You’re welcome, Hellephant, supercharging is over a century old
With the Hellephant 426 crate engine making headlines at SEMA this year, I wondered where the roots of automotive supercharging were first planted (pun intended). So I picked up The New Encyclopedia of Motorcars 1885 to Present (some light afternoon reading) and started hunting.
On page 415 I found my answer. The first production car to use a supercharger was produced by Mercedes following World War I, in the early 1920s, under the models 6/25/40 and 10/40/65. While others previously used the technology in other automotive applications, Mercedes was the first to put supercharging to work on a series production car it sold to the public.
The first supercharged Mercedes had just 1.6 liters of displacement, and output totaled 38 horsepower. A larger 2.6-liter was also available, and it made 65 hp. Keep in mind, this is all happening during a time when the Model T was the best-selling car in the world and made approximately 20 horses. Mercedes used the Berlin Motor Show to unveil its technological marvel in late 1921, with production starting in 1922.
Supercharging gained traction in a time where rapid development was the norm. Today we have more evolution than revolution when it comes to combustion engine tech, but it is crazy to think back and consider that the awesome performance parts we have today can trace their beginnings back almost a century.
Even more interesting is that right now we’re witnessing an explosion of electric propulsion technology, which every day is getting more democratized and attainable for the masses. Just imagine where we’ll be in 100 years.