1860s, the Pullman Palace Car Company expanded its product range to include restaurant cars with an on-board kitchen. By 1875, around 700 Pullman sleeping cars were in service on the American rail network, and the fleet reached its maximum size in 1925, by which time the Pullman Company was operating 9,800 sleeping cars and employed a total of 40,000 railway guards, ticket collectors and service staff.
The name Pullman became synonymous with luxury travel
Other countries soon adopted the Pullman design for luxury passenger trains. The British Pullman Car Company, for example, was established in England in 1882. In continental Europe, too, sleeping cars and restaurant cars used the Pullman name to denote premium-quality long-distance travel. Some carriages built by other manufacturers were modelled on the American Pullman company and then sold under the name of Pullman.
Meanwhile, the technology and equipment in the American Pullman cars were developed further, with the heavier designs of the early period being replaced by light metal carriages with optimised aerodynamics. Pullman also commenced production of particularly comfortable omnibuses. The innovative potential here, and the international popularity of the name, resulted in Pullman becoming synonymous with luxury travel by road as well as by rail.
Pullman vehicles throughout the world
The Pullman nameplate has featured in various guises in
Mercedes-Benz brand history. As well as Pullman limousines, the Stuttgart automaker also built buses and trucks with a premium Pullman label around the mid-twentieth century.
From 1905 to 1917, the American York Motor Car Co. produced a Pullman passenger car model based on the Pullman buses, and in 1930 British carmaker Humber launched its Humber Pullman model, a four-door saloon.
In addition, the name Pullman has established itself in common parlance in various European and American countries to describe any long-distance coach offering a high level of comfort.
Representation and comfort: Pullman vehicles from Mercedes-Benz
Closed touring car with a partition between the passenger compartment and the chauffeur
Classic chassis construction allows for models with different bodies
Pullman limousines were already being built back in the days of Benz & Cie. and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft. After the two companies merged to become Daimler-Benz AG, the Mercedes-Benz brand continued the tradition. However, the Pullman limousines of this period were rather different from the state and representational vehicles we know today. The name Pullman Limousine was used for a specific body shape, a closed touring car whose passenger compartment was separated from the driver by a glass screen or sliding partition. The external hallmark in the early years was not always a longer wheelbase, but rather a larger passenger compartment in the rear, providing plenty of room in the separate area behind the driver.
In their 1928 manual for study and practice entitled Kraftfahrer und Kraftfahrzeug, Oskar Appenzeller and Wilhelm Keller define this concept of a Pullman limousine, without making any reference to the vehicle’s wheelbase. According to them, a Pullman limousine is a ‘large, comfortable vehicle for touring and for representational use, featuring a partition (glass window – sliding window) between [the] driver’s seat and [the] space for the passengers’. It was quite logical for such vehicles to borrow the features of the railway Pullman carriage. After all, both were targeting a very discerning type of customer. However, it was not just the Mercedes-Benz flagship models that were manufactured as Pullman limousines – there were also vehicles such as the 260 D (W 138) or the 230 model (W 134), its petrol-engined counterpart.
Pullman limousines from Benz & Cie., DMG and Mercedes-Benz
Pullman limousines were made by Benz & Cie. in the early 1920s, based on the 11/40 hp Benz and the 16/50 hp Benz (also with bodies from external coachbuilders such as Karmann). At the same time, DMG offered factory versions of the 15/70/100 hp and 24/100/140 hp models (which later became the Mercedes-Benz 400 and 630 models) as six-seater Pullman limousines and Pullman convertibles. In addition to the existing 400 and 630 model versions, the new company resulting from the merger of Daimler and Benz in 1926 also developed Pullman limousine versions of the 12/55 hp, which was further developed into the Mannheim (W 10), and the Nürburg (W 08), the first Mercedes-Benz eight-cylinder series production passenger car.
Next came the 770 Grand Mercedes model (W 07, later W 150), as well as the 290 (W 18) and its successor 320 model (W 142) – but also the down-to-earth 200 (W 21), 230 (W 134) and 260 D (W 138 models). The latter was frequently used as a taxi; as the world’s first diesel passenger car it also marked a special milestone.
The Nürburg versions, which were built on the body of the 770 Grand Mercedes also have a special place in the line-up of Pullman limousines of the 1930s. One of these vehicles served as the basis for the papal car, which Mercedes-Benz delivered to the Vatican in 1930.
Individual body construction and the Pullman nameplate
The traditional construction of passenger cars during this period permitted a single model to have a wide variety of different body forms. This was because the manufacturer initially produced only the chassis, with the superstructure being added afterwards – either at the factory itself or by an independent bodybuilder, entirely to customer specifications. Before the Second World War, the
Mercedes-Benz Pullman limousines were also added to chassis that were used as the basis for various body shapes, including standard saloons, coupés, convertibles and touring models. After the war, however, with the changeover to self-supporting bodies, the concept for Pullman limousines at the Stuttgart brand was modified and expanded more in the direction of luxurious state cars and representational vehicles with an extended wheelbase.
