I love the Porsche Museum.
Okay, that might be a strange way to start a story about visiting the Mercedes-Benz Museum, but bear with me a moment.
I do love the Porsche Museum, which probably explains why I’ve gone out of my way on three separate occasions to visit Porscheplatz in Stuttgart, Germany. In fact, less than an hour before I arrived at Mercedesstraße, I was still at the Porsche Museum, emptying my pockets in an attempt to add more 1/43 scale Porsche Le Mans winners to my humble desk collection.
The reason I love the Porsche Museum so much is that it brilliantly – and concisely – represents Porsche’s motorsport history and their contributions to creating the best driver’s cars they can. From 917s to an upside-down 956, and from the 959 Paris-Dakar to the 919 Tribute, there’s a lot of speed within their walls.
According to Google Maps, the Mercedes-Benz Museum is just under 11-kilometres from Porsche (that’s about 7-miles, America), which equates to around a 35-minute drive in afternoon traffic. Where the Porsche Museum is a celebration of all things Porsche, the Mercedes-Benz Museum is different in that it’s something much bigger.
Pre-occupied with following the signs for the museum’s car park, I didn’t get a huge sense of occasion on arrival. Yes, the car park features several DTM machines encased in glass occupying multiple parking spaces, but inside, the lobby feels old and spartan when compared to Porsche’s much more modern offering.
It’s only when you head towards the ticket desk and look up, that you get your first real appreciation of the place. It’s huge.
A strange pseudo-futuristic elevator brings you to the top floor, where you’re greeted by a white horse as you get out. It now feels like some strange science-fiction movie set, but slowly it starts to make sense.
This isn’t a museum dedicated only to vehicular history, it’s about 130-plus years’ worth of humanity and how Mercedes-Benz fits into it.
As you wind your way down through the museum, the walls feature historical moments which help you to better understand the timeframe which you are about to study firsthand. Just off each main hall on each floor are special exhibit areas which feature commercial vehicles, emergency vehicles and celebrity-owned Mercedes-Benz models, amongst others.
There’s no shying away from the company’s role during the Second World War, and its use of ‘forced labourers’ which it documents alongside the relevant exhibits, including aircraft engines used in the Luftwaffe’s Messerschmitts. I found this part of the museum particularly poignant as it was neither a celebration nor condemnation, just a representation of the time.
Towards the end is a comprehensive motorsport section, but the cars are strangely grouped away and just out of touch. You cannot examine them in any meaningful detail or even walk between them, which I found disappointing.
It makes for a good Instagram opportunity, but little else, as they might as well be behind a glass wall. Stunning vehicles, mind.
If I’m being truthful, I don’t think I left enough time in my schedule to properly appreciate this stunning building and its exhibits. The scope of the contribution which the company has made to the world is nothing short of huge, and makes Mercedes-Benz arguably the most important car manufacturer on the planet. As such, there is so much detail to take in with regards the company’s past, present and future.
The next time I’m in Stuttgart, I might just forego a fourth visit to Porsche and make my way to Mercedes-Benz instead. There’s still a lot that I need to learn.