Maybach Exelero: a record-breaking high-powered customized sports coupe

Article by Christian A., on December 21, 2015

Meet what is considered as one of the highest expressions of Maybach's individualization strategy of offering specific solutions as requested by customers – the Maybach Exelero high-performance show car. Unveiled in the Tempodrom in Berlin, the Exelero is essentially a custom-made two-seater for tire-maker Fulda Reifenwerke, which planned to use the Maybach Exelero as a reference vehicle for its next generation wide tires.

Powered by a 700-hp V-12 biturbo engine, the Exelero is Maybach's modern interpretation of its iconic streamlined sports car from the 1930s.

Upon closer look, it becomes apparent that the Mayback Exelero looks like the modern version of the Maybach SW 38, which incidentally was also used by Fulda for tire tests. This Exelero was designed by Maybach developers along with students from Pforzheim College and was built by the prototype specialists at Stola in Turin, Italy.

With 700 hp in its disposal, the Exelero -- following initial tests on the high-speed track in Nardo, Italy – achieved a top speed of 351.45 km/h. The Exelero was not the first time that students participated in the design of a Fulda show concept.

In fact, in the 1990s, Fulda Reifen had a show truck designed by the students of Pforzheim Polytechnic's Department of Transport Design under the direction of Professor James Kelly. This show truck, which boasts of a trailer that can be divided lengthwise in the middle and extended, has been used by the tire-maker on many events.

Likewise, Fulda's partners Maybach and the design department of DaimlerChrysler also enjoyed good designing experiences and moments with Pforzheim Polytechnic. The Exelero project was headed by Pforzheim professors Kelly and Lutz Fügener with four selected students from the 6th semester – all tasked to come up with designs under identical conditions. DaimlerChrysler was represented by Professor Harald Leschke, who at the time was in charge of managing the Group's future projects.

The students worked on the design not only in the college but also in DaimlerChrysler's design center in Sindelfingen during a practical semester, as guided by the Group's design professionals. There, the students were given approval to access and use the center's latest technological facilities as well as 3-D animation.

It took the project team less than eight months to complete the design of the Exelero – from initial briefing at the Polytechnic to the selection of the final design. In the end, Fredrik Burchhardt's work was selected as it was the most appropriate in terms of the transformation of the design from the study into reality.

Likewise, Burchhardt's design managed to strongly emphasize how the designs between the two vehicle generations were related. Leschke, however, also praised the work of the three other students, adding that their ideas should also be integrated.

He noted that it was a joint effort and each of the designs could have been realized. In appreciation of their works, all four designs were milled as 1:4 scale models. When the final design came out, it was like a fusion of the sumptuousness of a limousine and the allure of a coupé as well as a beautiful synthesis of strength and elegance.

It achieved what they set out to do – which is to become an emissary of Fulda's latest generation of wide tires, the Fulda Carat Exelero, which comes in sizes up to 23 inches. While the design work should be left to designers, there are a number of things that should be assigned best to technicians and engineers. Right from the start, Fulda has made it clear that the Maybach Exelero, as the reference vehicle for its new broad tire generation, should be able to withstand a constant load while it is used on the road, at trade shows, and other events. Serving as the basis for the technical aspects of the Exelero sports coupé are those of the Fulda Gemballa show vehicle.

The engine that powers the Maybach Exelero –Maybach V12 engine with Biturbo turbocharger – was once a standard type 12 that develops an already outstanding output of 550 hp. However, this output was not enough to allow the Exelero, which weighs around 2.6 tons, to reach a speed of around 350 km/h.

The job to boost this V12 went to DaimlerChrysler's engine specialists in Untertürkheim. These specialists were smart enough to hike the engine's cubic capacity from 5.6 to 5.9 liters and optimize further the turbocharger. Their efforts paid off and the V12 now ekes out 700 hp in output and at least 1,000 newton meters of torque.

This boosted V12 underwent around 100 hours of non-stop testing on the engine test bed, which equates to 15,000 kilometers of road test. Impressed by the Exelero project, Maybach's Director of Sales and Marketing Leon Hustinx quickly provided Fulda with the platform that underpins the Maybach 57 limousine.

Trying to underpin a sports coupe with a limousine platform would have been an unwanted proposal. But Jürgen Weissinger, head of development at Maybach, thought otherwise. After all, he was considered the man most familiar with engineering of the Maybach. Likewise, since he was the project manager in pre-development of the Maybach 57, he has overseen a number of feasibility studies for the limousine. Comparing the dimensions of the Maybach SW 38 and the 57 platform, their breadth and height were similar, although the 1938 vehicle has a wheelbase that is shorter by 290 mm.