Pullman buses from Mercedes-Benz
The Pullman nameplate was used for more than just passenger cars, however; in the mid-twentieth century, luxury omnibuses also bore the Pullman name. At Mercedes-Benz, it was used for the innovative vehicle designs featuring cab-over-engine technology. The LoP 3100 model designation for the electric urban bus built by Mercedes-Benz in the 1930s for the German Reichsbahn is an abbreviation for ‘Leichtstahlomnibus Pullman’ (‘lightweight Pullman steel omnibus’). The cab-over-engine models in this period also included the OP 3750, which was derived from the traditional cab-behind-engine O 3750 bus.
The designation of the cab-over-engine buses as LoP and OP was retained up until the 1950s, when the cab-behind-engine buses that had dominated until then disappeared, removing the need to distinguish between the model names. Cab-over-engine technology also changed during this time: although the Mercedes-Benz Pullman buses still had an engine placed alongside the driver, in 1951 the company introduced the O 6600 H with a rear engine and cab-over-engine body. This engineering design remained the standard for the next few decades. In 1951, Mercedes-Benz included the OP 6600 and OP 3500 models in its line-up. These were the last Pullman buses to feature front-mounted engines. Even though the “P” no longer appeared in the model designation of the O 6600 H, the company continued to market this comfortable model as a Pullman bus.
Trucks with the Pullman nameplate
In the model names for trucks, the luxury abbreviation ‘P’ was not used as a model designation until quite some time later, but remained a regular feature for very much longer. In 1955 Mercedes-Benz unveiled its first cab-over-engine production model, the LP 315. The legendary “millipede” with two steered front axles was a Pullman truck, as the model designation indicated. Mercedes-Benz built this LP 333 from 1958. Not until 1973, when the new generation of COE trucks came onto the market, did the LP abbreviation finally disappear from model designations for cab-over-engine trucks, as these had now replaced the cab-behind-engine trucks once and for all.
Absolute exclusivity: modern Pullman limousines from Mercedes-Benz, 1956 to 2008
Initially custom-made designs for the Federal Government and the Pope
Soon available with integrated special protection on request
2008: Mercedes-Benz S 600 Pullman Guard
The Second World War and its aftermath resulted in a break with the tradition of representational Pullman limousines. By the time the economic recovery was finally under way, there had been a fundamental shift in design technology for passenger cars: modern cars were now built with self-supporting bodies. This made individual variations in body design incomparably more difficult than in the days of the independent bodybuilder, so that the range of vehicle variants was reduced to just a few versions.
Initially, this was also the case with the 300 model, the first luxury limousine built by Mercedes-Benz after the Second World War – although this continued to follow the traditional concept of chassis and separate body.
In fact, this elegant vehicle, which was launched in 1951 and quickly earned the name “Adenauer-Mercedes”, was never available as a Pullman limousine. But then in 1956 came an extra-long special version of the third model series, the 300 c (W 186), introduced in autumn 1955, at the request of West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. This version was equipped with a sliding roof and partition wall, and the wheelbase was a full ten centimetres longer – this would become the hallmark of the modern Pullman limousine for state dignitaries and official engagements. But it was not officially designated a Pullman, not even when the special version was included in the regular sales range in June 1956.
Pullman versions as custom-made models for the Pope and the Federal German government
The Mercedes-Benz Pullman limousine finally appeared with its present-day characteristics in 1960 as a trio of 300 d (W 189) special production versions. Derived from the fourth series of the “Adenauer-Mercedes”, these variants (a limousine and two landaulets) had a 3600-millimetre wheelbase in place of the standard 3150 millimetres. A raised roof further emphasised the exclusive character of the individual vehicles.
The Pullman limousine and one of the Pullman landaulets remained at Mercedes-Benz; the other landaulet with lavish appointments was delivered to the Vatican as a new chauffeur-driven limousine for the Pope. The two Stuttgart vehicles were leased to the German government or other interested parties for special occasions.
The quintessential Pullman limousine: the Mercedes-Benz 600 model
The first new-style Pullman production version supplied by
Mercedes-Benz was the 600 model. With this vehicle, the German carmaker set standards for prestigious state limousines that hold to this day: what rendered the Mercedes-Benz 600 (W 100) distinctive were its technical innovations, elegant lines and high exclusivity. This was particularly true of the Pullman versions of the limousine and landaulet, which had a 3900-millimetre wheelbase instead of 3200 millimetres. The 250 hp (184 kW) V8 M 100 engine ensured the Pullman variants enjoyed a respectable top speed of 200 km/h.
With the introduction of the Pullman variant of the 600 one also became aware of the increased security requirements demanded by top politicians and business leaders. In addition to being offered as a version with regular wheelbase, the Pullman limousine could also be ordered as a special protection version. In 1965 and 1980 two copies of a very special armoured version of the Pullman limousine were built, identifiable by a slightly higher roof. These two cars remained part of the plant car pool and were available for hire on appropriate occasions.
