Ultimate fintail

from Stuttgart

Mercedes-Benz 300SE

IF YOU had been wandering through the halls of the 1962 Earls Court Motor Show a vision of pure automotive excellence would have awaited on the Mercedes-Benz stand.

There in all its glory stood the that vision of high-speed luxury from Stuttgart, the Mercedes-Benz 300SE.

Britain was already impressed by lines and power of the 220S, but the 300SE was something else. It was the ultimate in the then popular fintail designs from Mercedes, but it was distinguished by extra chromework, high spec and powerful 2,996cc Merc all-alloy six-cylinder engine which was fitted with Bosch fuel injection.

Brakes were discs all-round, automatic transmission was offered, steering was power-assisted and a big plus point was air-suspension which was self-levelling at the rear. It cost nearly twice as much as a 220 with which it shared its foundations and survivors are prized rare birds commanding high prices.

Needless to say it was was a flagship model in Mercedes-Benz's line-up during the early 1960s, being produced in coupe, cabriolet and sedan versions. The sedan was the one with the pronounced fins and it remains an icon of Mercedes design.

Inside it was all wood veneer and leather trim creating an ambience that was virtually on a par with Rolls-Royce.

It was indeed a major step for Mercedes. It was the first time it had placed the big six-cylinder 3.0-litre engine from the older 300 into a more modern car.

And it certainly could perform with 120mph on tap at the cost of a scary 15-24mpg.

This model was full of what was then new technology with an anti-dive device to prevent skids if you braked in a corner and the cooling fan was thermostatically controlled to reduce noise and fuel consumption. Air conditioning with a refrigerator was optional.

Despite Mercedes-Benz taking steps to market this car as a more elite form of transport it was somewhat short lived because production volume fell and it went into history in 1965 with a total of more than 6,000 standard and long wheelbase sedan models sold. The Coupe and cabriolet soldiered on to 1967.

But what this car allowed Mercedes-Benz to do was to tie together its top range vehicles with its mid-range series and allowed a common practice of exchanging engines between one chassis and another.

When you see the classy S-Class Mercs of more recent years, this was the model that helped pave the way for them.



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