While the correlation of their measurement had made the construction of the Exelero much simpler, there were a number of elements that needed to be changed. For instance, the driver's position, the A-column and the door as well as the steering column, gearshift and the pedals had to be shifted backwards to the rear axle. While the tank remains at its position, the refueling nozzle had to be shifted.

Also, a second front wall had to be integrated. Despite the time challenges, these changes were able to be made. On the other hand, there were also challenges in the development work on the rim and the wheel. To address this, Rolf Dieter Stohrer, Fulda's Senior Manager Car Tires who was in charge of wheel and tire technology for the project team, got in touch with several rim makers and stumbled upon the right rim with Ronal.

Ronal then milled the design from a whole piece of metal, creating a 23-kg 11.0x23-inch rim from a 257-kg solid block. All four rims for the Exelero sports coupe were individually produced -- two were produced for the left side and two for the right. These rims, however, are only for the "See true" vehicle model that is an exact copy of the Exelero sports coupé. This copy is only used at show events, not on the road.

The rims used on the road – particularly, during the high speed tests – were from ATP-Excentric since they feature a cross spoke design that can be fully paneled for the speed tests. These rims also allowed the Exelero to become faster by 3km/h to 4km/h during the speed test. Since a rim can bear a load of 1,050 kg, having a load of 1,400 kg on the rear axle should pose no issue.

Once the technical requirements listed in the engineers' specifications were achieved, the high-speed tests in Nardo's 12.5-km circuit in Italy loomed in a few months. Of course, the Maybach Exelero underwent a number of intensive tests, including in a wind tunnel. Whatever the results of these tests are, project designers and engineers fine-tuned and optimized the Exelero accordingly.

In March 2005, the Maybach Exelero was completed and then officially handed over to Fulda Reifen. A month after, the sports coupe was sent to the "running-in track" at the Sindelfingen site, where its engine functions, brakes, chassis and handling underwent intensive checks at speeds of around 200 km/h.

Figures resulting from all of the tests before the scheduled speed test in May served as the basis for the recorded attempt to break the high speed in the Nardo track. The project made various adjustments just to make sure that the Maybach Exelero is all ready to log a new record. For instance, they tried out spoilers in various positions and made certain revisions just to optimize the sports coupe's speed and stability.

At the end of April, the Maybach Exelero underwent a technical inspection on DaimlerChrysler's test track. As a show car for Fulda, the Exelero vehicle is intended for practical use in the long term. Thus, the project designed it as a road-legal machine. As such, it needed a license and required a technical approval from the TÜV -- Technical Control Board. In charge of testing and evaluating the sports coupe's safety-relevant components – such as the seats with the safety belts -- and the weight distribution within the car is Peter Kühlwein, who is regarded as one of the most experienced experts at TÜV Automotive GmbH, Gruppe Süd.

Thankfully, the Maybach Exelero passed all safety points and the road to Nardo, Italy encountered no more obstacles. The Maybach/Fulda Exelero project team arrived at Nardo on Thursday and then checked the sports coupe for two days. A day before the high speed test, the team went to check the measuring facilities and even conducted trial measurements. Likewise, technical project manager Jürgen Weissinger drove the Maybach Exelero for several test laps.

Then came May 1, 2005, Sunday. At around 5:45 in the morning, the Maybach Exelero was already on the track, ready for action. Behind the steering wheel was a champion driver, Klaus Ludwig with three DTM wins in his name. His target was to accelerate the Maybach Exelero, which was sitting on 23-inch Fulda Exelero wide tires, to 350 km/h and create a new record. And then went the "Go" signal. At 7:09 a.m. Ludwig completed the lap at a speed of 346 km/h.

It took just another lap to reach the targeted record of 350 km/h and even break it. Ludwig managed to speed up the Maybach Exelero to an exhilarating 351.45 km/h, according to the FIA standardized measuring unit.

After the record-breaking run, Ludwig commented that it was unbelievable that the Maybach Exelero is so easy to handle even at the record speed. He particularly noted that the Fulda Exelero wide tires conveyed an "absolutely safe feeling." He remarked that everything was just right, from the vehicle's technology to its chassis and tires. Bernd J. Hoffmann, Managing Director of Fulda Reifen, thanked all teams and people for their excellent work on the Maybach Exelero, noting that the sports coupe and its tires complement each other perfectly.

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