Integrated protection from the factory only on request
Mercedes-Benz made systematic use of its in-depth knowledge of integrated special protection over the next few years to develop protection technology for state limousines. The downside here was the enormous weight of the vehicles: the Pullman limousine version of the 600 model weighed almost two tonnes more than the production version. At an earlier date, the additional weight would have been even greater. Mercedes-Benz offered the Pullman version of the 600 model as a limousine with four or six doors, as well as a landaulet with four or six doors. Depending on the arrangement of the seats, this vehicle design offered enough room for seven or eight passengers. The standard version is the four-door model with facing rear seats. In 1965, a landaulet with this arrangement was extensively converted to operate as a new papal vehicle. In addition to the individual seats in the rear, its special features included a raised roof, extended rear doors that were flush with the front doors, and a raised floor in the rear to avoid interference from the transmission tunnel.
Pullman-limousines based on the 109 and 126 series
In addition to the benchmark-setting Pullman variant of the 600 model, a number of special production models were also created by Mercedes-Benz on the basis of the premium class 109 and 126 series. First, in 1967 two Pullman limousines were built for the Vatican based on the 300 SEL from the 109 series and featuring a wheelbase lengthened by 650 millimetres. These cars were primarily intended for chauffeuring distinguished guests, less for representational purposes such as the traditional papal cars with their single rear seat.
In 1983 and 1985 two further Pullman limousines were built – this time on the basis of the 500 SEL from the 126 series. Here the wheelbase was lengthened by 200 millimetres and the roof height raised by 30 millimetres. The first of these, which was completed in January 1983, added a further luxury limousine to the corporate fleet. The second car was built to Vatican specifications for the Holy Father, and was presented to Pope John Paul II in August 1985. Both Pullman limousines were manufactured as special protection versions.
Return to production: Pullman version of the S-Class 140 series
In September 1995 Mercedes-Benz once again unveiled a production Pullman limousine. The S 600 Pullman was initially developed as a state limousine with special protection technology. The wheelbase of this impressive vehicle measured 4140 millimetres, exactly one metre longer than the standard S 600 with long wheelbase. In line with the principle of the Pullman limousine, the extra length was solely for the benefit of the rear passengers, who were comfortably seated on vis-à-vis seats and could segregate the rear compartment from the driver’s area by means of a sliding partition.
Whereas the special protection versions of representational vehicles were based on the standard designs, the traditional development stages were turned on their head with the Pullman versions of the W 140 series. Here the engineers derived the non-armoured S 500 Pullman limousine and S 600 Pullman limousine models from the top-of-the-range model with special protection. Both models were unveiled in the summer of 1996. All three variants of the Pullman limousine based on the S-Class 140 series were built up until the year 2000.
The weight of the vehicle gave an impression of the scope of the special protection measures fitted to the S 600 Pullman: whereas the armoured vehicle presented in 1995 weighed in at a hefty 4.4 tonnes, the standard version of the 6.2-metre-long state limousine was a comparatively light 2.7 tonnes. In developing this exceptional vehicle, engineers also paid special attention to chassis detail. This permitted much higher maximum speeds to be achieved than in the earlier special protection vehicles: while the armoured Pullman limousine could reach speeds up to 160 km/h, the non-armoured version had a top speed of 210 km/h.
The state limousine for the new millennium: the S-Class VV 220
The Pullman variant of the W 220 series (VV 220) was unveiled in autumn 2001. Compared with the long version, its wheelbase was extended by one metre, to 4085 millimetres. The extra space was enjoyed by the passengers in the rear, where the seats were in a vis-à-vis arrangement. The Pullman was available with the five-litre, eight-cylinder engine (225 kW/306 hp), or with the six-litre V12 engine (270 kW/367 hp).
The basis for the vehicle was a reinforced body shell and a modified chassis. The S 600 Pullman Guard state limousine with B6/B7 special protection, which rounded off the very top of the Mercedes-Benz luxury range in 2004, also adopted this concept in typical special protection tradition, since the best and most effective way of integrating the protective elements into a vehicle is if the conversion takes place during the body construction phase.
In true Mercedes-Benz tradition: the S 600 Pullman Guard
The new state limousine from Mercedes-Benz, which will be unveiled in the autumn of 2008, is to combine the brand’s Pullman tradition with innovations in the current S-Class W 221 series. The S 600, the current Mercedes-Benz flagship model, featuring a twelve-cylinder, bi-turbo engine, was the technical basis for the new Pullman limousine. The engineers developed a new chassis and body from scratch in order to guarantee permanent overall stability with the extra-long wheelbase. After all, the combination of special protection technology and long wheelbase will mean the vehicle will be exceptionally heavy.
The special features of the S 600 Pullman Guard include a rear entrance with increased headroom, a partition separating the rear compartment from the chauffeur and classic vis-à-vis seating for four passengers. This latest state limousine from the world’s oldest carmaker continues the proud tradition of the legendary
Mercedes-Benz 600. But the Mercedes-Benz philosophy of always striving to produce better vehicles also firmly anchors its new flagship model in the overall history of the Mercedes-Benz Pullman.
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