Saturday, December 5, 2009

History of Mercedes The 300 Adenauer

The Mercedes Benz 300 Adenauer (1951 - 1962)

In today's automotive world, the number 300 might not mean too much anymore, but a few decades back it had a very special appeal. Chrysler used it in the US for its famous and fast Chrysler 300 series, which was first introduced in 1955 as the C-300. It used a V8 hemi 331 cu in engine and was called 300, because it developed 300 hp.

In Germany, the name 300 was made famous by Daimler-Benz, who used it for their top luxury car introduced in 1951, the 300 Adenauer Benz. Here the name 300 was not used because of its horsepower but because of the 3.0 l (183 cu in) engine displacement. When it was launched in April 1951 at the Frankfurt Automobile Show the Benz caused such a sensation that mounted police had to be called in to manage the enthusiastic crowd.

But it was not only the general public who liked the car, it was the press who said after testing it that it should be considered as "international automotive extra class". That impression was supported by the lucky customers, who were able to afford the Mercedes Benz 300. Because at a price of 19,900.- DM ($4,720.-) it was certainly also from a financial point of view extra class. In the US the 300 was introduced in 1953 and cost around $6,500.-. The priciest sedan in the US was at that time the Cadillac Series 75 Fleetwood. At "only" $5,820.- it must be considered a bargain, given the fact that it had a 5.4 l (331 cu in) V8 engine with 210 brake horsepower and an overall length of 6.0 meters (236.5 in).

The Mercedes Benz, in comparison, delivered with its six-cylinder engine 115 DIN hp and offered an overall length of 4.95 meters (194.9 in). Nevertheless, its breathtaking price offered exclusivity and some of its famous owners such as Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Yul Brunner, Anthony Quinn, King Gustaf Adolph of Sweden, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Aga Khan sure didn't complain about it. Pope John XXIII even had a special Pullman Landaulet delivered to his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo in 1960. It was not the first time in the history of Mercedes that a pope had ordered a special built vehicle and it was also not the last time. The most famous owner must have been the first German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who had during his tenure six of them. As a matter of fact the Ben was so closely associated with the chancellor that the whole series is still today called the 300 Adenauer.

The vehicle's body was still built on a very traditional cruciform oval-tubed chassis of pre-war design. In this respect it was similar to the 170 and 220 Benz. It also carried over the central lubrication system of the 170 model. It might look old fashioned, but in its favor it has to be said that this body-on-frame-construction was ideal for maintaining a very high level of quality for cars produced in small numbers. Like the smaller 220 Benz, which was launched at the same time, its overhead camshaft inline six-cylinder engine was very modern for early 1950's standards. It was fed by two downdraft carburetors instead of one as in the 220 and was also considerably larger. With a top speed of 160 km/h (100 mph) it was quicker than its smaller sibling, establishing itself as the fastest sedan produced by a German car manufacturer.

From 1951 to 1962, four versions of the Mercedes Benz 300 have been produced. While the first three models differed mostly in technical aspects, the last version 300d was not only bigger and more powerful, it was also a slight bow to American styling ideas, as it offered for the first time in the history of Mercedes Benz a sedan with a hardtop design. All four side windows could be lowered with their chromed frames and even the rear quarter lights could be taken out.

All four versions offered also a four-door cabriolet, which was insanely expensive and only produced in very small numbers. Over a time span of eleven years, just 11,430 units of the Mercedes Benz 300 Adenauer were produced, of which 707 were cabriolets. Cadillac produced a similar volume in a mere month. Although the 300 might not be regarded in the history of Mercedes Benz as a big sales success, it sure helped to re-establish the image of Daimler-Benz as a world class manufacturer of luxury automobiles.

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