On this day in 2009, the uber-luxurious Maybach Zeppelin sedan goes on sale, with a starting price of $523,870 for the Maybach 57 Zeppelin and $610,580 for the Maybach 62 Zeppelin. Daimler-Benz, owner of the Maybach brand, announced that only 100 Zeppelins would be built, with each vehicle hand-crafted to its individual buyer’s specifications. Among the Zeppelin’s many optional amenities was the world’s first perfume-atomizing system, for which customers could even have their own personal fragrance designed.
The 2009 Maybach Zeppelin was a reincarnation of the Zeppelin auto built in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The original Zeppelin was made by a company founded by German auto industry pioneer Wilhelm Maybach. In 1885, Maybach and the German engineer Gottlieb Daimler developed a new, high-speed, four-stroke internal combustion engine, which they later affixed to a bicycle to create what people call the first-ever motorcycle. The two men later attached their engine to a carriage, producing a motorized vehicle. In 1890, Daimler and several partners established Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (Daimler Motor Company) to build engines and automobiles. In 1900, Maybach, who served as the company’s chief designer, developed the first Mercedes automobile. Commissioned by auto dealer and racer Emil Jellinek, who wanted a new car to sell to his rich clients in the French Riviera, the Mercedes was named after Jellinek’s daughter.
Gottlieb Daimler died in March 1900 and Maybach left the Daimler company in 1907. Maybach later went into business with his engineer son Karl (1879-1960) and in 1921 at a Berlin auto show they debuted their first car, the Maybach Type W3. During the 1920s and 1930s, the company became known for developing powerful, technologically sophisticated, custom-built vehicles for the wealthy, including the top-of-the-line Zeppelin model. Wilhelm Maybach died on December 29, 1929, at the age of 83.
During World War II, the company stopped making cars and built engines for German military vehicles instead. Auto production never resumed after the war, although Maybach continued to build engines for a variety of vehicles and eventually became part of Daimler-Benz. In the early 2000s, DaimlerChrysler (as it was then called; since 2007 its name has been Daimler AG) resurrected the Maybach nameplate, launching the Maybach 57 and the Maybach 62 (the numbers represent each vehicle’s length: 5.7 meters and 6.2 meters). Today, Maybachs are known for their power and luxury accoutrements–the 2009 Zeppelin featured a twin turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 engine as well a high-quality leather interior and silver champagne flutes engraved with the word Zeppelin.