Housed in a futuristic landmark building on the banks of the Neckar, 4km northeast of the city centre, the Mercedes-Benz-Museum is chock-full of 110 years of immaculate motors. It starts with Daimler’s pioneering motorbike – a wooden bone-shaker with a horse’s saddle – and beside it is the one-cylinder motor-tricycle Motorwagen and motorized carriage Motorkutsche; Benz and Daimler created them independently in 1886, both capable of a not-so-giddy 16kmph. Benz just pipped Daimler to produce the world’s first car.
Another trail-blazer is the robust Benz Vélo, the world’s first production car, for which twelve hundred of the moneyed elite parted with 20,000 gold Marks. A racy 500K Special Roadster in preening pillarbox red begs for a Hollywood Thirties starlet, but it’s the racers that truly quicken the pulse, no more so than the legendary Silver Arrows of the 1920s and 1930s; a cinema shows the sleek machines in action. Just as eye-catching are a pair of experimental record-breakers that look far more futuristic than their dates suggest: in the W125, Rudolf Caracciola clocked up 432.7km per hour on the Frankfurt–Darmstadt Autobahn in 1938 (no one’s been faster on a public highway since); and six-wheeler sci-fi vision T80 was powered by an aeroplane engine to 650km per hour in 1939, though World War II killed the project.