OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE
Stuttgart, Germany, Jul 31, 2006
1961: The 220 SEb Coupé climbs the pinnacle of elegance
The year 1961 saw a number of epoch-making events which drew enormous international attention, as unremitting advances in communications technology ensured that they reached every household in possession of a television receiver. August 13, 1961 will always remain a painful memory in Germany, as this is the day when the GDR sent in construction teams to build a wall between East and West Berlin. This marked the start of a political division which would last for 28 years, and only ended with the events that precipitated the fall of the wall on November 9, 1989. Even though accompanied by a great deal of propaganda, the first manned space flight in 1961 was a trailblazing achievement in a positive sense: in a "Vostok" rocket the Russian Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth once in one hour and 48 minutes, becoming a Hero of the Soviet Union. In contrast, September 10, 1961 was marked by the tragic death of the German racing driver Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips, who lost control of his Ferrari at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, killing himself and 16 spectators.
In 1961 yet another coupé was in the limelight at Mercedes-Benz, when the 220 SEb Coupé in the W 111 series was presented during the opening ceremony for the new Museum at the plant in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim on February 24. Once again the designers had demonstrated their creativity and unerring sense of style. This elegant and prestigious coupé possessed a compelling aura, while power and comfort blended to form a harmonious whole which was already visible externally. The tailfins which adorned the saloon models were now only vestigial, thereby reinforcing the flowing lines. The car’s well-balanced design dispensed with any form of styling gimmickry. This fully-fledged four-seater with plenty of space for longer journeys had adopted not only the engine and suspension, but also the safety body from the four-door Saloon. Otherwise the Coupé was a completely new design.
First regular production car with front disc brakes
The six-cylinder engine developed an output of 120 hp, enough for high average speeds on long journeys. Neither were the performance figures theoretical any more, as the early 1960s were the start of a travel boom in Germany. Car density in Germany had more than doubled again since 1956. It now stood at 95 cars per 1000 inhabitants, though the quality of the road surfaces was still rather variable. The designers at Mercedes-Benz had planned ahead, however: the 220 SEb Coupé was the first series production car by Mercedes-Benz to feature disc brakes at the front. There was also a padded steering wheel and new wedge-pin door locks, which prevented the doors from bursting open in the event of an accident. There were also three-point seat belts.
These safety features, as well as the performance figures, were further improved upon by models introduced in the years that followed. To take just one example, the 300 SE Coupé in the W 112 model series of 1962 featured a four-speed automatic transmission, air suspension and power steering as standard, in line with the expectations of customers who were covering more and more annual mileages. These Coupés were not just predestined for luxurious recreational use, i.e. sheer driving pleasure, but also proved especially ideal for frequent business travellers. The popularity of these models was spectacularly reflected in the sales figures: production of the Coupés in the W 111 and W 112 series exceeded those of the preceding "Pontoon" series more than tenfold, with precisely 28,918 units built.
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