11 of the most important Mercedes ever
Some of the most important road and race cars in Mercedes lengthy history.
The Weekend of the 22nd/23rd of November has a particular significance to the Mercedes brand: on the 22nd of November 1900 the first ever car to be called a Mercedes took its first test drive and on the 23rd of November this year we will see Mercedes take the title of both Constructor's and Driver's Champion in Formula 1.
It's been a long road to victory over those 114 years, so we've taken a look at some of the most important cars in the company's history.
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The first car to be called a "Mercedes" was introduced in 1900, as an order of 36 produced specifically for their customer, Emil Jellinek. Having owned previous cars from the company (then Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft or DMG), Jellinek wanted something that would be competitive enough to race. And since Jellinek was such a faithful customer it seemed only fair that he be able to name the car Mercedes, after his daughter. In 1902 the company registered Mercedes as a trademark.
Building on the principals set forth by Benz in his 1885 Patent Motor Wagen, in 1900 along came the first Mercedes (then a model rather than a Brand) with the 35hp racing car, later adapted for road use. The 35hp is generally accepted as the first car to have a modern-style layout, with previous cars being more of a motorised stage-coach.
Created in 1901, the car was quite far ahead of its time as an early adopter of the petrol engine the car received much positive feedback from the world's press. Although it's hard to be impressed by the figures these days (a 35bhp engine powering a car as heavy as a Fiat Punto would be tricky even with today's know-how) the car established a good benchmark that the rest of the world had to match.
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The SSK will regularly take the 'best in show' award at concourse car shows and one in prime condition can easily sell for around £5 million. Initial versions of the SSK were designed by none other than Ferdinand Porsche, one of the most important men in motoring in the early 20th century.
Its high performance figures stemmed from its 7.1 litre (often supercharged) straight six engine, making it the fastest car you could buy when it was released. In the 1927 German Grand Prix a trio of SSKs took 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. 40 SSKs were built, with most of them destined to race, meaning that most of them met unfortunate ends. Sadly only four fully original SSKs survive to this day, with Ralph Loren being one of the owners.
Image Source: Bonhams
Mercedes have often been the car of choice for heads of state and as such they're some of the most frequently armoured cars out there. Take for example the 600: famous owners have included Robert Mugabe, Pol Pot, Kim Jong-Il, Saddam Hussein and Jeremy Clarkson, all of whom are likely to 'controversial figures' (to put it politely) who may well find themselves under fire at some point.
Additionally Hitler frequently in a convertible six-wheeled W31, until the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942, after which it was generally agreed that having high ranking officials driven around in open top cars was perhaps not a brilliantly well thought out plan. As a direct result of this, the Aktion P (P standing for 'Panzer') programme was launched, which saw the Nazis commandeering and armour plating high class luxury cars for the use of their most important members.
This 540k (pictured) is one of only three remaining armoured version due to the fact it was hidden away in a barn in Prague until the early 90s when it was sold to an American collector. It sold at Bonhams in June for £449,500.
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The record set by Mercedes in 1938 of the fastest speed that anyone has ever travelled on a public road still stands at a dizzying 268mph. Based on the W-125 Grand Prix car, the Rekordwagen was powered by a twin-supercharged V12 engine, which in a streamlined car that weighs only 750kg yielded extremely impressive results. The car is on display in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.
Sadly, this is the slower version of the car that Mercedes had intended to make. Their second record attempt car was powered by a 3,000bhp version of the engine used in the Me109 Messerschmitt fighter plane, but due to the fact the car was completed in late 1939 there was never a chance to give the car a speed run. It was expected to be able to hit 470mph.
Image Source: Bonhams
At the time of its sale, Juan Manuel Fangio's W196R race car was the most expensive car ever sold at auction. The single-seater race car from the golden age of racing sold for £19,601,500 at a Bonhams auction in July 2013. It is the only W196 in private hands and the only surviving model to have won a Grand Prix.
Piloted by Mercedes favourites Juan Manuel Fangio and Sir Stirling Moss, the W196 won 9 of the 12 races that it entered. Mercedes were the first team to bring such a structured and well-engineered car to Formula One and it's that same principle that's used by all F1 teams today. Apart from perhaps Caterham.
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The 300SL isn't just one of the most important Mercedes ever built, it's one of the most important cars of all time. Many would agree that the Lamborghini Miura was the world's first supercar, but the 300SL was closest thing available before that. The idea of the road going 300SL (based on the successful 300SL W194 racing car) was just one of the car concepts put forward by the legendary American market exotic car distributer Max Hoffman, whose other ideas went on to become the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider and Porsche 356 Speedster.
