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, 2017, by the author.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Mercedes at Retro Classics 2017
John Cooper Fitch and Kurt Gessl with a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL touring sports car (start number 417) at the 1955 Mille Miglia. Fitch/Gesell finished the road race with a class victory and 5th place in the overall ranking.
From the ALL TIME STARS trading activities to servicing and replacement parts supply for the brand's classic automobiles, Mercedes-Benz Classic is placing the focus of its show presentation on its comprehensive range of services at Retro Classics 2017. The Stuttgart-based brand is also presenting sporty cars from its history and the present day. The Retro Classics show will be held between 2 and 5 March 2017 at the Stuttgart exhibition centre. A special exhibition honours the racing driver and Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador Roland Asch.
Stuttgart. Classic automobiles from Mercedes-Benz that tell stories: about innovations and the design of their time, for example, but also about great racing victories and the day-to-day life of bygone eras. At the Retro Classic 2017 show in Stuttgart, Mercedes-Benz Classic is presenting vehicles that embody the history and stories of more than 110 years.
On the stand in Hall 7, alongside three classic cars from the company's collection, visitors can admire the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupé and five ALL TIME STARS from the trading arm of the Mercedes-Benz Museum: these are a 280 SL "Pagoda" (W 113) from 1968, a 230 S "Tailfin" (W 111) from 1966, a 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet from the same series dating from 1971, a 280 SE (W 126) from 1982 and a 230 Estate (W 124) from 1991.
The longest biography among the historic display vehicles from the collection is that of the Mercedes-Simplex 40 hp dating from 1903. It stands for the birth of the modern automobile around the turn of the 20th Century. A few decades later, in 1955, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL "Gullwing" became a protagonist in the legendary "Mille Miglia" road race. The Gullwing Coupé with start number 417 is a homage to the car of this model with which John Fitch and Kurt Gessl achieved a class victory in the Mille Miglia at that time, and took fifth place in the overall ranking.
Another highlight in automobile history is the CL 55 AMG "F1 Limited Edition". At Retro Classics, this high-tech coupé from 2000, of which only 55 examples were built, is flanked by an up-to-date partner in the form of the new Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupé – a current model by the Mercedes-Benz performance brand AMG, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Experts in originality
Keeping these automotive classics running requires good and reliable servicing, as well as comprehensive specialist knowledge to ensure originality and authenticity. These are provided to the highest degree by Mercedes-Benz Classic, as demonstrated at Retro Classics with the presentation by the "Service and Parts" department and the ALL TIME STARS.
The services by Mercedes-Benz Classic for vintage and younger classics are based on an unrivalled heritage: expertise and know-how stretching right back to the invention of the automobile in 1886, which keep the company's archives alive. This knowledge contributes to the reproduction of authentic parts for historic vehicles, and also to advice and work of all kinds on classics by Mercedes-Benz and the preceding brands.
The same expertise lies at the heart of ALL TIME STARS. Mercedes-Benz Classic has had this trading arm since 2015. The range extends from pre-war to recent classics. Models from the 1960s and 1980s are particularly popular with customers. ALL TIME STARS ensures maximum transparency by thoroughly examining every vehicle offered according to 160 criteria, plus a Classic Data expert report.
The ALL TIME STARS are technically at least in condition 2, and are categorised into three editions: "Concours Edition": Vehicles in rare, original condition with low mileage, or vehicles carefully restored by Mercedes-Benz Classic. "Collectors Edition": Older and more recent classics in good technical and visual condition. Their patina gives these cars a special character. "Drivers Edition": This is where fans who wish to drive their older or younger classic on a daily basis will find their dream car. The good technical condition still offers potential for restoration work.
Classics culture at the highest level
It is not only the brand itself that ensures star attractions at Retro Classics in the form of classic Mercedes-Benz models. Numerous other exhibitors are also presenting older and younger classics bearing the Mercedes star. Among them are many brand clubs, mainly in Hall 7.
A special presentation in Hall 5, "The racing cars of the Swabian Arrow", documents a fascinating chapter in motor racing history: this is a display of seven racing cars driven by the racing driver and Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador Roland Asch. The cars exhibited also include the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II with which Roland Asch became vice-champion in the 1993 German Touring Car Championships (DTM).
The Retro Classics show was founded in 2001, and has since developed into one of Europe's leading specialist shows. This year it will be held between 2 and 5 March 2017 at the Stuttgart exhibition centre. Its dimensions are larger than ever this year: The display area has increased by 5000 square metres, and now measures 130,000 square metres. The organisers are expecting more than 1550 exhibitors with over 3500 vehicles. Around 90,000 visitors attended the Retro Classics show last year.
