This blog will expand on themes and topics first mentioned in my book, "The Automobile and American Life." I hope to comment on recent developments in the automobile industry, reviews of my readings on the history of the automobile, drafts of my new work, contributions from friends, descriptions of the museums and car shows I attend and anything else relevant to those interested in automobiles and auto history. Copyright 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 , 2016 by the author.
Thursday, March 31, 2016
Mercedes-Benz at Techno Classica, Essen, Germany, April 6 - 10
Mercedes-Benz 300 S Roadster (W 188, 1956 to 1958).
The 28th Techno Classica will be held at the Messe Essen exhibition centre from 6 to 10 April 2016. The "World Show for Vintage, Classic and Prestige Automobiles, Motorsport, Motorcycles, Spare Parts, Restoration and World Club Meeting" ranks as the world's largest event of its kind. More than 25 car-makers and well over 200 brand clubs will be represented at Techno Classica with their own stands. In total, the organisers are expecting some 1250 exhibitors and more than 190,000 visitors. Techno Classica will open its doors for "Happy View Day" from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, 6 April 2016. From Thursday, 7 April to Sunday, 10 April 2016, the exhibition centre will then be open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Friday: until 7 p.m.).
At Techno Classica 2016, Mercedes-Benz Classic will focus on the culture of open-top motoring. In Hall 1 of the show in Essen, the Stuttgart brand will present open-top vehicles in the tradition of the C-Class Cabriolet, S-Class Cabriolet and SL.
Stuttgart. In line with tradition, Mercedes-Benz Classic will, once again in 2016, welcome visitors to Techno Classica in Hall 1. This year, the stand will offer a journey through time, through the fascinating world of the cabriolets and roadsters of the brand with the star. In 1886, when Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler invented the automobile independently of each other, an open-top vehicle was still the only form of motoring. Starting in the 1920s, when car manufacturing began to be dominated by saloons and large-scale production, open-top vehicles evolved into the most exclusive variants of the model line-up, being especially popular among lovers of sportily elegant mobility. Luxurious cabriolets and roadsters from Mercedes-Benz have always met the aspirations of the most discerning customers, for they unite the freedom of open-top motoring with superlative comfort, refined performance and fascinating styling. The Mercedes-Benz Classic stand at this year's show will host numerous examples from these special families of vehicles.
The new S-Class Cabriolet (A 217) will be flanked by a 500 K Cabriolet B (W 29, 1934 to 1936), a vehicle of the international luxury class in the 1930s. Unveiled in 1949, the 170 S Cabriolet B is an exclusive vehicle from the early post-war years. The 300 S Roadster (W 188) dates from the 1950s. Premiered at the Paris Motor Show in October 1951, the 300 S was the most expensive German-made passenger car. Unmistakable characteristics are exhibited also by the elegant cabriolets of the W 111 series, which were the first-ever open-top vehicles to feature a safety body with crumple zones at both front and rear. In autumn 1969, Mercedes-Benz launched the 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet, a powerful and especially luxurious top-of-the-range model of this series.
Alongside luxurious cabriolets, sportily elegant roadsters have always been a Mercedes-Benz domain. An outstanding example – which will be on view at Techno Classica – is the 500 K Special Roadster (W 29, 1934 to 1936). Coming straight from the world of motorsport, another sporty roadster went into production after the Second World War: the SL. This magic abbreviation has been in existence since 1952, when Mercedes-Benz made a highly successful return to top-flight international motorsport with the 300 SL racing sports car (W 194). The vehicle proved an outright winner, securing impressive double victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. The W 194 also gave rise to the famous 300 SL "Gullwing" (W 198) of 1954, which made its debut in spring 1957 in the open-top variant, the 300 SL Roadster. The most recent example of this tradition, unveiled in 2015, is the latest generation of the SL (R 231).
The new C-Class Cabriolet (A 205) was one of the stars at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show. There were similar plans for the compact Mercedes-Benz 190 E (W 201), whereupon a prototype cabriolet was produced in 1990. It, too, will be on show in Essen. Highly successful in terms of both looks and technology, although the vehicle did not go into series production, it served as an important decision-making aid for the series 124 cabriolet unveiled in 1991.
Open-top motoring – a guarantee for high spirits
The term "cabriolet" dates back to the age of the horse-drawn carriage. It refers to a lightweight, open-top carriage drawn by two horses and used especially in fine weather. The name says it all: the French verb "cabrioler" means "to cut a caper", "to make a playful skipping movement". In the early years of the automobile, however, open-top motoring, as a guarantee for high spirits, did not yet need a special body design. The period between 1886 and around 1920 was dominated by the open-top automobile.
As the closed body established itself in the first third of the 20th century, coachbuilders responded by offering not only the fixed-body saloon and coupé, but also the cabriolet with a soft top that could be fully folded down. Already in the 1920s, the hallmarks of this style of vehicle were its sporty and elegant lines as well as – in contrast to the widespread open tourer – the option of fully closing the vehicle using the lined soft top, thereby offering the occupants the perfect protection against wind and rain associated with a saloon. In the years leading up to the Second World War, almost all Mercedes-Benz model series were optionally available in the form of a cabriolet, sometimes in a variety of versions. In 1934, for example, the company brought out the "Model 500 with Kompressor", abbreviated to 500 K (model series W 29), initially in eight different body versions, including a cabriolet in three variants, a two-door open tourer and a roadster. The situation was to change after the war. When production resumed with the extensively unchanged 170 V, there were at first no cabriolets rolling off the line. Although they soon once again became available for the most highly powered models in the line-up, the saloon had finally established itself as the standard form of body. From that time forward, the open-top body became something out of the ordinary in the product range.