Friday, September 30, 2011

The Mercedes I've always loved

Every one that reads this blog knows just how much I hate Mercedes. But there is a catch to that statement. In truth I hate 99% of Mercedes.
But I also absolutely love 1 couple of Mercedes. They're just too brilliant and so good that today's Mercedes don't even stand a chance in comparison.

Is one of the car's that I absolutely adore. And it's a Mercedes. It is, however a Mercedes built like no other Mercedes. Following a line of thought long gone in the company and (to everyone's surprise), it all began with the brilliant idea of an american car salesman. That's right! The best Mercedes ever to hit a selling stand, did so because of an american.

The Begining
As most brilliant car's, it all begun in the race track, with a race oriented design.

A Tubular Space-Frame chassis. Light enough to be lifted by a single man and stiff to endure competition, it was also extremely difficult to repair...but then again, in competition you usually replace instead of repairing.
Front independent Suspension with double wishbones

Rear independent Suspension with sway axle

The Engine is another point that goes straight to my heart. An inline 6, 3 liter almost full cubed, naturally aspirated gasoline engine.In order to fit the car, it hat to be mounted in a 45degree angle.
It produced 215bhp with carburettors from 1954 to 1957, and then 225bhp in it's mechanically fuel injected version from 1957 to 1963.
If you are not impressed yet, grab your calculator! That means 75bhp/liter in 1957... today's 300SLS does a very modest 91bhp/liter (a 1999 honda S2000 pumps out 120bhp/liter in it's most modest version).
NOW THAT WAS an engine.

The Body came in several options. Either partially aluminium or full aluminium. It was designed with aero-dynamics in mind and it was just beautiful. The "gullwing" doors that made it's name were actually a clever engineering solution to go around the chassis pedigree. You see, the chassis had several structural integrity beams passing thought the car's sides all the way to the back. That made conventional doors impossible to place without compromising the structural integrity. So engineers came up with the brilliant gullwing door design.
And that's another thing to love about the car. Not the wing design, but rather the so much more important way-of-thought behind it: The non-compromise design of the car. If it's a sports car than everything that is not essentially sports oriented, is second. Today, they build the CLK cabrio that lacks stiffness in order to maintain "design".

The transmission was a 4 speed manual and could be brought with 5 final gear ratios. That would make the car's top speed range from 235km/h (1:3.64) to 260km/h (1:3.25)...again, in the 50's.

The interior was simple and spartan. Today's Mercedes lack the first.

Production was German and that's all there is to say about it. If today's cars are well built all around the world, back then you could only have this level of quality in either Germany or Japan.

Repairing this car today requires very skilled craftsman and is very expensive.

From the track to the road
New York Mercedes distributor Max Hoffman, Daimler-Benz's official importer in the USA, suggested to DBAG management in Stuttgart that a street version of the 300SL would be a commercial success, especially in America. He then manage to place 1000 orders and pulled the project all the way to production.
This is pure american entrepreneurship and vision...and bless him for that.

So now you know why I love this car so much... why most cars I love have a competition background...and why I hate most cars today...being the majority of them Mercedes. Just like Honda apparently lost their edge, and Toyota too... Mercedes also lost theirs long long ago. Let's hope the new A-class open a breach into their stiff german minds and let some sense through.