In the annals of automotive history, few names evoke such a deep and resonating sense of respect, admiration, and awe as Mercedes-Benz. There’s a profound majesty embedded in classic Mercedes models, an elegance that continues to inspire. The marriage of engineering excellence with striking aesthetics, each model encapsulates an era, telling stories of innovation, luxury, and the relentless pursuit of perfection.
From the classic Mercedes-Benz convertibles to the beautiful Mercedes-Benz 1970 models, the company represents a legacy that spans almost 140 years.
Rediscovering these famous Mercedes models is like revisiting landmarks in cultural heritage, each one a testament to the ingenuity and vision of their designers. Journey into the rich tapestry of Mercedes’ past, reliving the magnificence of these automotive masterpieces.
The SSK, an abbreviation of Super Sport Kurz, or ‘Super Sport Short’ was a short wheelbase version of the 1927 Modell S and was designed by Ferdinand Porsche before he left to set up his own company. One of the famous Mercedes-Benz models of the 1930s, indeed of any era, had an astonishingly powerful 7.1-litre straight-six engine and was driven to victory in the 1929 500 Miles of Argentina, the 1929 and 1930 Cordoba Grands Prix, the 1930 Irish Grand Prix, the 1931 German Grand Prix and the famous 1931 Mille Miglia. It’s believed less than forty were built – some suggest as few as thirty-one – and it’s possible only four or five have survived.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
The imperious German marque has a history of making beautiful cars, none more so than the 300 SL Gullwing, a timeless classic Mercedes. The 50s movie siren presents a compelling case as the world’s most visually stunning car, serving up a spectacle of refined elegance that may be unrivalled. The three-litre straight-six was capable of over 155 mph, and was the first passenger car in the world equipped with fuel injection. When it launched in 1954, it was the fastest production car in the world.
Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster
Launched at the Paris Motor Show in 1936, the 540K Special Roadster was a staggeringly good-looking car. Built between 1936 and 1939, the 5.4-litre straight-eight was made in very limited numbers – around thirty – and each car was built to order. Of all the classic Mercedes models, the 540K may well be the company’s pre-war magnum opus. It’s a truly magnificent example of automotive excellence and is often viewed as the epitome of everything a Mercedes-Benz should be; graceful, elegant, perfectly engineered, and unapologetically ostentatious.
Mercedes-Benz 280SL ‘Pagoda’
The 280 SL ‘Pagoda’, so named for the slightly concave hardtop roof, is nothing short of a design icon. One of the quintessential classic Mercedes-Benz convertibles, it’s hard to envisage a more elegant car. Built to compete with the new Porsche 911, the Jaguar E-Type and the Chevy Corvette, it more than held its own. The 2.8-litre inline-six was a sensation. The 280 SL was the antithesis of the pre-war cars – simple, clean, and unpretentious lines, yet swathed in luxury.
Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II
The epic DTM touring car battles in Germany between the BMW M3 and the Mercedes 190E finally came off the track and onto the road in 1990 with the launch of the sensational Cosworth-tuned 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II. A perfect mix of brain and brawn, the Evo was a street-legal car that was also built for track racing, and the huge wheel arches and massive rear spoiler have turned this terror of the track into one of the most sought-after classic Mercedes models.
Mercedes-Benz 600 ‘Grosser’
Mercedes-Benz 1970 models didn’t get more sumptuously opulent than the Grosser, the limousine of choice for many well-known figures of the second half of the twentieth century, including David Bowie, Elvis Presely, Coco Chanel and three-quarters of The Beatles. The 600 made the Rolls-Royces of the day look timid by comparison. The long-wheel base version was over six metres long, almost two metres wide and weighed north of three tons. It was huge, and hugely impressive. As one of the most famous Mercedes models, it was equipped with a 6.3-litre V8 engine. Of an estimated 2,700 cars produced, 59 landaulet versions were created, with a convertible roof over the rear passenger seats. Perhaps the most famous, a four-door version (it also came as a six-door), was used by Pope Paul VI and now sits in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
The Majesty of Mercedes-Benz
As we come to the end of this remarkable journey, there’s no denying the profound influence and majesty of the famous Mercedes-Benz models. They are time capsules, capturing the zeitgeist of the age and etching an indelible mark on the automotive landscape with their luxury, innovation, and design. Rediscovering their magic, it’s clear why these models have remained timeless, their charm and allure, like fine wine, improving as they age.
Indeed there are a whole host of classic Mercedes models we haven’t mentioned, including one of the Mercedes-Benz 1970 models that has long sat under the radar, the stunning 280 SE. There’s the 300 S from the 1950s – which was the epitome of luxury – and the 300 SLR, a road-going race car nicknamed the Uhlenhaut Coupe after Daimler-Benz motorsport supremo Rudolf Uhlenhaut. Only two were made and one sold in May 2022 for €135 million, the highest price ever paid for a car.
In retracing the paths of these famous Mercedes-Benz models, we not only revisit the past, but also gain insight into the company’s enduring commitment to excellence and innovation. The echo of the past reverberates in the marque’s contemporary creations, each one carrying a piece of the history, the spirit, and the majesty of what went before.