The 2005 Chrysler 300 was as good as it got for DaimlerChrysler.
The 1998 merger of Daimler-Benz and Chrysler Corporation was the brainchild of Jürgen Schrempp, Daimler’s ambitious CEO. Schrempp was on a mission to drive up the profitability and shareholder value of the group, following the disastrous early-1990s acquisitions spree of his predecessor, Edzard Reuter. Reuter had tried to turn Daimler into a broad-based global technology conglomerate, but instead oversaw a collapse in profits and share price that precipitated his sacking in 1995.
Schrempp believed that there was enormous untapped potential in Daimler’s automotive division, Mercedes-Benz. He wanted to leverage this to achieve a step-change in sales and market share for the traditionally conservative and upmarket automaker. This could (and indeed would) be achieved organically by extending the company’s traditional range downwards into mainstream territory, but this would take time and Schrempp was a man in a hurry, driven at least as much by quarterly financial reports as long-term strategy. Continue reading “A Diamond in the Dust”
Automotive sightings that leave your author perplexed.
The striking of a recently repaired nearby church clock signalled the end of another tedious morning in the office, and a fine spring day invited me outdoors to take the air. There followed a pleasant stroll, enlivened by some interesting, if conflicting, automotive observations.
Within seconds of leaving my place of work, the first of three wildly different vehicles caused my automotive radar to blip. It was a current (fourth) generation Mazda MX-5. Not a rare sighting by any means, but the unusually scruffy condition of this particular example gave it an aged, neglected and rather morose demeanour. I inferred from its condition that its driver may have travelled great distances with neither the opportunity nor inclination to Continue reading “Three Glasses Half-Full or Half-Empty”
The 1999 Mercedes CL redefined the term ‘back of an envelope’ design.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on DTW on 14 June 2019.
Like most major carmakers, Mercedes-Benz, under the design leadership of Bruno Sacco at Stuttgart-Sindelfingen, assigned individual teams to specific product lines. However, Sacco also permitted all members of his styling team, irrespective of discipline, to submit proposals for evaluation whenever a new model was being considered.
These would be then whittled down to a shortlist, the favoured proposals being produced in quarter-scale form. A further evaluation would see these being reduced to a final shortlist of three proposals, which would be produced in 1 : 1 scale for final selection. This ensured that management had sufficient quantities of alternative styles to Continue reading “Pushing the Envelope”
Exclusivity is a tricky balancing-act in the automotive industry, particularly for manufacturers who are (or aspire to be) regarded as ‘premium’ players. On the one hand, manufacturers need a level of sales that will allow them to amortise the ever-growing upfront investment required to develop new models, so they can ultimately return a profit. On the other hand, if their bread-and-butter models become too commonplace, the thin veneer of exclusivity could be stripped away.
Mercedes-Benz was, at one time, pre-eminent in maintaining its composure on this particular high-wire. City streets throughout Europe were thronged with smoky W123 200D taxis in mainly unappealing flat colours, yet the same car, in a nicer colour and (modestly) higher specification, was still the vehicle of choice for aspirational upper middle-class professionals. Continue reading “Modern Girl”
Most long-established readers of this noble site will know that I am a bit of a Mazda fanboy. A few years ago, I wrote a series of long-term tests regarding my Mazda3 Fastback, and more recently I did a retrospective on the 1983 Mazda 626. I have admired the company’s innovation over the years, its independent spirit and, most recently, its ‘Kodo’ design language. Oh, and I still think that Soul Red Crystal is the still most beautiful paint colour on any mass-production car.
The current Mazda3 is somewhat divisive, mainly due to the arguably over-generously proportioned rear pillar on the 5-door hatch. However, the sophisticated surfacing, restrained detailing and beautifully assembled and finished interior really do rival or even exceed the design standards of premium marques such as BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. I don’t recall Mazda claiming full-blown ‘premium’ aspirations for the current 3, but much about the car is giving a vigorous nod in that direction. Continue reading “Mazda’s BMW”
During the Second World War, Albert Friedrich was head of aero engine design at Daimler-Benz, but also found time to research another project, unbeknown to his bosses. Friedrich was interested in developing a versatile agricultural vehicle that combined the best features of a tractor and a truck. He described his then nameless concept as an “engine-powered, universally applicable machine for agriculture.” The vehicle would in due course become a valuable tool for many occupations far beyond its originally intended application.
