This very first episode of the Tatort series was titled “Taxi to Leipzig.” Produced by the Broadcasting Corporation for Northern Germany (NDR), it premiered on November 29, 1970, and contained everything that an enthralling television show required in the days of the Cold War: Detective Paul Trimmel, a character already known to the German audience from another film. On top, the episode revolved around a murder in which the body obviously came from West Germany, but was found in East German territory. And it featured East German officials who tried to prevent the Hamburg detective from conducting his undercover investigation in another German city. The initial broadcast of “Taxi to Leipzig” was watched by an incredible 61 percent of viewers. To be fair, Germany only had three TV channels at this time.
100 Things You Should Know About Mercedes-Benz | #18
The first car in the famous “Tatort” TV series was a Mercedes.
Although the demise of conventional broadcast television has been predicted for years, many German living rooms traditionally still feature a Tatort — literally translated, a crime scene — on Sunday evenings. This detective drama format has been presented by the German broadcaster ARD for more than 50 years. The episodes take place in various locations, each with their own investigators, who have their own personal automotive preferences. But the very first car to appear in Tatort was a Mercedes-Benz, a W108 to be precise.
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However, the case wrote television history and ushered in a new era. Last year, Tatort celebrated its 50th anniversary. The series now has more than 1,100 episodes. Tatort has since remained true to its established broadcast time of 8:15 p.m. on Sunday evenings – and the initial broadcasts of new episodes are still watched regularly by more than eight million viewers in Germany. The crime series even has fans outside of Germany, as individual episodes have been shown on TV in around 50 countries. For many years, the Tatort detectives have not only investigated crimes in reunified Germany but also in Austria and the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Moreover, cars are appearing in almost every episode. Some of these vehicles have even become iconic in themselves, such as the Citroën CX that was used by the legendary Detective Horst Schimanski who investigated cases in the Ruhr area.
However, the very first car to appear in an episode of Tatort was a Mercedes. And it wasn’t just any kind of Mercedes, but a model of the Mercedes-Benz 108 series. Produced since mid-1965, it was a predecessor of the current S-Class. This upper-range model appeared in the first few seconds of the film: At the beginning of the episode, a wealthy chemist reaches the inner-German border in the gray vehicle. At the border crossing, the East German border guard spends about two minutes checking underneath the hood, inspecting the trunk, and looking into the glove compartment. However, the eponymous Taxi to Leipzig in which Detective Trimmel later travels as a passenger was a Wartburg 353, in keeping with the East German setting.
Models from Mercedes-Benz also appear repeatedly in more recent episodes of the TV series. One of the reasons for this is that Daimler with its Mercedes-Benz vehicles and the leasing offers from Mercedes-Benz Bank is also a strong partner for Germany’s state and federal police in real life. Classic police vehicles include the C-Class and E-Class, which are used as patrol cars, as well as the Vito and Sprinter, which are employed as patrol vans or police carriers.
But some of the parts played by Mercedes vehicles in Tatort really are pure fiction: One example of this is the Mercedes-Benz SLK, which the quirky sports car enthusiast and medical examiner drives in a popular Tatort set in Münster. This car is almost certainly not an official police vehicle.