Mercedes-Benz-Blog TRIVIA: The great Mercedes-Benz Coupés - PART VI


Stuttgart, Germany, Jul 31, 2006

1992: Building on tradition and success

In 1992 certain personalities attracted public interest who made history in quite different ways: Bill Clinton took the oath of office as the 42nd President of the USA. He was 47 years old at the time, and therefore a comparatively young President of whom a great deal was expected. In other areas members of the old guard took their leave. The German actress Marlene Dietrich died on May 30, 1992 at the age of 91, and in the same year, on October 8, the former German Chancellor and Nobel Prize laureate Willy Brandt passed away at the age of 79. They are not forgotten.

Mercedes-Benz had chosen major international events as the stage for a new launch in 1992: the world debut of the new SEC Coupé in the W 140 model series took place in January, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and the European debut followed two months later at the Geneva Motor Show. Two variants were initially available: the 500 SEC with a V8 engine and the 600 SEC with a V12 engine, matching the Saloon equivalents with an output of 235 kW/320 hp and 290 kW/394 hp respectively. Both were equipped with numerous extras, and represented the pinnacle of the passenger car range.

Although the SEC Coupés adopted certain technical features from the S-Class Saloon presented in 1991, their design was definitely distinctive. What is more, they illustrated the tradition of coupé design and engineering at Mercedes-Benz in a quite remarkable way. Clear, calm shapes with discreet power lines exuded dynamism, elegance and unpretentious sportiness. This was an unbeatable combination for coupé enthusiasts, and it once again underlined the unique status of Mercedes Coupés on the world market.

An external change was introduced in June 1993: as in the case of the other passenger car models, new model designations were introduced for the S-Class Coupés; the 600 SEC became the S 600 Coupé, for example.

The Electronic Stability Program ESP® enters production

Demand for the exclusive coupés by Mercedes-Benz remained unbroken in 1992, however the expectations of customers seemed to be rising in parallel with the general level of car ownership – in 1992 this reached the unheard-of figure of 502 cars per 1000 inhabitants. Theoretically it would be possible to seat the entire population on the front seats of the German car fleet. In order to meet the great demand for luxury coupés, the Mercedes Coupé family was reinforced with the 205 kW/279 hp S 420 in March 1994.

The S 600 Coupé was equipped with two major technical innovations: in May 1995 a completely newly developed five-speed automatic transmission with a slip-controlled torque converter lockup clutch and electronic control was introduced; its sophisticated electronic control enabled the fuel consumption to be reduced. Another innovation of even greater significance was introduced at the same time: the Electronic Stability Program ESP®, which supports the driver in critical situations by means of sensor-controlled braking intervention to counteract instability, thereby contributing to handling safety. Since then ESP® has been a badge of future-oriented safety technology in automotive engineering. Once again Mercedes-Benz had confirmed its pioneering role in the field of occupant safety. This attribute by no means lessened the appeal of the Coupés – on the contrary.

The emotive approach taken by the advertising for the Coupé is shown by a campaign in 1994, which used the slogan: "Drive it before it’s too valuable to drive one day." The advertisement showed a supercharged Mercedes Model 500 a 300 SL Roadster and a Mercedes-Benz Model 300 Sc next to the 140-series S-Class Coupé current at the time. The message was clear: the new Coupé is in line with the great Mercedes classics.

The American motoring magazine Road & Track was rather offbeat in its praise for the Coupé: "This S-Class Coupé is worthy of a king, for example it is precisely what King Ludwig would have driven if he were still alive …" Certainly a number of still living kings were among its customers, but it was the production figures that best showed the enthusiasm of ordinary mortals for the Coupé. 26,022 units of the C 140 series were produced.

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