Mercedes Benz has been around, under one name or another, since January 29, 1886 when Karl Benz patented his home-built internal combustion-powered Motorwagen.
In recent years, the company that Benz founded has transcended its roots as a maker of hand built cars to become a mass manufacturer. This is typified by this year’s launch of the CLA 250, the first front-wheel drive Mercedes to be marketed in the US, the starting price for which is under $30,000. It’s a bargain in Mercedes terms, the cost being just a bit north of top of the line Camrys, Accords and Fusions.
In the 50s, 60s and into the 70s, quite a few Mercedes were, if not hand built, hand finished and were priced accordingly. We took an inventory of some examples that we’ve encountered over the past few months.
Note: Model year designations are approximations as year to year changes were often subtle. Thanks for your understanding and if you have any corrections to offer, please don’t hold back. The Management
A full range of befinned Mercedes sedans, introduced in the 60s, seemed to ape the lines of humble Ramblers of the late 50s; we suspect a lot more of those Heckflosse (fintails) survive today than do AMC products of the era. We saw this somewhat neglected example parked on a Palo Alto street.
How about this bulbous 190SL roadster we found the other day? We admit it: we’re suckers for body color matching hubcaps and big fog lights.
It’s pretty unusual to find a “Pontoon” (after the shape of the fenders) 4 passenger cabriolet these days as the collector market has them going for upwards of $150,000. The beautiful veneered dashboard and horsehair padded convertible top underscore the craftsmanship that went into making them so special. That notwithstanding, we did discover one being driven on a late night errand quite recently and parked with the windows rolled down. That’s some real down-home gemütlichkeit!
Special mention should be made of the “Pagoda” style 230 – 250 – 280SL removable hardtop-roadsters built between 1963 and 1971. The slightly concave hardtop and tall “greenhouse” marks it as one of the most beautiful, delicately styled Mercedes of all time. Prices are heading for six figures but we know of a few that are used as daily drivers, such as this un-restored example.
On a much larger scale is the 220SE Coupe. Its sporting affect belies the fact this is a true heavyweight, tipping the scales at 3329 lbs, more than 200 pounds heftier than a 2014 Camry. The doors do, however, close with a bank vault-like thunk.
Coupes, cabriolets and roadsters are exciting but even the sedans exude an air of calm, elegant confidence. We offer this veteran early 70s autobahnstormer as evidence.
Video here from Mercedes Benz Classic Center with lots of Pagoda goodness and an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee webseries starring a 1970 280SL and Alec Baldwin (he’s a comedian??)
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