Motoring Trailblazers - Maybach Zeppelin DS8

Sat 1st Jun 2019

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Maybach Zeppelin DS8
Named for the famous engines which had powered the famous airships for German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin during World War One, this Maybach was regarded as the company’s Repräsentationswagen, a vehicle which was designed to make the biggest possible impact at the embassy, the opera or the country club.

Weighing in at 3000kg, this enormous luxury vehicle was hard to miss, it was so big that drivers in Germany were required to apply for a good vehicle licence to drive over 2.5 tonnes.

Maybach hoped that the Zeppelin’s fine reputation would serve as a launchpad to float the idea that this was a car that was built from the finest exacting standards.

“The name is also to serve as a symbol for the principles to which Maybach cars are built,” said the Zeppelin’s promotional literature. “To create nothing but the best from the most advanced materials, cars of lasting value, manufactured to the highest level of perfection. The Maybach Zeppelin is the ultimate answer to automotive wishes, with a distinctive character all its own and the highest levels of elegance and power.”

The Maybach was a luxury vehicle, but broke new ground in gearbox technology when the DS8 Zeppelin introduced an innovative 8-speed system which was created with vacuum pressure and allowed for minimal clutch usage, drivers only engaging the clutch for starting, stopping and reversing.

One of only 100 to be built, the eight-speed transmission was well ahead of its time, and helped make it one of the most powerful production vehicles of its time. This trailblazing engineering proved to be a huge draw and more than 80 years later a Roadster version of the DS8 fetched €1.3 million at auction.