Five memorable Mercedes-Benz models
Since they ‘invented’ the automobile back in 1886 – a claim heavily disputed by everyone else, from pretty much that year onwards – Mercedes have made some truly spectacular cars. Pushing boundaries of performance, comfort, reliability, and sheer style, the German car-maker has long been a pioneer of car innovation and design.
There have been many excellent examples of Mercs over the years. Here’s a few that stick in the memory for different reasons:
Benz Patent Motorwagen (1886 – 1893)
This is what Karl Benz proudly declared as ‘the first automobile’. He even got it patented in Germany to prove as such. It featured three wheels, a bench seat, a crank for steering (wheels would come later), and a two-stroke piston engine that would set the bar for other early ‘automobiles’. 25 of these were made over an 8 year period; each edition cost roughly £750 (about £21,000 in today’s money). It didn’t have much in the way of extras, but without it, the cars we know today would be very different.
CLS-Class (2004 – present)
On the list simply because it proved that sedans could be sleek and sexy. Whilst sacrificing a bit of rear passenger headroom, it gained the good looking lines that led the way for all other car-makers to turn their 4-doors into ‘coupes’. The design was even adapted for SUVs, which Mercedes has finally embraced with the GLE-Class and GLS-Class coupes.
280SL “Pagoda” (1967 – 1971)
It must have been difficult for the 280SL to follow in the footsteps of the iconic 300SL ‘Gullwing’, but Mercedes managed it with this beautifully sophisticated offering. Featuring a 208-litre inline 6-cylinder, the 280SL was capable of 170 HP which was a considerable effort for 1967.
300SEL 6.3 (1968 – 1972)
Its looks are unassuming, but the 300SEL 6.3 is the Mercedes that all modern variants can trace their design roots back to. Somehow, the designers managed to cram the enormous 6.3-litre V8 from the 600 limousine into the much smaller 300SEL body. This resulted in the formula for the modern German luxury sedan. In addition to the massive power in a refined and sleek body, the 300SEL also featured air suspension, ventilated disk brakes at all four corners, power windows, and power steering. It could do 0-60 mph in just over 6 seconds. No surprise then, that this was the car AMG took racing before any other Benz.
C111-II Prototype (1970)
So, this one never actually made it into production, but it’s so cool that it would be rude not to mention it. From 1969, right up until 1991, Mercedes played with the notion of a mid-engine supercar, and this is what it looked like – the gorgeous, fibreglass-bodied C111. The first version, completed in 1969, made use of a three-rotor Wankel engine, while later variants used a turbo-diesel and even a twin-turbocharged V8. Through its many guises and alterations, the C111 made car fans throughout the world fall in love with it. At the 1991 Frankfurt Motor Show, Mercedes received 700 deposits for the proposed production car. Sadly, they never followed through with the plan to build a consumer version, and a lot of Mercedes fans were left bitterly disappointed.