Late 1945 saw Friedrich seeking permission from the occupying US Army to obtain a production licence. This was duly granted, so Friedrich and fellow engineer, Heinrich Rößler, a former colleague at Daimler-Benz, commissioned Eberhard & Söhne in Schwäbisch Gmünd, a city in the eastern part of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, to help them Continue reading “Das universelle Motor Gerät”
We consider the Mercedes X-Class. No, not that one…
Much metaphorical ink has spilled forth on the pages of Driven to Write since its 2014 debut, a sizeable proportion of which has been flung in the direction of Sindelfingen’s current styling leadership. Not without justification either, for little of Mercedes-Benz’s stylistic output has risen above the level of banality for longer than we’d care to acknowledge.
Not everyone has been gripped with paroxysms of delirious pleasure over the broadly welcome shift in Mercedes’ Sensual Purity-themed styling away from the more striking forms and graphic elements of yore, with what some might discern as calmness equally being viewed as a lack of definition. Perhaps the most convincing case for that point of view lies with the current era A-Class. The W177 has been with us a number of years now, carving for itself a position in the European C-sector sales charts that might have given VW more to Continue reading “Grace and Favour”
The author recalls his experience of Stuttgart’s first compact executive model.
The 1970’s was a dismal era for the UK as the economy struggled with economic shocks such as the 1974 Middle-East oil crisis, stubbornly high inflation, a bloated and inefficient public sector, declining industrial base and a restive, militant workforce. This culminated in a balance of payments and Sterling crisis in 1976 that forced the Labour government of Prime Minister James Callaghan to Continue reading “Living with a Mercedes-Benz 190E”
Concluding our profile of the Mercedes-Benz W201 compact saloon.
Pilot production of the W201 began at Mercedes-Benz’s Sindelfingen plant in early 1982 in preparation for its launch on 8 December. Following an extensive modernisation programme, the company’s Bremen plant, which had previously produced commercial vehicles and the S123 estate car derivative of the W123, would also manufacture the new model from November 1983.
Critical and public reaction to the new compact Mercedes-Benz was hugely positive, with most reviewers praising the unprecedented level of engineering, build quality and safety features in a car of its class. The only significant criticisms were related to the paucity of standard equipment, limited rear legroom, and overly firm seats. Continue reading “Third Time Lucky, but Second Time’s a Charm (Part Two)”
Circumstances prevented Mercedes-Benz from entering the compact saloon market on two previous occasions, but the company nailed it with the hugely impressive 1982 W201.
The 1982 Mercedes-Benz W201, better known to most as the 190E, was the company’s first foray into what is now called the compact executive market. However, almost two decades earlier, Mercedes-Benz came close to launching a similarly positioned but more radically engineered front-wheel-drive model, codenamed the W118/119(1). This followed an earlier proposal for a conventional small saloon, the W122, which was approved for development in 1953, but cancelled in 1958.
Mercedes-Benz would never build another car like the 1991 W140 S-Class.
European automotive industry watchers, motoring journalists and the public were amazed that Mercedes-Benz could launch such a large and profligate flagship in the teeth of an economic recession and growing environmental concerns. Journalists’ preconceptions and reservations about the size of the W140 were, however, seriously challenged when they drove the new S-Class. While they had expected that it would be beautifully built from the highest quality materials and would Continue reading “Der Zenit (Part Two)”
The 1991 W140 S-Class was a technological tour de force, and possibly the finest car Mercedes-Benz ever made. Its arrival was also painfully mistimed. We remember the Uber-Benz on the thirtieth anniversary of its launch.
The arrival of a new Mercedes-Benz S-Class was always a seminal event for the automotive industry. It often heralded the introduction of new technology and safety features that would subsequently be adopted by other Mercedes-Benz models and, eventually, by its lesser competitors.
The 1959 W111 predecessor to the S-Class was the first car to feature a rigid passenger safety cell with front and rear crumple zones, to slow the deceleration that occurs in a high-speed impact and dissipate the kinetic energy released(1). In 1978, the W116 S-Class was the first car in the world to Continue reading “Der Zenit (Part One)”
We wonder if the 1991 Mercedes-Benz W140 might have fared better, both in stylistic terms and in the market, if Bruno Sacco had been allowed to realise his original vision for the car.
