Premier models of the first luxury automaker. —By Grant Stoddard
How far back does the lineage of Mercedes-Benz stretch? All the way back. Its co-namesake Karl Benz invented the first gasoline-powered automobile, the Benz Patent Motorwagen, in 1886. The "Mercedes" part arrived when Emil Jellinek, an Austrian automobile entrepreneur, named the 1901 Mercedes 35hp after his daughter Mercedes. Since then, the company has been an automotive vanguard, producing top-quality vehicles the entire time. Indeed, the brand has become a byword for German engineering and a symbol of national pride. Here are ten Mercedes-Benz models that ought to be given serious consideration as the greatest ever made. Read on — then check out Seven 2017 Sports Cars to Buy Now!
Along with the W115, the W114 was the first post-war Mercedes-Benz production car to use a newly engineered chassis that wasn't merely derived from preceding models. It was designed by Paul Bracq, chief designer at Mercedes-Benz from 1957 to 1967. The company released it to prove that even after 85 percent of its facilities were destroyed by Allied bombers, Daimler-Benz hadn't lost its pre-war greatness The W114 was attractive, powerful and well-equipped.
“Don’t mention the war!” said John Cleese in the iconic British sitcom Fawlty Towers, but WWII affected the company so greatly that it's impossible not to. Case in point: The W120 Ponton helped Mercedes recover after being nearly obliterated. The W120’s nickname comes from the German word for "pontoon," referring to a kind of fender — and a postwar styling trend, later called ponton styling. The Ponton was available as a sedan, roadster and cabriolet. It offered comfort, the innovation Mercedes was known for, and good performance and handling at a reasonable price. Get expert tips on scoring the best deal on your next purchase: How to Buy Anything!
2003 SLR McLaren
The SLR stands for "Sport Leicht Rennsport" (Sport Light Racing) and is an homage to the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR — a legendary automobile we'll get to in a moment. The 300 SLR served as the McLaren's inspiration (though at a $450,000 price tag, aspiration is what the McLaren came to stand for). From the 617hp engine to the state-of-the-art traction control system and the turbine-shaped wheels that suck in extra air to cool the brakes, the SLR McLaren was one of the most capable supercars ever made. Check out its amazing descendants in The 20 Most Powerful Cars on the Road!
1961 W111 Coupe
Work on replacing the Pontons got under way in 1956, with a design focused on passenger comfort and safety. The basic W120 cabin was squared off and widened, the more expansive windshield improving driver visibility. Front and rear crumple zones for absorbing impact were a milestone in car design, as were the patented retractable seatbelts. In addition to all the safety features, the W111 Coupe was one of the most gorgeous Benzes ever made.
1954 300 SL
The idea of a toned-down Gran Prix car tailored to affluent performance enthusiasts was suggested by Max Hoffman (the influential U.S. auto importer who later suggested BMW rustle up the 507). Mercedes came up with the 300 SL — 300 for its 3.0 litre engine displacement and SL for Sport Leicht. It debuted at the 1954 New York Auto Show, where the world was introduced to the gullwing door, which was invented for this car. The doors weren't intended to be flashy — rather, so the door sill could sit higher and accommodate the chassis. The 300SL still enjoys a reputation of being one of the greatest sports cars ever made.
As previously mentioned, the 300SL was a wonder. But it was also wondrously expensive. So the year following the 300’s production debut, Mercedes created the 190SL to serve as a less-pricey way to enjoy the thrills of the Sport Leicht line. As you might expect by the number, it lacked some of the oomph of the 300 SL, but it was also lighter, more nimble and very fun to drive. While the 300SL is the granddaddy of the line, the format of the SL class is derived more from the 190SL.
2010 SLS AMG Roadster
Capable, comfortable, and surprisingly easy to drive, the SLS AMG Roadster is the 21st-century spiritual successor to the car that hovers over this entire list, the 300SL. It was the first Mercedes-Benz designed and built from scratch by AMG. Typically, AMG models have more aggressive looks, better handling and greater stability than their regular Mercedes counterparts. That’s certainly borne out in the SLS Roadster. In his review for Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson referred to the SLS AMG as "the greatest car in the world," and “the thinking man’s supercar.” The gullwing lives on in the very latest supercars we saw in these 25 Hot Cars at the New York Auto Show.
1949 300D Adenauer
The first chancellor of West Germany was Konrad Adenauer, a man credited with creating the Wirtschaftswunder, or "economic miracle” that took place during his 14-year tenure. This large limousine adopted the chancellor’s name because Adenauer went through six of the buggers between 1949 and 1963. He took them fully loaded, which meant a glass partition, VHF mobile telephone and dictation machine. Although it was the mobile command center for politicians and business leaders, the 300D also contains one of the most elegant, understated uses of the falling line, the curve from the top front to the bottom rear of many Mercedes models.
This pre-war beauty was first exhibited at the 1934 Berlin Motor Show and offered the Reich’s well-to-do a successor to 1933’s 390. It had a larger, more powerful engine and more opulent coachwork to meet customers' demands for greater luxury and performance. It's an enormous two-seater, powered by a 7.0L or 7.1L engine and was one of the fastest cars in the world at the time. Only 150 were produced, which has made the 500K one of the most desirable and expensive collector cars in existence. (Trivia: The K stands for kompressor — German for supercharger). Interested in supervintage autos? Here are 5 Expert Tips for Starting a Car Collection.
Although they bore some technical similarities to their predecessors, the new W123s were larger and had refreshed styling. They were instantly popular, and a black market developed in Germany in short order. Customers who ordered new cars from their local dealer for the recommended list price of DM 5,000 faced a wait of a year or more.
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