He was one of the greatest in the German tuning scene: Bodo Buschmann, who founded the company Brabus in 1977 at the age of just 22 – and since then has thoroughly stirred up the market for sporty Mercedes-Benz derivatives. His father’s Daimler dealership made sure there was initial tailwind, and his studies of law and business administration guaranteed a professional approach.
With refined and upgraded versions of the W126, W201 and W124 models, Brabus – in the 1980s – made itself known beyond the region. The E V12, based on the W210, reached a nice and even 330kph, and its W211-based successor broke the 350-threshold. Today, beyond the numerous tuning variants, there are nine supercars in the portfolio.
Buschmann scored a coup in 2002 with the foundation of smart-Brabus GmbH, a joint venture with Smart. To this date, the Smart variants are offered in the official range of Smart. This gave Brabus the kind of official blessing by the Daimler group, which had turned up its nose well into the 1980s to any kind of tuning activities.
In 2003, ten copies of the Smart Roadster with V6 engine were made, a vehicle that this writer was once allowed to drive on the closed airfield of Malmsheim near Stuttgart. The brutal acceleration of this car is as memorable as the ferocious hiss of its hand-built V-6 turbo machine.
Buschmann drove the expansion of the company in record time: Today Brabus operates a number of subsidiaries, dealing with vehicle development and prototype construction, yachts, private aircraft and special series. Mercedes has long outsourced work to Brabus – for example, on the Pullman variants.
If the somewhat seedy image of vehicle tuners is a thing of the past, the industry owes much to Buschmann – his cars, his workmanship, and his work at the German tuner association VDAT, which he co-founded and led to up to his untimely death on April 26, 2018, at just 62 years.