One of the surprising nuggets I uncovered in my research on the W140 was that Bruno Sacco, Mercedes-Benz’s highly talented but modest and self-effacing Head of Styling, was an admirer of the Jaguar XJ saloon. Sacco very much liked its low and sleek lines. His original concept for a replacement for the W126 S-Class was a Germanic interpretation of that car. Unfortunately, his vision was corrupted by demands that the cabin should have generous headroom, even for two 190cm (6’3”) adults sitting one behind the other. This resulted in what most would adjudge to be an excessively tall glasshouse, making the car more suitable for monarchs and dictators on parade than fast and discreet point-to-point travel by captains of industry.
Part three: Concluding our close-up of the R107 Mercedes SL.
Despite entering a world yet to experience the true meaning of the term, Oil-Shock, Mercedes-Benz’s 1971 newcomer did not find its way bestrewn with rose petals, as one might have envisaged with half a century’s hindsight to draw upon. The product of a great deal of regulatory hurdle-jumping, Sindelfingen’s engineers did themselves proud on the safety and technological side of the SL coin, even if stylistically, few seemed poleaxed in mute adoration. Which isn’t to suggest that it wasn’t well received. It was. However, it is possible to Continue reading “German Film Star”
Part Two: The matinée idol’s lesser-appreciated sibling.
Like everybody else, Mercedes-Benz’s engineering teams had rather a lot to contend with by the late 1960s. Not simply developing the nascent W116 S-Class, the most ambitious and luxurious mainstream saloon yet to bear the three pointed star, or perfecting the advanced rotary-engined C111 prototype – in addition to ongoing developments for both conventional petrol and diesel powertrains, there was also a seemingly limitless tsunami of emissions and safety mandates emanating from the land of the free.
Facing large investments, and no small level of commercial risk associated with new model programmes, the Mercedes-Benz supervisory board are believed to have vetoed a proposal to Continue reading “German Film Star”
A car made for its times, Mercedes-Benz’s 107-series helped define them. We tell its story.
“It’s a glamourous world”.
In the field of creative endeavour, matters of an unintended nature often have an inconvenient habit of altering initial intentions, and while in some cases this may be to the detriment of the finished product, more often the outcome emerges simply as different.
In the field of creative endeavour, matters of an unintended nature often have an inconvenient habit of altering initial intentions, and while in some cases this may be to the detriment of the finished product, more often the outcome emerges simply as different.
Why one of the least loved Mercedes might actually be one of the best.
I used to think a good Mercedes is distinguished by the sound its doors make when closing. Nothing oozes solidity and confidence in a subtle, effortless way, like a good Mercedes Klonk. By this standard, my Mercedes E430 T is not the best Mercedes ever made.
As another motor industry luminary takes a final bow, we look back at the career of the man dubbed, Mr. Mercedes.
Jürgen Hubbert passed away last week at the age of 81. Best known for his tenure at the helm of Mercedes-Benz AG from 1997 to 2005, a period of considerable expansion and no small amount of tumult. Indeed, when one looks back at the Mercedes-Benz products of the time, one cannot but wonder what manner of legacy Hubbert leaves behind.
In 2002, Mercedes-Benz introduced a new star: Maybach, a hitherto dormant name awoken from deep slumber. Its bones were largely beyond reproach; based upon the decade-old W140 series S-Class, the final saloon programme to be conceived at Sindelfingen to a standard rather than a price, yet with this announcement one could nevertheless discern a strong sense of a carmaker not only stretching itself too thinly, but suffering from a lack of self-awareness.
Maybe they simply started out with bad directions, but when the wheels came off this particular wagen in 2013, few were surprised, given the execution. But other council prevailed at Baden-Wüttermberg; not entirely better, but certainly, one imagines, better remunerated. Far from allowing the small matter of a €1Bn loss to impede them, Daimler management elected to once more Continue reading “Bach To Life”
As the New Millennium approached, Jürgen Schrempp, Daimler-Benz CEO appointee in May 1995, was a man on a mission. Schrempp believed that the company was something of a sleeping giant. While it was consistently successful and profitable, with products that were highly regarded, he believed there was much more that could be done to leverage the storied marque name and extract maximum value for shareholders.
Over the preceding decades, Mercedes-Benz had carefully nurtured a reputation for building thoughtfully designed and technically excellent vehicles that were market-leading in terms of quality, safety and durability. They were, by and large, cars that one chose with the head rather than the heart and were favoured by those who valued understatement and discretion over extravagance and notoriety.
