1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 S
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 S . Click image to enlarge

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Article and photos by Grant Yoxon

Photo Gallery:
Mercedes-Benz coupes through the years

Vienna, Austria – While visiting Austria to test drive Mercedes-Benz’s 2009 coupes, the CLS 550, CLS 63 AMG and the CL 550 4-Matic, I had the opportunity to check out a few historically significant Mercedes-Benz coupes.

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 S coupe (Model Series W 188)

The 300 S Coupe, which celebrated its debut at the 1951 Paris Auto Show, presented a direct link to Mercedes-Benz’ enduring coupe tradition. The universally enthusiastic reviews culminated in the headline “The Car for the World’s Elite.” In 1955, the model was revamped with new single-link swing axles and direct fuel injection. The revamped model included opening front vent windows, larger turn signals and an abundance of chrome. Power came from a 175- hp inline six-cylinder engine and was capable of a zero to 60 mph time of 14 seconds and a top speed of 112 mph.

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220 S
1969 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE
1958 Mercedes-Benz 220 S (top photo) and 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE. Click image to enlarge

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220 S Coupe (Model Series W 180)

The 220 S Coupe, introduced in 1956, came equipped with luxurious trim details including leather upholstery, an exotic wood instrument panel and a heating and ventilation blower, which was by no means a universal feature at the time. The unmistakable separation of passenger cabin, front end and tail created the body’s characteristic “pontoon” shape. Under the slogan, “Even more value, but no more expensive,” all variation of the 220 S were fitted with a more powerful 106-hp engine and upgraded trim as of August 1957.

1969 Mercedes-Benz SE 3.5 Coupe (Model Series W 111)

The Mercedes-Benz SE 3.5 Coupe was one of the last representatives of the W 111 coupe model series introduced in 1961. Its features included the passenger safety cell with front and rear crumple zones, three-point safety belts, padded steering wheel and wedge-pin door locks. In September 1969, the model line underwent a discreet styling makeover and was given a lower radiator grille; its fans soon dubbed it the “low radiator” model. Simultaneously, the most powerful of the model series appeared, the 280 SE 3.5 Coupe, pictured here, equipped with a 200-hp V8 engine. This remained in production until 1971.

1972 Mercedes-Benz 250 C (Model Series W 114)

1972 Mercedes-Benz 250 C
1991 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC
1972 Mercedes-Benz 250 C (top photo) and 1991 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC. Click image to enlarge

The W 114 mid-range coupe, known internally as the Stroke 8, appeared quite graceful with its new 45 mm lower roofline. Thanks to a large number of parts shared with the sedan, it could be built and sold at an attractive price. Power was provided by a selection of inline six-cylinder engines, beginning with the carbureted 130-hp 250 C (pictured) and the 150-hp fuel injected 250 CE. This was the first Mercedes-Benz passenger car to be fitted with electronic fuel injection (Bosch D-Jetronic), providing improved fuel economy, better performance and more spontaneous throttle response.

1991 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC (Model Series C 126)

Originally introduced in 1981, the Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC (and 560 SEL sedan) were the most powerful Mercedes-Benz production cars of their time. With a 272-hp 5.6-litre V8 engine, the SEC could sprint to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. In 1985, gasoline powered Mercedes cars could be outfitted with an optional catalytic converter which became standard equipment in 1986. During its production years, the 126 model series achieved respectable market success with a total of 74,060 examples built.

1992 Mercedes-Benz 230 CE

1992 Mercedes-Benz 230 CE
1998 Mercedes-Benz CL 600
1992 Mercedes-Benz 230 CE (top photo) and 1998 Mercedes-Benz CL 600. Click image to enlarge

Introduced in 1987, the Mercedes-Benz 230 CE remained the entry level coupe model until 1992. From September 1998, the 230 CE was equipped with ABS brakes as standard equipment; an airbag was added two years later. For structural reasons – the coupe lacked B-pillars – body rigidity was retained by means of doors, door sills, and A-pillars made of especially high-strength steel. The interior, with its high grade trim, comfortably shaped seats and folding centre arm rests, provide optimum long distance cruising ability. The 1992 model shown here was powered by a 132-hp inline four-cylinder engine capable of a maximum speed of 124 mph and zero to 60 mph acceleration of 11.1 seconds.

1998 Mercedes-Benz CL 600 (Model Series C 140)

As of 1992, clear styling differences compared to the sedans positioned the big coupes as the luxurious pinnacle of the Mercedes-Benz program. Visually, the coupes were distinguished from the longer, taller sedans by the sportier radiator grille of the SL, larger headlights and a new rear end treatment. Beginning in 1995, the S 600 Coupe was the world’s first car to be equipped with an electronic stability program (ESP). This was followed in 1996 with Parktronic ultrasonic parking assist, xenon headlights with dynamic range control and side airbags as standard equipment. The V12 in this 1998 CL 600 produced 394 hp, had a maximum speed of 155 mph and could accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds.

Related Links

  • First Drive: 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLS 550 and CLS 63 AMG, by Grant Yoxon
  • Mercedes-Benz CL 550 gets all-wheel drive

    Manufacturer’s web site

  • Mercedes-Benz Canada
  • Connect with Autos.ca