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


Stuttgart, Germany, Jul 31, 2006

1952: The 300 S Coupé makes its mark

From today’s standpoint the 1950s appear as a utopian decade which looked back to the past. At the time nobody knew what lay ahead, though it was clear that the debris left over from the Second World War had to be cleared as soon as possible. The most visible signs of the general desolation were the roads, which were in an appalling condition. The traffic density in Germany was very low, with just 19 cars per 1000 inhabitants. There were unmistakable signs of a more forward-looking spirit, however. The communications sector, which was still in its infancy, was introducing self-dialled long-distance telephone calls. Television was affordable for everybody, though only in black-and-white. It was during this time that Sony in Japan brought its first transistor radio to production maturity. Technical breakthroughs were also taking place in the medical world, and the first heart pacemakers came into use.

It was against this social background that Mercedes-Benz launched the 300 S Coupé in the W 188 model series, which had been presented at the Paris Motor Show in autumn 1951 and entered series production in summer 1952. With this highly acclaimed top-of-the-line model the Stuttgart company not only demonstrated its outstanding engineering expertise, but also its future-oriented entrepreneurial spirit. It was particularly the design of this Coupé that captured the attention. The sweeping wings and stretched bonnet produced "traditional and in this case particularly noble contours", to quote a comment made at the time. Furthermore, the "calm, dignified lines in exquisite harmony with a modern design" had a tangible aura of power. In this respect it also reflected the resurgent spirit of the era.

Gary Cooper and Errol Flynn at the wheel of the Mercedes Coupé

The refined, sporty Coupé, which was large but not massive, powerful but not cumbersome, was equipped with a 150 hp six-cylinder engine and capable of 175 km/h – though under the prevailing conditions this speed could only be driven on very few stretches of road. "Covering long distances in the shortest time, with minimum stress on the body and nerves", was the message to customers for the Coupé, which also included the American film stars Gary Cooper and Errol Flynn.

How seriously Mercedes-Benz took its enthusiastic target group already became obvious in 1955, when the company presented a revised model, the 300 Sc Coupé. The engine now had an injection pump rather than the previous carburettor, and the output had increased to 128 kW/175 hp. The new Coupé had also adopted the single-joint swing axle from the Saloon model, which improved ride comfort even further. A certain amount of justifiable pride on the part of the designers was also shown by the lettering "Injection Engine" on the boot lid of the 300 Sc.

The 300 S and 300 Sc Coupés rounded the post-war product range of Mercedes-Benz off at the top end, and at the same time continued a tradition which had already begun with the supercharged models in the 1920s and 1930s: producing prestigious cars with a sporty touch for the most discerning customers. At the time the motoring world regarded this successful combination of high performance and handling safety with serene elegance and quality as "the measure of what is currently achievable in automotive engineering". This accolade still remains valid today.

The fact that only 314 of these W 188-series Coupés were produced between 1951 and 1958 is due to the relatively small market of that period. Accordingly the very few remaining post-war Coupés are among the most sought-after collectors’ items, and change hands at the highest prices at auctions.

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