The flagship S-Class was the perfect transport for senior politicians, bankers and captains of industry, allowing them to move unnoticed and in comfort, avoiding unwanted attention from opponents, competitors or inquisitive journalists. The sheer ubiquity of Mercedes-Benz’s most prestigious model in the business districts of major cities guaranteed the anonymity required to Continue reading “Act of Hubris”
Gilded lilies, like most things in life are relative. The Golden Angel Wing however, out-guilds most.
Like us poor scribes, the brains behind the processes of car making spend countless hours honing and perfecting, improving and re-checking to ascertain the best that is possible at a given moment in time. Midnight oil is a precious resource which, dependant on the individual, can prove somewhat finite, with unfortunate consequences lingering by.
Concerning cars, now factor in updates, facelifts, upgrades – call them what you will – they must be considered. The 1953 Mercedes-Benz W120 (or Ponton as it was better known) was a plain but honest, safe yet somewhat bland quality conveyance. Built primarily in Stuttgart, these one eighties (as they were badged) made impacts the world over. Continue reading “Destined To Shine”
The English language can be difficult enough to understand for those born to it – what chance the hapless non-native speaker dicing with the contrafibularities of cultural differences? How perfidious, Albion.
Comedy is a difficult mare to ride – relevance at risk to hosts of material becoming lost in translation. Anglophile German comedian, Henning Wehn, by example, once extoled upon the difficulties of learning such English idiosyncratic words as Gubbins (meaning possessions or the antecedent to ‘thing-y’). Contrary to that hackneyed old saw, our German friends are not only adept at comedy, they can also mine that more difficult vein of irony for good measure, as a (fairly) recent trawl through AutoCropley laid abundantly and amusingly bare.
In no particular order, since comedy can be dark just as well as light hearted, we look to our Stuttgart stooges, Mercedes-Benz and their G-Wagen. Well, not directly, since the German tuning firm, Posaidon (their spelling) have deemed it necessary to Continue reading “Some German Car News”
The 2006 R-Class was a rare commercial failure for Mercedes-Benz. Ahead of its time, or simply misconceived?
Over the past decade, the onslaught of SUV type vehicles has swept through the automotive market like a tsunami, pushing aside traditional formats such as the classic three-box saloon, estate and larger hatchback models. Even more recent innovations such as the monobox MPV have been rendered irrelevant by its irresistible rise. In the mainstream European market, anything larger than a B-segment vehicle now generally plays second fiddle to its SUV sibling, if it has not already been killed off by it. The premium marques’ larger saloons are still selling, albeit in reduced numbers as buyers Continue reading “Far-Sighted, or Visually Impaired?”
With summer now officially over, and perhaps more in the spirit of hope than confidence, OEM carmakers are gradually returning to the business of product. This week amid the sudden outpouring of new announcements, previously squeezed and distorted through the narrow pipette of PR drip-feed, we are presented with two super-luxury land-yachts from differing echelons of wealth, privilege and position. Let us first Continue reading “Sense and Sensuality”
Pininfarina and Mercedes – it wasn’t all bad. Just good – in parts.
There are certain carmakers and design consultancies who despite all positive signs to the contrary, never quite gelled creatively. Certainly, in places where the incumbent design heritage is sufficiently strong and embedded, there are few if any instances of a coachbuilder or styling house crafting a superior design to that created in-house. Mercedes-Benz during its patrician heyday and carrozzeria Pinin Farina (during its own) are cases in point, especially so if you Continue reading “Four Lessons from History”
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from him, but despite the current C-19 crisis you certainly cannot accuse Mr. Wagener of sitting on his hands.
What if: Like you, I recognise that the job of design leader or Chief Creative Officer in this instance involves a certain amount of blue sky projection. An implicit understanding that design in its purest, most elemental form ought to Continue reading “Dreams Take Flight”
As a companion piece to this week’s profile of Mercedes’ W203 C-Class, we’ve chosen to re-run this article, which originally appeared as part of DTW’s Facelift theme on 2 July 2014.
As I’m sure I don’t need to point out to you, dear readers, when it comes to the subject of facelifts, not everyone cleaves to the Partonesque ideal. Because while the tuneful Tennessee songstress has clearly invested wisely upon her augmented visage, others have fallen rather messily at the wayside. They know who they are.
