These cars won’t keep out of the way of this site. It’s a W114 coupe ashtray, as designed by Paul Bracq.
If you look at Bracq’s career, we see that the 1968 W114 (the six-cylinder cars) and the W115 (the four-cylinder cars) came out the year after he left Mercedes Benz. So where does this design fit in with the story of German design rationalism? How can we reconcile the fact that these cars which epitomise German design sensibilities were overseen by a French chap who trained under another French designer, the great Charbonneaux?
I take it that the cars really do express German values and that Bracq did not allow his personal taste, however French, it might have been, to get in the way of choosing what best fit the market the cars were intended for. I suppose he also made his choices in a very Swabian environment so naturally he did not suggest the kinds of solutions that would have found favour in Britain, France or Italy.
Another way of slicing this biscuit is to imagine that Mercedes designed Mercedes cars the way the people who happened to be there imagined cars should be. And that has come to define German-ness in automotive design. If we ask ourselves what is German-ness in design we think of qualities we have seen in Mercedes cars, for example. And then when we look at a Mercedes anew, later, we see naturally enough, German-ness. It could be simply a tautological loop, circular thinking. The same thing might be said for France or Britain. And if we look for German design outside of car design, what are we looking for now but qualities we expect from our experience of German car design?
The car I looked at lives at J.C Biler in Viborg, in the middle of Jutland. I have driven past there for fifteen years without popping in. Recently I looked at the cars outside opening hours. Then on Saturday I had a chance to get a look inside when it was open. Outside the showroom are cars for sale (some nice Peugeots for keen prices and a really super Epica, late-model, low miles).
Inside the garage I saw a wide variety of Mercedes, chiefly from the 60s and 70s. These are the usual suspects but, irony aside, there’s a reason these cars are popular. The one car I got to look in was this W114 (I assume it was a 114 not a 115) with a fully original interior. Apparently the laws of physics don’t apply to whatever fabric Mercedes used for their seats. Quite breathtaking. Built. To. Last.
Turning to the ashtray: nice and big. It has width (good Fitt’s Law condition) and depth (holds lots of ash). It is well placed, right above the gear lever. This one has even been used to judge by the marks on the chrome. The mechanism is a bit stiff, reminiscent of the 1984 Opel Senator I looked at in February. I will have to see what the W123 is like. Presumably Opel benchmarked that for their car.
I still don’t want a Mercedes like this, but only because I am stubborn.