May 15, 2005 The Maybach Exelero high-performance show car unveiled to the world for the first time this week is a remarkable car with an even more remarkable story behind it. The 700-hp V-12 biturbo two-seater is a unique custom model produced for tyre manufacturer Fulda Reifenwerke, which is using the Maybach Exelero as a reference vehicle for a newly developed generation of wide tyres. The German manufacturer of luxury cars built the unique model as a modern interpretation of its legendary streamlined sports car from the 1930s, thereby forging a link with the historical predecessor, which at that time was likewise based on a powerful Maybach automobile (SW 38) and used by Fulda for tyre tests.

The Exelero embodies the highest expression to date of the Maybach individualisation strategy of offering specific custom solutions on request. In initial tests on the high-speed Nardo test track in Italy, the Exelero reached a top speed of 351.45 kmh.

Fulda has a long history of building high speed concept cars with which to test and market its tyres. In its century long history, it has almost always produced a signature machine to represent and market a new tyre and so it was to be the case with new top-of-the-range sports performance tyre, the Fulda Carat Exelero – a high performance tyre that according to the company's objectives for the tyre, is a "tyre that cannot be compared with any previous Fulda product."

Previous Fulda "ambassador automobiles"

Two previous examples of the extreme lengths to which Fulda will go in constructing an automotive manifestation of their tyres are the Porsche 993 Extremo and the fourth generation "High-Tech-Emotions" show truck constructed for the company's 100th anniversary in 2000. The extreme vehicle created for the introduction of its Fulda Carat Extremo in 1997 was a modified Porsche 993 with more than 600 hp, a maximum speed of over 350 km/h and acceleration from 0 to 200 kmh in less than 7.2 seconds. The car impressively demonstrated the qualities of the Extremo tyre with an absolutely breathtaking performance.

The 100th anniversary of the Fulda Reifen company marked the birth of the fourth and most recent showtruck generation. The fascinating result was a truck which combined the construction techniques of truck engineering, the refinements of the luxury bus segment and handling inspired by a sports car. The truck will be the subject of a feature in its own right in Gizmag shortly and it will be worth the wait as it is a treasure trove of technology and source of wonderment for any mechanically-inclined male. The showtruck is a unique reflection of the brand and its products: functionally convincing, optically impressive and technically always streets ahead.

The challenge to create a congruent automobile for the tyre

The company wanted to portray the Fulda Carat Exelero tyre to the world as an "entry into a new technology dimension, a state-of-the-art tyre design."

Accordingly, in producing an ambassador for a new tyre generation, there was plenty of scope for the designers' visions, a maximum of creative scope and no limits set to the imagination or budget. The company was in the search of the ultimate vehicle for the high-end Exelero, and what was expected was nothing less than an automobile full of superlatives.

The decision to build an automobile based on a Maybach stemmed from a chance finding when the company was researching its 100th anniversary.

1938 – high speed tyre testing vehicle required

In researching the 100th anniversary, drawings and photos were discovered of the Maybach streamlined vehicle SW 38 from 1938, which had been commissioned by Fulda. As was revealed by the documents, at the end of the 1930s, Fulda requested renowned Frankfurt coachbuilders Dörr and Schreck, to develop a car with streamlined bodywork for the purpose of high-speed tyre testing.

The background to this ambitious project was an important boost to development in vehicle manufacturing and in the development of the road network. The thirties revolutionised the process of automobile manufacturing. And Fulda was part of this upswing.

In 1933, after large parts of the revolutionary Autobahn road system had been completed, it became possible for the first time to maintain high speeds over long distances and for long periods of time. The tyre industry was required to take these new conditions into account with high-performance and hard-wearing products.

Fulda recognised the signs of the time and started planning for a test car with the focus of attention on maximum speed. The objective was to break the "sound barrier" of 200 km/h, at that time an absolutely incredible speed and one in which aerodynamics proved to be an important factor.

Based on preliminary discussions, the Maybach chassis quickly became the logical favourite among those automobile designs considered, not least because the engines offered remarkable performance. Furthermore, close business relations had already existed between the two companies, because Fulda had already previously been involved as an OEM tyre supplier for Maybach cars.

The first design of the special-purpose vehicle was based on the chassis of the Maybach "Zeppelin" model with a twelve-cylinder engine. For weight reasons, however, in the end the smaller Maybach SW 38 with 6 cylinders, 3.6 litre capacity and 140 bhp was chosen.

Under the direction of the aerodynamics specialist, Freiherr Reinhard Koenig Fachsenfeld, the legendary Fulda Maybach streamlined car was developed, with a sensational maximum speed of over 200 kmh.

