Mercedes-Benz cars are instantly recognisable on the roads as one of the most luxurious motoring brands available, with origins tracing as far back as 1886 when the first Benz automobile patent was conceived.
Throughout the years, Mercedes-Benz has worked hard to maintain this status, producing some of the most desirable vehicles of the last century. This is a list of five of my favourites.
#5 Mercedes-Benz 500K (1936)
The Mercedes-Benz 500K was, and by today’s standards still is, a stunning car. One of the fastest cars in the world for that era, the 500 K was a huge two-seater car that was driven by a 7 litre engine. Just 150 of these cars were ever manufactured, which has subsequently made the Mercedes 500K one of the most desirable and collectable cars in the world.
The 500K didn’t have a boot. Instead a third seat (hilariously named “the mother-in-law seat”) at the rear would fold out presenting a perch for a third passenger to balance precariously.
#4 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (1954)
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, also frequently referred to as the “Gullwing”, was the first SL (Sport Licht) model. The SL is a production car that is still being manufactured by Mercedes today, and although the appearance and technical specifications have altered over time, the SL remains faithful to its predecessors. It has also spawned a mass of closely-related models based on its iconic looks.
Under the bonnet the 300 SL was based on the early racing cars of the 1950s. It was built with a tubular frame which helped to make the Gullwing frame sturdy, crucial for maintaining control when driving at significant speeds. It was also the tubular frame however that caused a design flaw – the doors had to open upwards instead of outwards. The “Gullwing” look it created went on to become the main signature feature of this classic car.
#3 Mercedes-Benz 190Db Ponton (1959)
The Mercedes-Benz 190Db Ponton was the last of the four “Ponton” cars manufactured in the fifties after World War II. Built using the popular W120 and W121 Chassis’, the 190DB Ponton was produced in large volume to help the car manufacturer recover during the post war era, offering Mercedes-Benz luxury, comfort, reliability and handling at a price that was desirable to consumers of the time.
Mercedes-Benz Ponton models were powered by 4- or 6-cylinder diesel engines and had a top speed of about 75 mph. They were rear-wheel-drive and took 29 seconds to accelerate to 62mph (100 kph). For the time, the 190Db was an exotic looking car with a well-shaped exterior and a notably refined interior. The Mercedes-Benz Ponton was produced for almost a decade before being replaced with the W110 Chassis in 1962.
#2 Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman (1963)
The Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman was seven years in development, yet less than 3000 of them were ever manufactured. Owned by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Coco Chanel, Jack Nicholson and Hugh Hefner, the 600 Pullman was also known as “The Grand Mercedes” and it featured the loudest car horn ever installed on a production car.
It was designed with two different wheelbases – a long wheelbase to be chauffeur driven, and a short wheelbase for general driving. The car was so heavy that Mercedes had to produce a new engine that was capable of driving it. The 600 Pullman also offered a hydraulic pressure system that powered everything and an air suspension to make travelling bumpy roads more enjoyable. The 600 Pullman remains an icon today.
#1 Mercedes-Benz 190E Cosworth (1984)
Unveiled at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show and with an engine designed by Cosworth, the first ever race on the Grand Prix circuit at Nürburgring was held in 1984 and it consisted of 20 identical Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3 16v cars, driven by F1 drivers. The 190E was originally conceived in the late seventies and, over-engineered to the point of absurdity, it went on to win 3 world and 9 international speed records.
Built in the 1980s, the 4 cylinder 190E Cosworth cost more than a 6-cylinder S-Class, and was faster than a V8. Despite the fact that every modification to the car was made to improve its aerodynamics and function, the later Evolution II model earned the unnecessary label of a “boy racer car” due to its aggressive looks for the time and nasally intake sounds.