The Maybach "Zeppelin" is one of the most famous models in the line-up of international luxury cars from the nineteen-thirties – a terrific twelve-cylinder car that was built in numerous versions between 1930 and 1937.
A contemporary test report enthused "... The Maybach Zeppelin models rank among the few cars in the international top class. They are highly luxurious, extremely lavish in their engineering and attainable only for a chosen few, not only on account of the small series in which these splendid cars are built." (Allgemeine Automobilzeitung 1933, no. 35).
The Maybach Zeppelin DS 8, model year 1932, with chassis number 1387, and today owned by the Mercedes-Benz Museum, is one of these luxury limousines. Its completely restored bodywork, specially tailored by Messrs. Spohn in Ravensburg, is a four-door six-to-seven-seater cabriolet with long wheelbase and ample space for feeling at ease in comfortable leather chairs. Itself a feast for the eyes, the eight-litre V12 engine (number 25041) is still in a virtually "straight-from-the-factory" condition and in perfect working order. It develops its power of 200 hp at a maximum of 3200 revolutions per minute in superior style – the epitome of smoothness – and gives the car a top speed of 170 kilometres per hour.
Enthusiasm-inspiring handling characteristics
Its handling characteristics fill people with enthusiasm even today. With its 3735 millimetre wheelbase, high weight and rigid axles suspended on long semi-elliptic springs, the car glides along in almost light-footed style. Comfort is additionally enhanced by hydraulic, double-acting shock absorbers. The clutch has to be operated for starting off, but otherwise, the driver only needs to operate two small levers in the centre of the steering wheel to engage the four gears of the planetary-gear transmission – without declutching. What a treat! Idle, first and reverse gear are engaged by means of a preselection lever in the centre of the car.
In relation to this majestic car's weight of well over three tonnes, the worm-and-nut steering, without power assistance, is astonishingly light, and the huge drum brakes, actuated via cables, decelerate the car evenly and effectively, thanks to an ingenious lever system. Thanks to vacuum-pressure brake boosting, relatively little strength is required to operate the brakes.