The 10 best mobility exhibits in the Deutsches Museum

Jun 24, 2021

For visitors to IAA MOBILITY, a detour to take in the Deutsches Museum is also well worth it. Here, you can wonder at unique milestones in technical innovation. We have picked out the ten best exhibits relating to mobility.

The Transport Museum (Verkehrszentrum) of the Deutsches Museum is only a few underground stops away from the main museum. "It's a place to experience the feeling of mobility," says press spokesperson Gerrit Faust: "The flowing traffic, presented as if frozen in motion for viewing, with cars, bikes and trains, shows the development of mobility and of travel." So an old bicycle workshop is featured here, along with mobility concepts for tomorrow.

The Deutsches Museum has more on display than you can properly appreciate in one day. So if you only have half a day to spend there, you will find our list of the ten best exhibits on the history of mobility helpful.

Patent-Motorwagen No.1

Everything started with this: The Carl Benz Patent-Motorwagen No.1 is considered the world's first functioning car, and it marked the start of a revolution in mobility – even if, in terms of its engineering and price, it was not yet an object for the masses. That role was later assumed by the Ford Model T. Around 25 of the Patent-Motorwagen were built, three of which are still in existence today. One of these is in the Deutsches Museum.

© Deutsches Museum

Baker Electric Roadster „Victoria“

It's a little-known fact that in the early days of the motor car there was a head-to-head race over which form of powertrain would win through – the battery electric car or the combustion engine. Before the many decades of cars mainly running on petrol and diesel, as early as the start of the 20th century the US American company Baker was building hundreds of electric cars per year – such as the Baker Electric "Victoria" Roadster.

[Translate to English:] © Deutsches Museum
© Deutsches Museum

Rumpler Tropfenwagen

At the 1921 Berlin Car Fair, a quite exceptional car was exhibited: With its extremely aerodynamic shape, the Rumpler Tropfenwagen ("drop car", named after its raindrop shape) was way ahead of its time. Due to technical problems, it was not a commercial success, but 50 years after the last of the cars was built it was still considered exemplary in terms of aerodynamics: Under the squeeze induced by the oil crisis in the 1970s, engineers tested the Tropfenwagen in a wind tunnel in 1979 and confirmed that it had a "sensationally" low air resistance.

Büssing ZU 550

In 1903, the inventor and entrepreneur Heinrich Büssing built something which, while not the first truck, was possibly the best in its time. In the early days, many well-known brands produced successful commercial vehicles, including Porsche, Daimler and Benz. But no-one built a cheaper truck than Büssing, whose vehicle - with its specifically-developed suspension - protected driver and cargo against accidents when braking.

© Deutsches Museum

Auto Union Racing Car

The Auto Union Racing Car is not to be confused with the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow. If you look closely, you can spot the difference: On the Silver Arrow, the engine is at the front, while on the Auto Union Racing Car it is in the middle, directly behind the driver, who sits in the front part of the car. That's how it still is to this day in Formula 1. The Racing Car traces its origins back to designs by Ferdinand Porsche, and was intended to attract attention for the four Saxony-based manufacturers Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer, who had come together to form the Auto Union.

© Deutsches Museum

The Draisine

Putting two wheels together to create a single-track velocipede, powered solely by the rider's muscle-power – that was the idea that Karl Friedrich Freiherr Drais came up with. His revolutionary "Laufmaschine" (literally: running machine) of 1817 is considered the initial spark for the development of the modern bicycle. The bulky, heavy-looking Laufmaschine (also known as the draisine or Dandy Horse) which can be seen today in the Deutsches Museum weighs as much as a modern Dutch bike, and was reportedly as fast as a horse. And if you see children on a training bicycle today, you'll know that's not an exaggeration.

© Deutsches Museum

Motorbike by Hildebrand und Wolfmüller

The brothers Heinrich and Wilhelm Hildebrand were not the first to mount an engine onto a bicycle. But they were the first to use the term "motorbike" for their invention, in 1893. A year later, the brothers came together with the engineers Alois Wolfmüller and Hans Geisenhof to manufacture their invention as a series-produced vehicle. The motorbike was popular and sought-after, and the company grew to over 800 employees before having to file for bankruptcy just a year later: The technology was far too prone to failing, with the result that many buyers wanted their money back.

© Deutsches Museum

The first electric streetcar, from Siemens und Halske

Due to the industrial revolution in Germany, increasing numbers of people moved to the cities. Berlin had around two million residents shortly before the start of the 20th century – and those people needed to get around the city. The horse-drawn trams were coming up against their limits, while steam locomotives were unsuitable for city traffic. The electrically-powered locomotive unveiled in 1879 by Siemens und Halske transformed public transport systems in Europe's cities for the long term, and still characterizes them even today.

© Deutsches Museum
© Deutsches Museum

Puffing Billy

Rail tracks were laid relatively early on in mines. In most cases, the tracks were made of wood, and horses pulled the wagons in the mines. In around 1800, the wooden rails were replaced by iron ones. To work more efficiently and to transport larger volumes more quickly, in 1813 William Hedley commissioned the building of a steam locomotive. The first inventions of this kind had come about a few years earlier, but they had proven to be impractical. Almost in parallel, several trials were then held successfully in the English coalmining district around Newcastle upon Tyne. The most well-known and long-lived locomotive was Puffing Billy. A model of it was made for the Deutsches Museum around 100 years later, in 1904, and is still on show there today.

Bavarian S3/6 steam locomotive

If you imagine a steam locomotive, then the S3/6 comes pretty close to that imagined ideal. It was one of the most successful and most highly-developed locomotives ever built. In 1951, one such locomotive was still able to set a long-distance record for its class: It traveled 820 kilometers from Hamburg to Munich. In 1954 it came to the Deutsches Museum, where it still stands today. The last S3/6 was taken out of service in 1969 – as the age of the steam locomotive was coming to an end.

[Translate to English:] © Deutsches Museum

Illustrating the revolutionary leap forward

The ten selected highlights have one thing in common: They all illustrate a revolutionary change in the history of engineering. Press spokesperson Gerrit Faust comments: "It is important to us that we show both the engineering and the societal aspects of mobility, and make them something you can experience – and not necessarily simply exhibit the esthetically most valuable car. Although, of course, we have that too."

However, Faust does not want to draw conclusions for the future from historical developments. In his view, deriving trends from history is difficult. On that point, the Deutsches Museum spokesperson has an appropriate quotation to hand from Gottlieb Daimler, one of the founding fathers of today's Daimler AG. Daimler reportedly said: "The global demand for motorized vehicles will not exceed one million, simply because of the lack of available chauffeurs." Even the most successful inventors make mistakes.

IAA MOBILITY is transforming itself from a pure car show to an international mobility platform with four pillars: The Summit, the Conference, the “Blue Lane” and the downtown Munich Open Space. Under the slogan of “What will move us next”, it stands for the digital and climate-neutral mobility of the future. From 7 to 12 September 2021, the car, bike and tech industries come together at IAA MOBILITY in Munich.

Ticket sales have started. Take advantage of the Crazy Early Bird discounts until June 27! Information about all ticket types and prices can be found here.