The Mercedes-Simplex 40 hp was launched in March 1902, superseding the legendary Mercedes 35 hp. The suffix "Simplex" was intended to indicate how easy the new model was to operate for its time. In December 1900 its direct predecessor, and the first vehicle to bear the brand name Mercedes, for the first time defined a distinct shape for the automobile, and to this day it is regarded as a masterpiece of technical sophistication and beauty.Characteristic features include the long wheelbase, the light and powerful engine fitted low down and the honeycomb radiator integrated organically into the front end, which was to become distinctive for the brand. The Mercedes 35 hp marked the end of the carriage style that had dominated the industry and is thus considered to be the first modern car. At the Paris Motor Show in December 1902, almost all the other automotive manufacturers presented vehicles which followed the concept of the first Mercedes, and also bore a striking resemblance to its design. In the trade press this show was therefore dubbed the "Mercedes Show". The new Mercedes-Simplex became a success in the world of motorsport from the very moment of its launch. The Englishman E. T. Stead won the Nice–La Turbie hill race ahead of Georges Lemaitre and Wilhelm Werner, both also driving a 40 hp. Stead was even able to improve on Werner's record from the previous year. The 40 hp cars achieved speeds exceeding 100 km/h in the mile race. Delivered in March 1903, the white example from the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection is one of the oldest-preserved vehicles bearing the Mercedes brand.
Technical data - Mercedes-Simplex 40 hp
Production period: 1902-1910 Cylinders: 4/in-line Displacement: 6785 cc Output: 29 kW (40 hp) at 1100 rpm Top speed: 100 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL "Gullwing" (W 198), 1955
In February 1954, the 300 SL "Gullwing" (W 198) celebrated its world premiere at the International Motor Sport Show in New York. This high-performance sports car was based on the legendary racing sports car of the 1952 season. A lightweight, torsionally rigid spaceframe supported the engine, transmission and axles. As in the racing version (W 194), it left no space for conventional doors. This was the reason for the classic "gullwing" doors. They became the unmistakable hallmark of the 300 SL. The "Gullwing" was also a highly innovative car in other respects: it was the world's first production passenger car to be powered by a four-stroke engine with petrol injection. That improved not only efficiency, but also engine performance. 158 kW (215 hp), or 20 percent more than in the carburettor equipped racing version, allowed a top speed of up to 250 km/h. This made the 300 SL the fastest production car of its time, and it became the dream sports car of the 1950s. Its motor racing genes predestined the series production model for racing success, and it secured numerous victories and championship titles. One legendary triumph was the triple class victory of the 300 SL standard-production sports car in the 1955 Mille Miglia. John Cooper Fitch achieved fifth place in the overall ranking with his car bearing start number 417, which denoted the starting time of 4:17 a.m. He was also the victor in the class for standard sports cars with a displacement exceeding 1.3 litres. A total of 1,400 300 SL "Gullwings" were built between 1954 and 1957. 867 of these were produced in 1955, the year of the Mille Miglia victory.
Technical data - Mercedes-Benz 300 SL "Gullwing"
Production period: 1954–1957 Cylinders: 6/in-line Displacement: 2996 cc Output: 158 kW (215 hp) at 5800 rpm Top speed: up to 250 km/h
The CL 55 AMG was presented at the end of 1999 as a particularly sporty variant of the C 215 Coupé series. This predecessor to the present S-Class Coupé was launched in spring 1999. Standard equipment of the CL 55 AMG included AMG bodystyling with modified front and rear aprons and side skirts, an AMG instrument cluster graduated to 320 km/h, an AMG exhaust system and a sporty transmission configuration. On customer request the CL 55 AMG was also available with no speed limitation. The summer of 2000 saw the appearance of the Mercedes-Benz CL 55 AMG "F1 Limited Edition", which was produced as an exclusive small series of 55 examples. It was modelled on the CL 55 AMG Safety Car used in Formula 1 racing since March 2000. The limited special edition was the first road-going car in the world to be equipped with a particularly effective ceramic braking system: during emergency braking from top speed, the internally ventilated brake discs of fibre-reinforced ceramics delivered a braking output of around 1471 kW (2000 hp). The advantages of this technology, which was completely new for standard production cars at the time, also included an extremely high thermal resistance and the considerably reduced weight of the brake discs. They were up to 60 percent lighter than conventional steel discs. The noticeable reduction in unsprung masses benefited both the handling dynamics and driving enjoyment. With the CL 55 AMG "F1 Limited Edition" and its ceramic brakes, Mercedes-Benz once again underlined its leading role in the development of future-oriented technologies in automobile engineering.
