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MERCEDES BENZ Car Design History - Automobile manufacturer

Mercedes-Benz, Germany's most famous automobile manufacturer surprised the market in the late 1990s with a dramatic new design offensive. This took the form of new developments such as the A-Class, the little Smart car, and the SL, a purist contribution to the concept of the roadster. Mercedes-Benz is the successor of Benz & Co., whose founder Carl Benz invented the motor car. Mercedes-Benz was one of the first companies to develop streamlined cars, such as the Simplex, before World War I.

The cars of the Stuttgart manufacturer became a status symbol in the 1920s. This was largely due to the new S (Sport), SS (Super Sport) and SSK (Super Sport kurz, with shorter wheelbase) models, which boasted racing car features such as the long, extended hood from which the chrome exhaust pipes snaked forth. The 1936 Mercedes 500 K was a more luxurious development in styling. Technically full of ideas, with elegant flowing lines yet robust in appearance, it was the paragon of the German concept of car body design. This elongated dream car was created by Friedrich Geiger, and it was available to a small, select clientele in a choice of burgundy red or sky blue. During the 1930s Mercedes-Benz achieved a legendary status that reflected the German people's belief in its superiority, when the gleaming metallic racing cars known as the "silver arrows" dominated Grand Prix racing in the years before World War II.

The first innovative development after the war was the 180, which had a new kind of structural body. Externally, it had nothing in common with its predecessors, with one exception—the shape of the hood had been preserved, although it was no longer necessary. The large radiator grille adorned with the world famous three -pointed star in a circle now became the distinctive feature of the marque and a symbol of tradition. The most famous model of the 1950s was the 300 SL Coupe. This was another design by Friedrich Geiger and had some spectacular features such as the upward-opening doors, giving it the nick-named "gullwing", and arc-shaped deflectors above the wheels. The hand-built sculptural body had elements of the organic design that was fashionable at the time, the first example being the Cisitalia Coupe of 1947 with Pininfanna bodywork. The 300SL was the brainchild of Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the engineer behind company's competition cars. Uhlenhaut, Geiger, the chief designer Karl Wilfert, and the development engineer Bela Bareny formed a team with the young Italian Bruno Sacco in the late 1950s that provided Mercedes with the best possible knowledge and experience in the field of design.

A severe setback took place in the early 1960s, when the 220S model that had been fitted with tail fins was banned from North America market. The situation was restored by Wilfert and his men who created the 220 S Coupe, a car whose perfect proportions, especially the rear, made it one of the most beautiful two-door coupes ever built. Even more innovative was the 230 SL sports car, the creation of the innovative designer, Bareny. The angular, functional car had what became known as a "pagoda roof," with its unusual concave-convex construction.

In the early 1970s, designers were given a free hand to create various concepts. Bruno Sacco's C 111-3 prototype displayed the sharp lines that would be typical of the models of the late 1970s and 1980s. The maxim was that "a Mercedes should always look like a Mercedes-Benz, thus creating a family of models. This principle emphasizing the identity of the brand was also applied to the 190 series (later known as the E-Class), an innovation introduced in 1982. This was the smallest Mercedes to date and it gave the company a foothold in a larger market. The pronounced wedge shape reflecting the style of the time unmistakably reveals the influence of Sacco's C 111-3 prototype.

When Mercedes-Benz's market share began to drop, the company set about rethinking the company's image and model policy. In the late 1980s, a new “advanced design” department was created, gathering a group of creative minds with an alternative approach to car design. The result was a sharper profile for some series like the E-Class and the C-Class, whose four striking elliptical headlights attracted much attention.

In the late 1990s, the company, which was by now Germany's largest industrial group and a global player, launched two radical new projects—the Smart, a two-seater town car, and the A Class. Both these models were aimed at a younger market, and they stood out with their unusual proportions and post-modern styling. They were launched with considerable marketing panache, although not without some initial problems. The family of Mercedes models is likely to become even more varied in the future under its new chief designer Peter Pfeiffer.


Daimler Chrysler AG, Stuttgart

1896 Karl Benz develops contra-engine, forerunner of boxer engine
1886 Karl Benz builds patented morot vehicle
1902 Mercedes name first used as a brand
1926 merger of Daimler and Benz companies
1936 first diesel passenger car
1975 Bruno Sacco (in company since 1958) becomes head of design ("styling") department
1987 Advanced Design Department develops sub-compact car
1994 Study A becomes Best Concept Car in United States
1998 merges with Chrysler

MERCEDES-BENZ Car Models History

1886 motor vehicle by Karl Benz
1901 Mercedes S racing car by Ferdinand Porsche
1907 Simplex coach
1927 Mercedes-Benz sports car (1928 SS and SSK)
1935 150 H sports car
1936 500 K sports car
1937 260 D sedan with diesel engine
1951 Mercedes Benz 300 "Chancellor-Limousine"
1954 300 SL sports car
1955 190 SL sedan
1961 220 S coupe
1963 230 SL coupe by Bela Barenyi
1964 Mercedes 600 limousine
1971 Mercedes-benz 280 SE 3.5 cabriolet
1972 S-Class model series by Bruno Sacco
1981 SEC coupe
1982 E-Class model series
1996 SLK sports car
1997 A-Class model series
1998 Smart miniature car

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