Mercedes-Benz History: Coupés from Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz coupés are the embodiment of elegance on four wheels, Mercedes coupés are legends of the eras in which they were built
by Marcus Bloom | 03 July 2010
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The coupé is an exclusive body design. This was true even in the days of the horse-drawn carriage, when the coupé – presumably so-called because it resembled a four-seater carriage with its front end cut-off (French: “coupé”) – offered two seats in the comfort of the cab with the coachman seated up front on the open box seat. People who chose this mode of travel clearly liked to demonstrate a sense of style and individuality.
“Coupés from Mercedes-Benz have always been the embodiment of elegance on four wheels,” says Michael Bock, Managing Director of the Mercedes-Benz Museum and Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. “Whether today, 40 years ago or 100 years ago – our coupés are legends of the eras in which they were built.”
The early automobiles borrowed heavily from various styles of horse-drawn carriage. The coupé retained a strong focus essentially on two persons traveling in style. To this day it typifies an exclusive form of transportation.
Use of a coachman eventually gave way to owners who preferred to take control of their vehicle themselves; today’s coupés are also driver-oriented. So would it be entirely wrong to suggest that one decides upon a coupé rather as one might choose an elegant coat – with the aim of wearing it for comfort and self-confidence?
Throughout its history Mercedes-Benz has offered coupés in a variety of designs. The 10 hp Benz Mylord coupé of 1901, for example, still bore close resemblance to the horse-drawn carriage, with a seat for the driver open to the elements. One not uncommon feature for the day was the folding roof above the passenger seats, which could be opened in good weather to enhance enjoyment of the journey – and which at a top speed of 35 to 40 km/h detracted only minimally from the elegance of the Mylord coupé’s appearance.
Flowing lines for a dynamic appearance
The term coupé has evolved and grown over the decades. Early coupés, for example, generally only had room for two people; since the 1950s, however, they have more usually had four seats. But the body incorporates a number of basic features that persist to this day. A coupé generally has very low, flowing lines which create a stretched silhouette. It often dispenses with the B pillar altogether, and the C pillar slopes gently into the tail. The roof is generally shorter than in the case of a sedan, and curved at the rear. The side windows are usually frameless.
Nowadays, owning a coupé and enjoying utility value are no longer mutually exclusive aspirations. Although many coupé enthusiasts would contest the fact, even in a coupé a spacious trunk, folding rear seat bench and ski bag are popular equipment features. After all, the body does not reveal outwardly all the other things that need transportation in addition to the passengers.
Coupés by Mercedes-Benz and predecessor brands carry the self-image of this exceptional vehicle type in every detail – whether in the E-Class Coupé from the C 207 series or the CL-Class from the C 216 series. In addition, the CLC from the CL 203 series has been available in the C-Class as a sports coupé version since 2008. In this way the various coupés have smoothly been taking up their place in the Mercedes-Benz product range and adding a touch of sporting elegance to the brand image.
Coupes in every class
- Whether compact, mid-sized or luxury class, coupés enhance the product portfolio of Mercedes-Benz
- Mercedes-Benz CLS: The first four-door coupé made its debut in 2004
After the Second World War the coupé became a permanent feature in particular of the Mercedes-Benz mid-series, as well as of its premium-class models. The forerunners of the CL-Class include vehicles such as the 300 S coupé (W 188, 1952 to 1955) and the coupés of the 180 and 128 “three-box body” series, whose self-supporting bodies were fully in tune with the tastes of the day.
1961 saw the launch of coupés in the premium-class 111 series, then the following year that of the 112 series, all of them highly sought-after vehicles today.
An intermediate step in the tradition of great Mercedes-Benz coupés were the coupés of the 107 series. For in the case of the C 107 the coupés were based not on the four-door premium class saloons but on the roadsters of the SL-Class.
The C 126 successor series on the other hand offered four proper seats, a feature that has been continued to the present day in the C 140, C 215 and C 216 series.
In the Mercedes-Benz mid-series there has been an almost continuous coupé tradition since the late 1960s, perpetuated today by the E-Class Coupé from the C 207 series. The first mid-series coupé was the 114 series, more familiarly known as the Stroke Eight, since internally it bore the abbreviation “/8″ to denote the year of its appearance, 1968. The car was also successfully exported to North America. The 123 series (1977 to 1985) followed seamlessly on and even offered a first-ever diesel-powered coupé – initially reserved for North American customers with a view to improving Corporate Average Fuel Economy there.
The coupé tradition was continued by the 124 series from 1987 to 1996. This link was established by the first CLK Coupé (C 208 series), launched in 1997 and built until 2002. For this model Mercedes-Benz sounded out the market with the aid of a coupé study, presented in 1993 at the Geneva Motor Show and revealing to an enthusiastic public the brand’s new “four-eyed” face. Built from 2002 to 2009, the CLK series
(C 209) seamlessly built on the success of its predecessor. This was then continued by the E-Class Coupé C 207, awarded the GOOD DESIGN® Award and the German Design Award as a member of the current E-Class.
The presentation of the Vision CLS at the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show in 2003 caused a sensation and gave the motoring public a foretaste of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, which appeared the following year. This car combined the best of two worlds, offering the spaciousness and four doors of a sedan, while at the same time exhibiting its clear coupé roots with a skilfully designed body. The CLS quickly established itself as a modern automotive icon. And it created an entirely new market segment. After the success enjoyed by Mercedes-Benz, other carmakers with four-door coupés followed in its wake.
No review of the coupé history of Mercedes-Benz would be complete without mention of four exceptional sports coupés. In 1954 came the 300 SL (W 198). Not just the gullwing doors and timeless body design place this car in a class of its own in the automotive world – the whole vehicle remains today both a dream car and a dream coupé in one.
Then in 1969 the company presented the C 111 experimental car, initially as a test vehicle for the Wankel engine. This coupé unleashed a storm of interest and Mercedes-Benz even received numerous blank checks from potential customers. But the C 111 never went into production.
Although the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (199 series) of 2003 was no direct descendant of the 300 SL, it still bears the genes of the Gullwing. For it is both a dream sports car and an original coupé design. In both cases, the roadster versions were later additions.
And finally, 2010 saw the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG to continue the history of Mercedes-Benz supersports cars. The elegant sportiness of this extraordinary coupé (C 197 series) ignites both passion and enthusiasm.
Every Mercedes-Benz coupé is a classic, whether it has historic roots or hails from the current model portfolio. These models perfectly round off the brand’s automotive product range and target a clientele for whom style and elegance retain a particular importance. In this way Mercedes-Benz coupés are a lifestyle statement on wheels.