Episode 1: Mercedes Benzomino & El Benzo, Karl Middelhauve's Amazing W100 Pick-Up Trucks

Average, big and really big, a 4-seater 2-door and a sports coupé that can transform into a Roadster: A long time ago, Mercedes offered nothing more than these five models. And nowadays?

Episode 1: Mercedes Benzomino & El Benzo, Karl Middelhauve's Amazing W100 Pick-Up Trucks

Average, big and really big, a 4-seater 2-door and a sports coupé that can transform into a Roadster: A long time ago, Mercedes offered nothing more than these five models. And nowadays? There are A-, B-, C-, E-, G-, M-, S-, V-Classes as well as SL, SLC, SLS and GL, GLA, GLC, GLE, GLS, CLA and CLS; many of them are available as sedans, coupés, T-Models, convertibles, others as Shooting Brakes or roadsters, and on top of that there’s the Citan… Why does Mercedes do that? The simple answer: To fill every possible niche in the model program with some kind of crossover, a segment-spanning species with undefined use value that accordingly nobody actually needs.

Considering all these models, it seems strange that a few of these niches still exist. In the absence of creativity? Or because all meaningful letter combinations are already used up? That remains undecided. Anyways, we recommend the crossover-strategists from Sindelfingen to stop by in Wausau in the US state Wisconsin.

El Benzo
El Benzo

The fact that former BMW designer Chris Bangle grew up in Wausau is irrelevant for this story - it’s a coincidence, nothing more. This story is about BMW’s first head of design, Paul Bracq, and to be even more precise, about the conversation between him and Karl Middelhauve - that guy from Wausau which we recommend Mercedes officials to visit. What unites Bracq and Middelhauve is their love to the “Grosser Mercedes” (Grosser means “Grand”) 600, Type W100 - the last true flagship of the star brand. Paul Bracq, now age 83, was significantly involved in its styling (long before he changed to BMW in 1969). Karl Middelhauve, age 84, is world famous for being a 600 expert - and the universe’s bravest customizer of said car.

The important conversation between these two Mercedes fans took place at a club meet in June 2004 in St. Louis, Missouri; and it probably went something like this:

B: “Do you still drive that dreadful Chevy El Camino?”
M: “Well, I need a fast transport car, and there are no other crossovers of sedans and trucks.”
B: “Why don’t you take one of your countless 600s and convert it into a Pick-up?”
M: “Because there’s no original design for a Mercedes 600 Pick-up.”
B: “And what if the original designer of the 600 would design a 600 Pick-up for you?”
M: “Then I could finally get rid of that El Camino!”

You want to know how the content of this conversation became reality, why two different El-Camino-Mercs exist and why they are driving after all? Let’s tell the complete story of El Benzo, Benzomino and their incredible creator from the beginning. Brace yourself, it’s going to be a long one.


The story begins in 1955, in Siegen, Germany. Karl Middelhauve - age 22, skilled joiner - dreams of a Mercedes-Benz. Of the big wood business. And of going out into the world. He emigrates to the US. Two years later, in 1957, he’s back in Germany - as G.I. of the US Army, stationed in Fürth. With his generous army rebate he buys a new Mercedes 220 S, ivory-colored, with red leather. In 1959, his term of service comes to an end, and he goes back to the United States - taking the 220 S with him. In 1960, he marries his girlfriend Ruth, but rarely spends time with her. As an advisor in the wood industry, the young New-American travels 70,000 miles a year - of course always with his Mercedes. In 1964, the new luxury Mercedes 600 hits production, and four years later, its massive 6.3-liter V8 (type M 100) finds its way into the middle-class 300 SEL: Karl Middelhauve’s new dream car.

Sadly, it costs as much as two 280 SE, and so Karl keeps driving with 6 pots. But over the time depreciation kicks in, and so in 1972, Karl can get the fastest production four-door sedan as an employee’s car from Mercedes USA. It doesn’t run smooth though, and so the wood expert dives into the complex mechanic. At some point he gets the 300 SEL 6.3 running - and finds himself in love with the M 100.

In 1977, he buys his first 600, and soon after he ships his 1966 300 SE Coupé from Pennsylvania to Affalterbach, Germany - to the headquarters of crazy tuning company AMG. He instructs them to squeeze the massive M 100 into the engine bay, along with some other changes. The result is a 300 SE 6.3 Coupé with a 5-speed Ferrari gearbox and Stage 2-kit, producing 325 instead of 250 hp. The same fate befalls the 300 SE Cabriolet which he sends to AMG soon afterwards.

Benzomino with a M 100 engine mounted on its back
Benzomino with a M 100 engine mounted on its back

His radical tuning soon becomes famous in the United States. Karl himself cares less and less about his works being true to the original, and buys every 600 he can find. At this time, they are fairly cheap, with drivable beaters costing less than $10,000. Next to his main job in the wood industry, he customizes all kinds of Mercedes and sells them. One 300 SEL 6.3 becomes a T-Model, a 600 gets shortened to a replica of the Nallinger Coupé Concept, the world’s only 600 hearse gets restored. In 2004, at age 71, he retires from his woody work - just to spend even more time building his M 100 dreams.