The Millennial Mercedes C-Class is not a car that lives in the memory. It’s far too inconsequential for that.
Like all inversions, the decline of Mercedes-Benz didn’t occur overnight. Its slide was glacial at first, before gradually and inexorably picking up speed as gravity took hold. Gravity isn’t an adjective which immediately lends itself to the model line we are retrospectively appraising today – a car which can perhaps most charitably be described as inconsequential.
Hi there. The name’s Dieter Ogley. Born in Heidelberg, well, just outside at Boxberg but raised in Barnsley, South Yorkshire from the age of twelve. My mother was a nurse at the local hospital, whereas my dad was a mining engineer who was offered a job in the then thriving coal business in Barnsley.
This meant leaving our German roots and coming over to England, since the job offered dad a whole new world underground to explore. But then the big strike happened and the work dried up. Mining became a forgotten venture; it still occurred but with only so many jobs to go round, it was hard to Continue reading “Gorden? Nein, Dieter!”
Some crashes have potentially disastrous consequences, and not just for flesh, blood, glass and metal.
The first-generation Mercedes-Benz (W168) A-Class was one of the most radical, bold and innovative designs in the company’s history. It was not only the company’s first transverse-engined FWD production car, but featured an innovative sandwich double-floor structure and an unusually tall but short body that was designed to provide greater than C-Segment passenger accommodation within a footprint no larger than that of a B-Segment supermini. The engine and transmission were engineered in such a way that, in the event of a heavy frontal impact, they would Continue reading “Roll of Shame”
Thousands of motorists owe their lives to one man’s quest to design safer motor cars. We pay tribute to a engineering pioneer.
The Mercedes-Benz legend was built on principles of engineering excellence; its reputation founded upon the work of legendary engineers, names which include Fritz Nallinger, Josef Müller and Rudolph Uhlenhaut. However, there is another name – one to whom every motorist ought perhaps to say a silent prayer of thanks – that of Béla Viktor Karl Barényi, engineer, inventor, known to some as the lifesaver. Over a lengthy career, primarily at Mercedes-Benz, his innovations led to more than 2500 patents, some of which have gone on to save countless thousands of lives.
Born in Hirtenberg near Vienna in March 1907 to one of Austria’s wealthiest families, Béla Barényi grew up amid the dawn of the motor car. Automobiles were a part of his life from an early age, his family owning an Austro-Daimler, which he is said to have adored. But fate and geopolitics would change his life dramatically, the combination of the Great War (in which his father was killed) and the ensuing depression which saw his family’s fortune dwindle, meant he was forced to Continue reading “Der Lebensretter”
Not all motor crashes end badly. How the R129 Mercedes-Benz SL was tested to destruction and passed with honours.
In a recent piece on the R129 generation Mercedes-Benz SL, reference was made to a dramatic incident that occurred at the car’s launch event at the Estoril racing circuit on the Portuguese Riviera. Car Magazine’s Ian Fraser was present at the launch and the following is taken from his account, published in the August 1989 edition of the magazine.
When Fraser arrived at the Estoril circuit, there was little evidence of the dramatic incident that had taken place earlier, apart from some tell-tale gouges in the surface of the tarmac. The Mercedes-Benz 500SL involved in the incident had been hidden from public view in a pit lock-up garage. The two journalists who were driver and passenger in the car had retreated to the bar for a stiff drink to calm their shredded nerves, the driver crying uncontrollably for a couple of hours. Continue reading “Roll of Honour”
Profiling the R129 Mercedes SL – the silent sportscar.
There is little question that successive generations of Mercedes-Benz SL would never have come into being without the patronage of the more affluent and socially aspirant United States car buyer. After all, there simply wasn’t a sufficient market for such wilfully indulgent fare in the old world – nor available spaces one imagines on the car-train to Sylt. Also beyond doubt is that by the close of the 1980s, the SL had become the automotive marker of choice for those who really wished to Continue reading “Quiet Confidence”
Three pointed stars and chevrons are mutually exclusive. Or are they?
A Mercedes that could have been a Citroën? Surely, DTW’s acting editor has taken leave of his senses. But please bear with me. Because while this vehicle is every inch a product of Stuttgart-Sindelfingen, could there be enough double chevron goodness sprinkled over this concept for it to form part of this unique to DTW series of chevronesque curiosities?
