CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes Benz and the Three-Point Star

MONTVALE, N.J. (Sept. 1, 1998) -- An 11-year-old girl helped name Mark Blundell's 1998 Motorola Reynard/Mercedes-Benz Champ Car almost 100 years ago. And a postcard helped decide part of its graphic design 25 years before that. Despite...

MONTVALE, N.J. (Sept. 1, 1998) -- An 11-year-old girl helped name Mark Blundell's 1998 Motorola Reynard/Mercedes-Benz Champ Car almost 100 years ago.

And a postcard helped decide part of its graphic design 25 years before that.

Despite their humble beginnings a century ago, the name Mercedes and the three-pointed star today combine to form one of the most recognized corporate symbols in the world. The logos displayed on the nose and engine cover of Blundell's race car, and those of seven other Mercedes-powered machines competing in the Grand Prix of Monterey (Calif.) at Laguna Seca Raceway September 11-13, may look somewhat different from the earliest versions of The Star, but the innovative, competitive spirit they stand for remains the same.

"The origins of the three-pointed star and the name Mercedes say a lot about our company," said Hal Whiteford, vice president, operations, Mercedes-Benz of North America. "The fact that the first 'Mercedes' was a racing car and that the three-pointed star was taken from a drawing done by one of the company's founding fathers 125 years ago demonstrates how important our heritage is to us, particularly our competition heritage. The Mercedes-powered Champ Cars -- as well as our Formula One and GT cars -- are continuing those important traditions."

Grace Goes Racing

The young lady who assisted in the naming of Blundell's and every other Mercedes vehicle was the daughter of racer Emil Jellinek. The Austro-Hungarian General Counsel and a member of French high society, Jellinek entered a 27-horsepower Daimler "Phoenix" car in the "Tour de Nice" race, March 21, 1899. As was customary at the time, Jellinek raced the car under a pseudonym, naming it after his daughter Mercedes, which is the Spanish word for "Grace."

The car, ahead of its time with a honeycomb radiator, front-engine/rear-drive layout, gearbox and angled steering column, won the race easily, sparking huge interest among consumers. When Jellinek, an important dealer as well as the race champion, suggested calling all future Daimler cars "Mercedes," the company agreed.

The first official Mercedes appeared in Jellinek's showroom in January 1901 -- a 5.3-liter front-engine/rear-drive model with a 35-horsepower four-cylinder engine. The name "Mercedes" was registered with the patent office June 23, 1902, and it became a registered trademark for Daimler on Sept. 26 of that year.

The Lucky Star

The famous three-pointed star, displayed prominently on the noses and engine covers of the eight Mercedes-powered FedEx Championship Series entries (and which adorns all Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles), originated with a piece of personal correspondence from one of the two founding fathers of Mercedes-Benz.

Gottlieb Daimler was 38 years old, working at the Deutz gas engine factory and living away from home, when he wrote a postcard to his wife in 1873. On the card, he drew a star to mark where he was living and wrote, "One day, this lucky star will shine down on my life's work!"

Although Daimler died March 3, 1900, at the age of 65, his company continued to thrive and grow. Years later, when the company was searching for an eye-catching trademark to go with the name "Mercedes," Daimler's sons remembered the little doodle on the postcard and other stars their father had sketched.

On June 24, 1909, two stars -- one with three points and one with four, but neither with a ring or lettering -- were registered as trademarks for the Daimler company, and a patent certificate was issued Feb. 9, 1911. Some six years later, the circle was included as a background for the star and, on Aug. 2, 1923, the first three-pointed star radiator emblem was affixed to a Mercedes. The star has been the symbol for the Mercedes-Benz brand ever since.

Mercedes-Benz Notes: What's In A Name?

Although the names Daimler and Benz, and Mercedes-Benz seem permanently linked, such was not always the case. Daimler-Benz AG, manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz cars, is the product of a merger in 1926 of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellshaft, founded by Gottleib Daimler, and Benz & Co., founded by Karl Benz.

Ironically, although their cars raced against each other, and their shops were only 60 miles apart, Mr. Daimler and Mr. Benz never met.

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