Technical data - Mercedes-Benz CL 55 AMG "F1 Limited Edition"
Production period: 2000-2001 Cylinders: V8 Displacement: 5439 cc Output: 265 kW (360 hp) at 5500 rpm Top speed: 250 km/h (electronically limited)
Retro Classics 2017: The ALL TIME STARS cars
Mercedes-Benz 280 SL "Pagoda" (W 113, 1968)
Mercedes-Benz presented the 230 SL in the W 113 series in 1963. The comfortable two-seater touring car thrilled the public with its modern design, high performance and optimum safety. This highly popular successor to not one but two SL sports cars replaced both the 300 SL "Gullwing" (W 198) super sports car and the elegant Tourenwagen 190 SL (W 121) touring car. The 230 SL was the world's first sports car to feature a safety body with a rigid passenger cell and deformable front and rear "crumple zones". This design principle was developed by Mercedes-Benz engineer Béla Barényi, and it entered series production in the W 111 series. The W 113 also shared a number of components such as the frame/floor assembly with the model 220 SE in the "Tailfin" series, though in shortened and reinforced form. The design of the Roadster was however absolutely distinctive. Owing to its characteristic, convex hardtop, the W 113 was also nicknamed the "Pagoda" SL. The purpose of this avant garde bodystyling feature was safety, however: the concave shape allowed a hardtop of lightweight construction but with maximum stability. The W 113 was available as a roadster with folding top, as a coupé with a removable hardtop and as a coupé with a removable roof and roadster soft top. 1967 saw the introduction of the 250 SL, and 1968 the launch of the most powerful "Pagoda", the 280 SL.
The gold-painted ALL TIME STARS example with a leather interior exhibited at the Retro Classics show is a USA version. It was built in the first production year of the 280 SL. This "Pagoda" has had two previous owners, and is part of the Concours Edition of ALL TIME STARS. In Germany the value added tax is deductible when selling this classic – this is rare for classic cars, and a particular buying incentive for some users.
Technical data - Mercedes-Benz 280 SL "Pagoda" (W 113)
Production period: 1968-1971 Cylinders: 6/in-line Displacement: 2778 cc Output: 125 kW (170 hp) at 5750 rpm. Top speed: 195 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 230 S (W 111), 1966
The 230 S celebrated its premiere in summer 1965. At this time most of the models in the successful W 111 and W 112 luxury saloon series were already being replaced by the new W 108 and W 109 series. However, the 230 S as a further development of the 220 Sb continued the success of the six-cylinder "Tailfin" models. Alongside the power increase of the re-engineered engine from the 220 Sb by 7 kW (10 hp) to 88 kW (120 hp), the hydropneumatc compensating spring at the rear axle was a new feature. 41,107 units of the 230 S had been produced when production ended in January 1968. The figure includes chassis for special-purpose bodies and the 230 S Universal estate versions. This special version was produced for Mercedes-Benz at the Belgian IMA bodyshop. In 1968 the entire "Tailfin" model generation came to an end. This is because in that year, the four-cylinder variants of the smaller W 110 "Tailfin" series were also replaced by the "stroke/eight" models of the W 114 and W 115 series. For the first time since 1959, it was in the "Tailfin" saloons that Mercedes-Benz incorporated the rigid passenger cell with front and rear crumple zones first patented by Béla Barényi. Safety was also a priority when designing the interior. Features included the padded dashboard with elastic, partly recessed controls and a steering wheel with a padded boss. Other new features important for accident safety included the wedge-pin door locks, which were used for the first time in this form.
The black 230 S with red artificial leather interior displayed at Retro Classics comes from France. This ALL TIME STAR in the Drivers Edition has had two previous owners. As part of a technical overhaul, the saloon with an odometer reading of 146,000 kilometres was given a replacement engine.
Technical data - 230 S
Production period: 1965-1968 Cylinders: 6 Displacement: 2306 cc Output: 88 kW (120 hp) at 5400 rpm. Top speed: 175 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet (W 111), 1971
Even when still in production, the luxury "Tailfin" convertibles presented in 1961 had a strong following with their timeless, classic appearance. This is why they remained in the Mercedes-Benz product range although most of the saloons in the W 111 series were replaced by a newly designed model generation in August 1965. With the exception of the omitted roof and the necessary body reinforcements, the exclusive convertibles correspond to the W 111 coupés in every detail. In the same year the model 220 Sb was joined by the 300 SE Cabriolet with additional trim and the technology of the model 300 SE (W 112). The 250 SE followed in 1965, the 280 SE in 1968. In September 1969 the 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet appeared as a considerably more powerful version. This was powered by a completely newly developed 3.5-litre V8 engine delivering 147 kW (200 hp), which excelled with its smooth running characteristics. The ten-year production period of the "Tailfin" convertibles came to an end in summer 1971. A total of 1232 examples of the 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet were produced between 1969 and 1971.
