July 15, 2024

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Built General Tough

The Mercedes Benz 300 is 70 years old

70 years of the Mercedes-Benz 300

No experiments with the Chancellor’s car: Konrad Adenauer remained loyal to the Mercedes during his Chancellorship.

Cologne He looked unpretentious next to the magnificent new chrome cruisers from Cadillac or Chrysler, but also dainty compared to the refurbished V8 and V12 pre-war bodies with which European leaders and high society liked to show themselves at the time: The one presented in spring 1951 at the first IAA in Frankfurt Mercedes Benz 300 (W 186 II) was a luxury sedan that shone above all because of its inner qualities.

Chancellor Konrad Adenauer is said to have asked the Daimler-Benz CEO at the time, Wilhelm Haspel, promptly in his Rhenish dialect, when he was looking for a state-owned company car: “Don’t you really have anything?” Haspel didn’t have – at least for the time being. Adenauer ordered the almost five meter long “Big Mercedes” anyway and remained loyal to this series until his death in 1967.

“No experiments”, the CDU’s legendary election campaign slogan, also applied to the German Chancellor during the economic boom when choosing his company car. Over the years, Adenauer has ordered a total of six vehicles of the luxury liner, built in four evolutionary stages (Mercedes 300 to 300 d) with a smooth-running and powerful 3.0-liter six-cylinder, and this has definitely influenced further technical development.

The 300 c, launched in 1956, was also available in a long version, just as the head of government, who was always chauffeured, preferred. No surprise that this Benz was soon popularly referred to as the Adenauer Mercedes. A respectful nickname that accelerated the worldwide career of the Type 300.

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The most expensive star bearer at the time – base price in 1952 around 20,000 marks, comparable to the construction costs for a settlement house – also served King Gustav VI. Adolf of Sweden, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, the Shah of Persia and Pope John XXIII (300 d Landaulet) as a representative vehicle, and even the American Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy appeared in the open Mercedes 300 to the cheering audience.

Not to forget the celebrities from the film and show business who installed the Mercedes flagship as a classic six-window sedan, four-door “Cabriolet D” or as the hardtop type 300 d with a “postless full-view body” presented in autumn 1957 Garage provided.

State coach

Adenauer has ordered a total of six vehicles of the luxury liner, built in four evolutionary stages (Mercedes 300 to 300 d) with a smooth-running and powerful 3.0-liter six-cylinder.

Old school mobile phone

Even then, there was a cell phone on board.

Incidentally, the top-of-the-line model from Stuttgart was perfectly predestined for special bodies thanks to its robust chassis in the form of a welded oval tube X-frame and a chassis that was reminiscent of pre-war designs with a rear two-joint swing axle. The state car thus even provided the basis for funeral vehicles, as did some Rolls Royce-Models of that era.

In fact, the five- to six-seater Mercedes 300 in its standard configuration was also successful in Great Britain, where the Luxury, which initially had an output of only 85 kW / 115 hp but was capable of 160 km / h, was showered with praise by the specialist media. The British press described the driving comfort and safety of the “big Benz” as “the top of what is currently possible”, as it competed against a multitude of rivals, above all the fast Jaguar Mark VII.

In North America, it was also the dynamic driving qualities of the regularly upgraded six-cylinder engine that promoted sales success.

In 1954, when the Federal Republic of Germany celebrated the “Miracle of Bern”, the sensational success at the soccer world championship, Mercedes presented the facelifted 300 b with now 92 kW / 125 PS. Above all, however, the engine laid the structural basis for the power plant of the legendary gullwing 300 SL introduced in 1954.

Those who preferred an elite Gran Turismo instead of this super sports car could, by the way, choose between the 300 S Coupé, Cabriolet and Roadster for long journeys since the end of 1951. Ultra-expensive types that cost 34,500 marks in Germany, in the USA as much as three Cadillac, and in Great Britain considerably more than Rolls-Royce.

Open at the top

The Mercedes-Benz 300 was also available as a convertible.

Closed society

In good weather, the roof could be folded away.

The four-door “Adenauer-Mercedes” was completely different, this sedan, which was sold in almost 11,500 units, was not only affordable for the super-rich. Rather, even successful entrepreneurs indulged in the luxury car for traveling and racing, which was powered by intake manifold injection to 118 kW / 160 hp in 1957 as the 300 d (W 189). After all, in the 1950s, fast and large cars were still generally used as a socially accepted status symbol, not just for the Federal Chancellor.

However, Adenauer’s passion for sophisticated representation was hard to beat. His first company car, delivered in December 1951, had the registration number 0-002, which hierarchically would actually have been granted to the President of the Bundestag Hermann Ehlers.

It goes without saying that Federal President Theodor Heuss was also chauffeured in a Mercedes 300 (registration number 0-001), but that several members of his cabinet such as Finance Minister Fritz Schäffer, Interior Minister Robert Lehr and Economics Minister Ludwig Erhard and even the SPD chairman Erich Ollenhauer were the fastest at the time Adenauer didn’t like it at all.

Nevertheless, it was he who, as Federal Chancellor for 14 years and a formative personality in the founding years of the Federal Republic of Germany, ennobled the Type 300 to the Adenauer-Mercedes. There was hardly an appointment that the head of government attended without his car, which had been personalized with details such as a partition between the driver and the rear, radio telephone, curtains, folding tables, raised armrests and a special footrest.