Then, two weeks after said conversation with Paul Bracq in June 2004, he receives a letter from Bordeaux. It contains sketches of the W 100 Pick-up which Paul Bracq had produced exclusively for Karl Middelhauve. He immediately starts to work on a beater 600 from 1966, and after a year, the first Pick-up is finished. It’s painted in silver metallic and night blue, and it’s called Benzomino.

Paul Bracq's oil painting showing two Benzomino alternatives - one of them became El Benzo
Paul Bracq's oil painting showing two Benzomino alternatives - one of them…

At the next club meet in June 2005 in Charleston, South Carolina, Karl Middelhauve and his luxury Pick-up are the celebrated stars. Especially because he actually used the cargo capacity: From his garage which is 1100 km away, he has brought Benzomino with a second M 100 engine mounted on a test block on the back. The whole construction weighs about 800 kg, that’s about 100% over the maximum load capacity of a stock 600. “You just need to be pretty careful in the corners”, the fast driver resumed his trip.

But there are more deficits: He thinks Bezomino is too boxy, too well-behaved - not enough of a Hotrod. Paul Bracqasso Bracq understands his problems, and decides: “Then let’s build a Custom-Pick-up! We can call it El Benzo“. The next package from Bordeaux is an oil painting, showing two elegeant and radical Benzomino-alternatives. The rear one, painted turquoise and silver, is not doable - the rear panorama window would be unbelievably expensive. The front one however, is exactly what Karl wants: red, low, with sunroof, barock rims and sidepipes. What can’t be found on painting are some important details, which Karl Middelhauve defines as “Puerto Rico Hotrod Style”: Neon underglow for Downtown Cruising and a remote-controlled flap in the exhaust. On the question whether that stuff is only for young drivers he replied with: “Well… Back then I was only 73!”

Bezomino gets build, and the engine gets customized: Karl Middelhauve constructs a special Fuel Injection, and boosts the 6.3-liter V8 with a huge Turbo. The power is transmitted via a 5-speed automatic from a Corvette.

El Benzo's tuned 6.3-liter V8
El Benzo's tuned 6.3-liter V8

The contrast between Benzomino, the cruiser, and El Benzo, the monster, couldn’t be bigger. Benzomino is a Pick-up with the suspension from one of the most complex luxury sedans of all time, making for an amazingly smooth ride. The stock V8 with 250 hp is clearly not underpowered, but it prefers to stay discreetly in the background. Benzomino however is powered by a V8 with 450 hp and 800 Nm / 590 ft-lb of torque - this catapults the 3 tonnes luxury Pick-up forwards as if there was no tomorrow.

Karl Middelhauve is not interested in exact specs, he doesn’t care if Benzomino needs five or five and a half seconds from 0-100 / 0-60, or whether it tops out at 260 or 280 (162 or 174). It’s just not important, in Wausau, Wisconsin.

The house of Karl and Ruth is situated at the edge of the woods. It contains a two-story parking lot for Karl’s 30 Mercedes, a super clean garage with Hightech-equipment, and a warehouse that’s said to contain more W 100-parts than the one Mercedes has in Stuttgart.

El Benzo's interior
El Benzo's interior

The chances that Mercedes is going to fill this niche in their model program? Very low. But just imagine how cool a current S 63 AMG Pick-up-sedan would be…

What do you think of Benzomino and El Benzo? Comment below!
Also, I hope you guys enjoyed reading this post. It’s one of the longest I’ve written for Car Throttle, and if you made it all the way down here, feel free to show some love - I’d really appreciate it.
Tobi aka The Stig’s German Cousin


hummerinator (Suzuki samurai, lada niva & iveco daily lover)


07/29/2017 - 12:57 |
4 | 0

Cool! Btw, i found their poor cousin

07/29/2017 - 13:28 |
70 | 0
German Perfectionist

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

This car was actually built by Mercedes, but it was only availble in Argentina (as La Pick-up). That also explains why it’s parked in front of an Aerolineas Argentinas plane…

07/29/2017 - 13:32 |
20 | 0

That reminds me of the Mesquite from Burnout Paradise.

07/29/2017 - 15:45 |
18 | 0

I suppose they have kinda remade these with the x-class, but I still want a c/e-class pickup

07/29/2017 - 16:16 |
10 | 0
Dat Incredible Chadkake


07/29/2017 - 16:49 |
4 | 0
Ewan23 (The Scottish guy)

Yo this is amazing man had no clue this existed, it’s like a luxury Subaru brat haha but seriously deserves an editors pic
Kyle Ashdown
Matt Kimberley

07/29/2017 - 18:21 |
10 | 0

Thanks dude!

07/29/2017 - 18:35 |
2 | 0

I heard about it from Jay Leno

07/30/2017 - 00:21 |
6 | 0

Oh and here is benzolinos modern cousin…

07/30/2017 - 06:55 |
14 | 0

I’ve heard of these but thanks for giving more insight :)

07/30/2017 - 16:09 |
4 | 0
Soni Redx (MD Squad Leader) (Subie Squad Leader)

So Mercedes Benz made a pickup truck back then like how Ferrari made a four seat car back then?

07/31/2017 - 01:03 |
0 | 0

Errhh… No. “Back then” was in 2004, and the Pick-ups were made by Karl Middelhauve, not by Mercedes. I recommend actually reading the text instead of just looking at the images…

07/31/2017 - 08:14 |
2 | 0


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