ALL TIME STARS is displaying an original, rust-free 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet at Retro Classics. It was originally sold in the USA. The silver paintwork and interior features were renewed a few years ago. The eight-cylinder dream car with two previous owners is part of the Collectors Edition.
Technical data - Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 CabrioletProduction period: 1969-1971 Cylinders: V8 Displacement: 3499 cc Output: 147 kW (200 hp) at 5800 rpm. Top speed: 205 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 280 SE (W 126), 1982
The Mercedes-Benz 280 SE was one of the first seven models in the new W 126 S-Class presented by the company in September 1979. Alongside the saloons with the normal wheelbase, a 140-millimetre longer variant was also available right from the start. During the development of this series, the focus of the engineers was above all on ride comfort and safety, as well as on reduced energy consumption. The use of weight-saving materials and body contours optimised in the wind tunnel reduced the average fuel consumption by around ten percent compared to the preceding models, for example. The suspension design was substantially the same as that in the preceding models: the new S-Class likewise had a semi-trailing arm rear suspension and a double wishbone front axle with a scrub radius of zero. The bodyshell was designed to reflect the latest safety research findings. For example, the passenger cell was also able to withstand an offset frontal crash at a collision speed of 55 km/h undamaged. The saloon models in the 126 series were the world's first series production cars able to meet the criteria for an asymmetrical frontal impact. This was the first time that a Mercedes-Benz passenger car had no bumpers in the conventional sense. Instead it featured large, plastic-shrouded bumpers seamlesssly integrated into the front and rear aprons. The front and rear sections were visually connected by wide protective side strips running at bumper level between the wheel arches. In September 1985 Mercedes-Benz presented the facelifted S-Class. The 2.8-litre injection engine of the 280 SE was replaced by a newly designed 3-litre unit.
The 280 SE dating from 1982 on display at the Retro Classics show was only used as a second car by its two previous owners, and treated with great care. The gold-painted saloon (colour champagne metallic) with a beige velour interior comes from France and features power steering, air conditioning, central locking and the anti-lock braking system (ABS). The car is part of the Concours Edition at ALL TIME STARS.
Technical data - Mercedes-Benz 280 SE
Production period: 1979-1985 Cylinders: 6/in-line Displacement: 2746 cc Output: 136 kW (185 hp) at 5800 rpm. Top speed: 210 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 230 TE (S 124), 1991
The Estate model in the 124 series celebrated its premiere at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt/Main in September 1985. In technical and styling terms the S 124 was substantially the same as the W 124 saloon models. The only differences lay in the roof and rear end design, with the necessary changes that resulted. The major assemblies, braking system and suspension were also modified to suit the higher payloads of the Estate. The multi-link independent rear suspension of the Estate was equipped with hydropneumatic level control as standard. To maintain the high safety standards of the Saloon model as far as possible, new findings from safety research were incorporated into the design of the rear body overhang including the fuel tank. All the S 124 models with petrol injection engines could on request be equipped with a closed-loop emission control system including a three-way catalytic converter. In 1988 the standard equipment was extended, this time to include the anti-lock braking system (ABS). In 1989 Mercedes-Benz presented the completely revised model range in the medium class – including the Estate models. The most obvious distinguishing feature of the new models were the protective side mouldings with integrated side sill claddings. The interior had also been freshened up, with improved front and rear seats and numerous upgraded features. Numerous new engines were introduced in the S 124 series in 1992. In June 1993 the 124 series became the first Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The 230 TE on display at Retro Classics has brown paintwork (colour impala metallic) and is part of the Drivers Edition at ALL TIME STARS. It features the optional Sportline package with a lowered sport suspension, a stiffer suspension and shock absorber setup, a modified interior with a leather steering wheel and shift lever and individual front and rear seats. This recent classic with the diamond-pattern fabric seat upholstery typical of the time stands for day-to-day suitability and driving pleasure. The buyer will receive an expert valuation, and before delivery ALL TIME STARS will have a thorough service and statutory technical inspection carried out. A Mercedes-Benz Classic Car Warranty can also be obtained for the 230 TE on request.
Technical data - Mercedes-Benz 230 TE
Production period: 1985-1992 Cylinders: 4/in-line Displacement: 2298 cc Output: 97 kW (132 hp) at 5100 rpm. Top speed: 183 km/h