Expensive for its time

The cheapest variant of the Mercedes 300 cost around 20,000 marks.

Popemobile

Even the Pope was celebrated in the Mercedes 300

Whether at the Nine Powers Conference in London in 1954 or on a visit to Moscow in 1955, when Adenauer was fighting diplomatically for the release of the last German prisoners of war: the Chancellor’s black official car was never missing, as he was always able to travel on the special train. This was made possible by a special railway wagon with a revolving platform and ramp, which was custom-configured for the 300, the symbol for the German economic miracle that was quickly known throughout Europe.

The Chancellor also used the 300 privately as a racing living room – he is said to have often urged his driver to speed up with the words “Jeben Se Jas!” – for example on the way to his holiday home on Lake Como. So many kilometers were quickly accumulated, which the Mercedes covered without any problems. Only after around 160,000 kilometers was Adenauer’s first 300 replaced in order to then start a used car career, before it was integrated as a central exhibit in the Bonn Museum House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1994.

Konrad Adenauer acquired his sixth and last company vehicle – a 300 d with a full-view body – directly from the Federal Chancellery in 1963 shortly before the end of his term of office, and so he was also on the road as former Chancellor in the usual rolling salon. Incidentally, Adenauer was not particularly interested in the new Mercedes 600, which was also presented in 1963. Apparently he sensed that this extremely expensive technical superlative could no longer be a Chancellor’s car, but was looking for other tasks.

timeline

  • 1947: In December, Daimler-Benz began planning a new representative car, which should also be successful in the export business
  • 1950: The construction of the new six-cylinder engine for the Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186 II) is being finalized and designed for an output of 85 kW / 115 PS. The final body design was drawn up under Hermann Ahrens, taking into account the fact that the new luxury class model should both build on the pre-war models and set trendsetting trends through flowing shapes, integrated headlights and the elimination of running boards
  • 1951: On April 17th, the Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186 II) celebrates its world premiere at the first IAA of the post-war period. Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer decided to order a Mercedes 300 sedan as a company car during the course of this IAA. The start of production of the Mercedes 300 takes place in November and on December 8, 1951 the Chancellor’s limousine with the chassis number 00013/51 is delivered. It is the first of a total of six Mercedes 300s that Adenauer used during his tenure, which lasted until 1963. Federal President Theodor Heuss, several federal ministers and the SPD chairman Erich Ollenhauer were among the early orders for a Mercedes 300. In addition to the six-window sedan, there was the four-door Mercedes-Benz 300 Cabriolet D. The 300 S made its debut at the Paris Salon Coupé and Cabriolet
Targeting customers

The advertising targeted the educated middle class.

  • 1952: Start of production of the 300 S as a coupé, convertible and roadster at a uniform price of 34,500 marks each. This makes the 300 S most expensive car made in Germany. A sunroof was available for the Mercedes 300 sedan from December 1952 and the partition between the driver and the rear, which Konrad Adenauer had already ordered, was added to the regular list of options in March 1953
  • 1954: In March production started for the Mercedes 300 b (W 186 III) with vent windows in the front doors. Another new feature is the 125 hp engine with register carburetor. The visual features of the facelift are front vent windows, chrome-plated fenders on the rear fenders and bumper horns at the front and rear. A two-door convertible is being considered, but not implemented
  • 1955: Adenauer’s personal assistant Hans Kilb and Adenauer’s driver Klockner inspect the BMW 505, which was presented by BMW as an alternative to the Mercedes 300, but the Federal Chancellery did not order the BMW. In September production started for the Mercedes 300 c (W 186 IV) with a larger rear window, wider tires and a rear single-joint swing axle. The 300 c is also equipped with an automatic gearbox as standard, and a four-speed manual gearbox is still available for a reduced price. At the IAA, the 300 Sc celebrates its world premiere as a coupé, convertible and roadster with the engine from the 300 SL
  • 1956: In June production of the 300 Cabriolet D was temporarily discontinued. In August, production of a special version with a ten centimeter longer wheelbase and a partition between the chauffeur and the passenger compartment. The 300 c is the first German car to be available with central locking
Business class

Last but not least, men in their prime should see themselves in a Mercedes 300.

  • 1957: The Mercedes 300 d (W 189) celebrates its world premiere at the IAA. Start of production in November. The 300 d with an extended wheelbase was given a new rear design and fully retractable side windows without B-pillars in the style of a hardtop sedan. Now 160 hp. Further technical innovations are the options for electric windows, orthopedic seats and air conditioning (from 1958)
  • 1958: After a two-year break, production of the four-door Cabriolet D starts up again. Facelift for the 300 d, now available with power steering. The last 300 SC rolls off the line in April
  • 1959: Extended standard equipment for the 300 d, including two-stage flasher including three-tone fanfare
  • 1960: On the basis of the 300 d, a landaulet vehicle with a special body is produced for the Pope. Two more 300 d Landaulets are added to the company’s fleet and loaned to the German government for state receptions
  • 1962: In March the production phase out for the Mercedes 300 d
  • 1963: Shortly before the end of his term in office, Konrad Adenauer acquires his last company car, a 300 d. He used this car until his death in 1967. At the 1963 IAA, the Mercedes-Benz 600 “Grand Mercedes” made its debut as the successor to the Mercedes-Benz 300 d
  • 1994: At the opening of the House of History of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn, Konrad Adenauer’s first company car from the Mercedes 300 series is presented as one of the most important exhibits

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