60 years later the car is a total icon and one of the most collectible classic cars on the market, with examples regularly selling for more than $1 million at auction. While the subtly different but still jaw-droppingly gorgeous roadster is still highly sought after (and was made in larger numbers) can you really compete with gullwing doors?
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Probably the car most synonymous with the legendary racing driver Sir Stirling Moss is the 300SLR which he raced in the 1955 Mille Miglia. Moss averaged an incredible 98.53 mph over the course of
the 1,000 mile race, with 33 minutes separating him from 2nd place.
The car itself was based on the underpinnings of Fangio's W196 Mercedes Grand Prix car and it's often said that the car's reliability is what made it stand out from the other entrants. The 300SLRs also competed at Le Mans, with the added modification of a large rear section of the body that would raise up and act as an air-brake.
Jaguar drivers complained that you couldn't see past the car when the brake was up so a small hole (about the size of a cat flap) was added to the air-brake. Although it may have looked like an air brake raising and lowering, it was basically a giant, German engineered middle finger attached to the rear of the car.
It's estimated that Moss' 722 Mille Miglia 300SLR would be the most expensive car in the world if it ever came up for sale. Unsurprisingly Mercedes are reluctant to part with it.
Image Source: Mercedes
Not all Mercedes are elegant, sporty playthings of the wealthy. Take for example the Vito van, as well as countless Mercedes busses and trucks. The Unimog is a different beast altogether- the truck is unparalleled when it comes to traversing difficult terrain and as such is still popular with a number of military forces in various shapes and sizes.
Unimogs have been used as fire engines, farming equipment, raced in the Dakar rally and have been used to transport Howitzers- even the Land Rover Defender can't boast such widespread usage as that. And because it's Mercedes, Brabus will even do a tuned version for you, if you happen to be a complete maniac.
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While one of the least powerful, glamourous or even attractive cars on the list, the W123 cars are some of the best loved cars in Mercedes' history. There's a reason why you'll find these cars all around the world, in fact they seem to have thrived in more hospitable areas. The fact of the matter is that they were excellent cars that were built to last.
Almost 2.7 million of them were made between 1976 and 1985, available as a coupe, estate and four door saloon. One of the real draws of the W123 was the diesel model, the 240D, one of the first times that a diesel engine was available outside of large, industrial vehicles. While the diesel options themselves weren't exactly sporty or remotely exciting in any way, they did get excellent mileage, which is exactly what they were going for.
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While most of the cars on this list are important for being brilliant feats of engineering, the original Mercedes A-Class is important because it was terrible. Affordable hatchbacks were seen as the way forward in the mid- to late 90s and this was Mercedes' offering to the man on the street. As it happens the man may as well have stayed on the street, where he would have been saved years-worth of headaches.
The car was praised for its innovative safety system which would cause the engine and gearbox to slide under the floor in the event of a crash. An impressive system indeed, but not when you consider the fact that that Citroen did it with the DS in the 1950s. In addition to its notorious failure in the 'elk test' the car was awash with reliability issues and with a £19,000 start price it was cheaper than any other Mercedes but more expensive that all other hatchbacks on the market at the time.
The original A-class was an important moment for Mercedes as what was possibly their worst car ever, ensuring that they spent extra time getting the future models of the A-Class right. By contrast, today's A-Class is a stylish, well-built car which should have absolutely no problem at all evading a stray moose.
Image Source: F1Fanatic.co.uk
2014 F1 Car
Similarly to the W196, the thing that's helped the 2014 Formula One car, the W05, dominate the standings is Mercedes' comprehensive technical ability. A sea of new rules and regulations for the 2014 championship left a lot of teams and indeed fans scratching their heads and while even the previously dominating Red Bull team have struggled to get to grips with the new tech, Mercedes took to it like a duck to water on a set of Pirelli's 'wet' tyres.
It's thought the secret to Mercedes success lies in their engine, which has been successful with other teams using it as well. In effect Mercedes managed to split their turbo into two, taking up less space and thus making the body more aerodynamic around them. It's still not entirely common knowledge how they've managed to do it, but if the other teams have worked it out they may have lost their advantage by the time the 2015 season comes around.
Still, they've managed to win 15 of the 18 races so far, which is an impressive feat no matter how you look at it.
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