Today’s Sunday sermon comes as something of a compare and contrast. Admittedly it also lays itself open to accusations of shooting fish in a barrel, but I’m prepared to take that risk. Here at Driven to Write, we have something of a soft spot for underdogs. However, some are more equal than others, and in the case of Lexus and in particular, the flagship LC 500, its continued lack of appeal to European eyes is mystifying.
In the year to June, the LC posted perhaps the greatest sales drop (58.5%) of any make or model across Europe. Which is proof, if proof were required that people’s taste is in their… well, perhaps you ought to Continue reading “Sublime to Ridiculous”
I am no expert when it comes to the subject of car design, lacking as I do the in-depth knowledge, training, vocabulary, or indeed, ‘eye’ to interrogate or illuminate a car’s form in a truly meaningful manner – mercifully, others upon these pages are better placed to do just that.
The works car park is frequently a mundane beast. The same people in the same cars, day after day. Occasionally though, a visitor might just drive here in something a little more exotic, expensive or preferably just different.
In the past we’ve had a few Porsche’s, Boxsters and Cayennes though never any form of 911. Once a Mustang was heard burbling through but we believe the driver was lost, for once the exit was pin-pointed, the throttle was floored and the dust disturbed.
“Lasting beauty that moves”: It’s a little bit clunky, would you not agree? But given Mercedes’ previous track record in the much-abused arena of tag-lineage, I have read worse. This week, at the Frankfurt motor show, the World’s oldest carmaker debuted a styling prototype for what is likely to be the most advanced electric vehicle to be made by an established manufacturer, and given that this is DTW, you might expect me to give it and its creators a bit of a drubbing.
Ten years since ‘the car that killed sobriety’ was announced. Time for a backward glance.
The 2009 (W212) Mercedes-Benz E-Class is unlikely to go down in history as an indestructible exemplar of marque values like its W123 forebear, or indeed as a design landmark, like its W124 descendant. Indeed, it probably won’t even be remembered with the acute embarrassment which characterises the risible W210 series from the mid-’90s.
Instead, the W212 will be recalled largely for its ‘Ponton’ haunches – a piece of retro styling contrivance aimed at evoking a period when the three pointed star had nothing to prove and no awkward questions surrounding its durability in service to answer.
Mercedes-Benz contemplates euthanising the X-Class. Good.
If the current febrile automotive and geopolitical climate is any reliable indicator, there may well after all be limits to growth. Certainly, the premium heyday within the auto sector appears to be hitting the buffers with both BMW and Mercedes recently issuing profit warnings.
Personal affection for an automotive brand is one of the more peculiar aspects of modern-day culture.
Worshipping symbols aimed at identifying one’s affiliation to a particular tribe/race/religion/club are as old as humans’ capacity to create objects. It therefore isn’t a surprise at all that an automotive brand would be appropriated and exploited as a means of signifying status, even beyond the company’s own marketing efforts. What is surprising though is the levels of passion and dedication (or, depending on one’s viewpoint, parochialism and fury) this can elicit.
Today, the DTW hobbyhorse® gets another outing, as we return to the world of the automotive press release – where written English goes to die.
Simultaneously in both Stuttgart and for some inexplicable reason, Salt Lake City, Utah, Mercedes recently introduced their much-heralded GLB crossover – the latest, but unlikely to be the last of the current A-Class derivations vying for your undivided online attention. Since you will undoubtedly have formed your own opinions as to its merits by now, I will not trouble you with mine.
The 1999 Mercedes CL redefined the term ‘back of an envelope design’.
Like most major carmakers, Mercedes-Benz, under the design leadership of Bruno Sacco at Stuttgart-Sindelfingen assigned individual teams to specific product lines. However, Sacco also decreed that all members of his styling team, irrespective of discipline could submit proposals for evaluation whenever a new model was being considered.
These would be then whittled down to a shortlist; the favoured proposals being produced in quarter scale form. A further evaluation would see these being reduced to a final shortlist of three proposals, which would be produced in 1 : 1 scale for final selection. This ensured that management had sufficient quantities of alternate styles to choose from and allowed each member of the design team a decent shot at producing a successful design – a vital springboard to their career.
Australian-born Peter Arcadipane joined Mercedes’ Sindelfingen studios from Ford, having in his early years as a car designer laid claim to having adapted the design for the Ford Falcon-based Interceptor featured in the very first Mad Max movie. As the design process for the S-Class coupé got under way in 1993 (dubbed C215 internally), Arcadipane determined to have a shot at the job. As recounted by the designer, while on a flight to Australia, he sketched a proposal for the forthcoming coupé on what he had to hand – in this case the back of an Air Mail envelope.