The well-known German aerodynamic expert thus created a streamlined masterpiece and one of the first automotibiles designed specifically to create an undisturbed airflow at the rear end of the vehicle. The aerodynamic studies conducted on the car were done in a windtunnel using wool threads which were attached to numerous parts of the bodywork so the designers could visualise what was happening at a granular level.

The work was completed on 27 July 1939. The delivery of this unique special vehicle was followed with great interest by the experts and a great resonance in the specialist press. Due to the start of World War II, it was no longer possible to use the Maybach on the planned scale. Within a few months the streamlined car had disappeared as the world plunged into global war – it has never been found.

2005: The return of the Fulda Maybach.

Two thirds of a century after completion of the famous streamlined automobile, the Maybach and Fulda companies stand together in the public limelight. The new vehicle is neither a reprise of the original, nor a retro design from the last century. The astonishing result of the current cooperation: is an unmistakable tribute to the predecessor - and nevertheless a high tech highlight of a very special kind.

With the intention of projecting a piece of history into the future through the modern interpretation of the streamlined car of 1938, a number of creative minds were assembled in the project team for the new Fulda Maybach Concept Car. Commissioned to create a fascinating blend of strength and elegance, the Pforzheim Polytechnic's Design Department and the Design Department of DaimlerChrysler AG set the cooperative relationship which has operated successfully for many years now into motion once again.

A considerable planning effort and meticulous detailed work was the dominant feature of the daily round of the team members during the next few months. In particular, for the four students of the college's Transport Design department, the work on the design of the unique vehicle represented an absolutely unforgettable challenge.

The optimal combination of elegance and high performance was the the aim of the design by Wolf Seebers. In particular, the contours of the radiator grille clearly indicate the inspiration of the characteristic Maybach design. The line from the cockpit to the tail section, in contrast, was designed in two steps which bear a close resemblance to the design style of Formula 1.

Andreas Hellmann's proposed design went in another direction. His concept had a very American look about it but, at the same time, possessed unmistakable traces of its historic predecessor. The choice of two-color paintwork, for example, is an attractive visual reference to the famous test vehicle from 1939.

Like the model from Andreas Hellmann, the design study from Stefan Barth also called for a two-color paint job for the new Fulda Maybach Concept Car. The design of the tail unit was thereby based on the the model of a boat's stern. The most striking modification in Barth's concept: here the fins on the hood of the original are extended harmoniously into the line of the roof.

The design study by Fredrik Burchhardt led to different associations: While some recognize significant traces of a Corvette split window, parallel to that others drew comparisons with the construction of a catamaran. The design made in the colors red and black put the focus clearly on the radiator grille and deliberately avoided the use of a fender at the front. Initially, it was Fredrik Burchhardt's design which emerged as the winner. But the outstanding creative efforts of Barth, Hellmann and Seebers were not ignored in the following implementation phase.

All four designs were milled as 1:4 models and from each of the presented designs, important ideas and impulses were picked up and incorporated in an exceptional design of an incomparable vehicle.

As outstanding as the concept designs were, their implementation was equally professional. And equally exclusive was the result - a masterly arrangement of the most striking style elements of limousine and coupe, combined in a spectacular sports car on the basis of today's Maybach 57.

The completion of the Fulda Maybach Concept Car appears all the more remarkable when one considers the challenging objective of developing a coupé on the basis of an existing limousine without having to create a completely new design. Despite a tight time schedule, Jürgen Weissinger, the responsible project engineer and manager of development at Maybach, together with his team, managed to realize the project successfully.

The sports coupé took shape at the end of May 2004: after three model phases had been successfully completed, the exterior, interior and chassis were tested, adapted and perfected. In the 1:1 model dreams, visions and ideas took on concrete form in the final reference object for the decisive step in development: the construction and test process.

However, with the reinterpretation of the streamlined car of 1938, it was not only intended to create an optical novelty of modern automobile manufacturing. The targeted 350 kilometers per hour maximum speed confronted the commissioned design engineers with the challenge of manufacturing a fully-functional special vehicle which, as the fastest Maybach ever, is capable of redefining the benchmarks in terms of performance for limousines on standard tires.

However, it quickly became clear that, despite the Biturbo boost, the customary 12-cylinder engine would not be able to produce the targeted maximum speed. The vitally necessary assistance came from Untertürkheim. The specialists in the Mercedes Car Group optimized the turbo charger and increased the cubic capacity of the type 12 engine to 5.9 liters. In the end, 700 hp of engine output confirmed the technological brilliance of the implemented modifications.

The subsequent test measurements at the beginning of May 2005 at the high speed Motodrom in Nardo/Southern Italy, impressively documented the success of the unique efforts of all concerned: a top speed of 351.45 km/h! And thus the world record for limousines.

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