His note to self made clear from the outset that this was not to be a traditional Mercedes coupé design, but one with a “Jaguar-like flavour”. His notations underline the ethos behind the shape, with a “roof structure in one clean arch – architectural – like a bridge span!” The distinctive c-pillar treatment was a nod to the W111 coupé from the 1960s, with Arcadipane emphasising the study’s “big wrap to rear glass”.
Allegedly seen as the most radical of the shortlisted C215 proposals, it nonetheless made it through to the final three, being produced in full-sized, see-through form for senior management to review. Despite there being resistance to it from elements of the supervisory management team, Arcadipane’s study was eventually chosen. The finished car, while not as compact or lithe as first envisaged, nevertheless marked a clear departure from the rather substantial-looking C140 which preceded it. It is believed that a convertible version had also been proposed for this model, but was overruled, allegedly on business case grounds.
From an exterior design perspective, the frontal aspect remains by far its visually weakest trait – the favoured four-headlamp setup flanking a somewhat undersized and gauche-looking grille, lending the frontal aspect a disappointing lack of substance and gravitas, but frankly neither of the latter traits were in abundance at Sindelfingen during this period.
The C215 went on sale in the Autumn of 1999, sharing engine, running gear (not to mention electronic and cabin architecture) with the shared platform W220 Sonderklasse saloon. Engines were initially either the 5.0 litre V8 or 5.8 litre V12 units, the latter featuring electronic cylinder deactivation, which disabled one bank of cylinders at cruising speeds for improved economy. The CL was also believed to be the first production car to be fitted with bi-xenon high intensity discharge head and side lamps.
Undoubtedly a fixture amid the annual migration of the privileged and monied to the Nordfriesland resort of Sylt the C215 saw the well-heeled Swabian, metaphorically at least, loosen his tie a little. And while no Mercedes coupé for the ages à la C126 or its predecessors, the C215 nonetheless remains perhaps one of the more accomplished of the early Pfeiffer-era representatives of three pointed star art.
Peter Arcadipane subsequently became part of the design team who alongside Michael Fink created the body style for the W219 CLS of 2004 – a design he since appears to have claimed credit for, also suggesting that a shooting brake concept (which was later realised on its successor) too was his. Having departed Sindelfingen, first for Hyundai and later Mitsubishi, he journeyed by air to Beijing in 2013, having been appointed that year as design director for BAIC Auto. What he sketched en-route however remains undocumented.
 Arguably Germany’s equivalent to the Hamptons.
Mercedes has brought its predator face to the C-segment and is devouring all before it. Is the A-Class becoming an unstoppable force?
There is a certain point in most career arcs where things begin to go somewhat awry. Sometimes it’s a blip, a momentary reversal or poorly judged decision, quickly righted. But for others, it’s a full-blown meltdown. After all, success can frequently be its own undoing. This is certainly true of Germany’s three upmarket car brands, who it can probably be safely said to have been in the throes of a full-blown stylistic mid-life crisis for some years now.
As the Mercedes’ SLK/SLC prepares to jog on, we consider the status of the niche model.
To all appearances, it seems the age of boundless niche-filling has passed. In some respects this is a development which can be viewed in a positive light, especially given the staggering proliferation that took place across many carmaker’s ranges – achieving little for their creators in most cases apart from squandering engineering resources and haemorrhaging money.
It’s been twenty three years since Mercedes-Benz debuted the SLK model, the first compact two-seater from Sindelfingen since the 190SL of 1954. Introduced at the Turin motor show in 1996, the R170 SLK shared aspects of floorpan, drivetrain and suspensions with the W202 C-Class saloon. Styled by Michael Mauer in 1992, under the supervision of Murat Günak, it was perhaps the final Mercedes-Benz design to Continue reading “Auf wiedersehen, Pet”
There is something of a terrible beauty about a down at heel luxury car.
Here on Ireland’s storm-lashed rural South coast, we are routinely assailed by Atlantic weather systems, meaning that precipitation is very much a fact of daily life. (Albeit, not in the photos here appended). Hence, throughout the winter months, nothing stays pristine for long and even if it did, it would only very quickly become wet and grubby again.