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With bright bilux (twin-filament) headlamps: 1961 Mercedes-Benz 190 (W 110).

Mercedes-Benz 110 series (1961 to 1968)

  • First safety passenger cell with crumple zones
  • The "Universal" variant is forerunner of the station wagon
  • Mercedes-Benz launches its "tailfin" with six-cylinder engine in 1959

Enter the small "Tailfin"

For the luxury class of Mercedes-Benz, the tailfin age had already dawned in 1959 with the 220, 220 S and 220 SE models of the 111 series. This new body shape with its cheeky take on the tailfin motif of American car designs, also conquered the intermediate class in August 1961. At first Mercedes-Benz offered two four-cylinder models, the 190 and 190 D of the 110 series. They superseded the "Ponton" models with the same designations.

The modular principle of the shared body was applied with particular thoroughness by Mercedes-Benz in the small and large versions of the tailfin era: The difference in wheelbase – 17 centimetres in the "Ponton" –was now reduced to all of five centimetres (2.70 metres in the W 110 and 2.75 metres in the W 111). Upper mid-range and luxury class vehicles were distinguished by the look of their front ends. From the windscreen to the rear end, however, both model series shared a body in which mainly trim elements made for differences. Along with this largely identical body, the two model series were linked by their common suspension.

Joint development

The advantages of the shared body to Mercedes-Benz were mainly of an economic nature, because it permitted cost reduction for development, production and stocking of spare parts. Moreover, owing to the largely identical body, the driver of an intermediate class model could appreciate the full benefits of the spaciousness of the interior and boot. But an even stronger assimilation between the two model series also involved drawbacks: On the one hand, the four-cylinder models were 23 centimetres longer overall than the predecessor models, despite the fact that parking space was already getting scarce and called for more compact mid-size cars. On the other, many a luxury class customer wished for greater distance from the models of the smaller series.

But on closer inspection it really was not possible to confuse the two model series: conspicuous features of the 190 included round headlamps, a shorter front end, and direction indicators that had been adopted from the "Ponton" models and which sat on the ends of the front and rear wings. Connoisseurs also immediately noticed the disappearance of familiar items from the six-cylinders, such as the breathers in the C-pillars, including the trim elements that accompanied them, and the chrome corners above the front bumper.

The engineering of the new 190 model also borrowed heavily from the 220: the front and rear suspension and the brake system were adopted unchanged from the big brother. The frame-floor system also came from the six-cylinder models and was adjusted to the shorter front end of the four-cylinder and its shorter wheelbase. And together with the 220 the 190 and 190 D got a dual-circuit brake system with brake booster and front disc brakes in August 1963.

Two-litre diesel in the 190 D

The new diesel model 190 D actually should have been called the 200 D. Its OM 621 III prechamber engine had the cylinder bore enlarged to give it just about ten cubic centimetres more displacement than its predecessor. It also featured a modified camshaft and retuned injection pump along with an optimised intake manifold. Owing to these changes the engine now developed 40 kW (55 hp) – 3.7 kW (5 hp) more than its predecessor.

The Mercedes-Benz engineers did less reengineering on the petrol engine of the sister model. It continued to produce 59 kW (80 hp), but ran more smoothly. From August 1962 onwards the Stuttgart company offered the 190 with a four-speed automatic transmission developed in-house as an optional extra; as of July 1963 this option was also available for the diesel model. For both cars the additional price for the comfortable extra was DM 1400 – the same as for the six-cylinder models.

1965: Departure from the shared body

In August 1965 Mercedes-Benz introduced the new luxury class models of the 108 series. This marked the beginning of the end of the shared body concept, which had been one of the defining characteristics of the saloons of two car generations. Concurrently with the debut of the S-Class predecessor, Daimler-Benz also presented the two four-cylinder models in improved form and with new model designations. The 200 and 200 D succeeded the 190, which had been in production for four years.

There were only minor changes to the body: combined direction indicators, for example, and parking and fog lamps underneath the headlamps – the direction indicators on the wings disappeared. The old taillights made way for trapezoidal and slightly more angular lamp units. The designers included the breathers and trim elements in the C-pillars, familiar features from the six-cylinder models. At the rear, the ornamental mouldings of the fins were dropped; instead there was now a continuous chrome strip terminating the boot lid and a moulding underneath each tail light unit.

1965: First six-cylinder in the small "tailfin"

In addition to the 200 and 200 D models, Mercedes-Benz also presented the new 230 model. This 110 series saloon externally resembled the four-cylinder cars. But under its bonnet purred the 2.3-litre six-cylinder of the 230 S premium class model. For use in the intermediate class the M 180 VI in-line six-cylinder was initially derated to 77 kW (105 hp) by combining it with the carburettor of the two-litre M 121 B XI engine. From July 1966 onward the
Mercedes-Benz 230 then even got the unchanged engine of the 230 S model with an output of 88 kW (120 hp). This increased its top speed to 175 km/h (previously 168 km/h); 0 to 100 km/h acceleration improved from 14 seconds to 13 seconds.

The Mercedes-Benz 200, created from the revised 190 model, could easily holds its own in terms of performance. Its engine featured several technical innovations (as did the four-cylinder diesel). The displacement of the 1.9-litre petrol engine grew to two litres through enlargement of the cylinder bore. At the same time the compression ratio increased and not one but two downdraught carburettors were used. The output thus rose by an impressive 11 kW (15 hp) to 70 kW (95 hp). This now gave the 200 a top speed of 161 km/h and a 0 to 100 km/h time of 15 seconds. For the 190 model the corresponding figures were 150 km/h and 18 seconds. The crankshaft was now supported by five bearings to improve the smoothness. The diesel variant also profited from this measure. The performance of the 40 kW (55 hp) 200 D model, however, did not differ from that of its predecessor (top speed 130 km/h, 29 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h).

First station wagon from Mercedes-Benz

As was tradition with the four-cylinder models of the upper mid-range series, Mercedes-Benz also delivered series 110 models as partially bodied chassis to bodybuilders in and outside Germany. But the small "tailfin" also was modified by the Stuttgart people themselves: at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1965 the company premiered the Mercedes-Benz 190 D Universal, a station wagon variant built by the Belgian firm IMA. This version of the 190 D model was sold by
Mercedes-Benz as a standard version through its own dealer network. The Universal was thus the forerunner of the future station wagon, which was not introduced as a body variant until the appearance of the 123 series.

The revision and supplementation of the intermediate car range by Mercedes-Benz also had an impact on the IMA range. The Belgians finally offered four variations of their station wagon: apart from the 200 D Universal model, as a logical successor to the 190 D Universal, there were now also station wagon versions of the 200, 230 and 230 S models. So Mercedes-Benz now not only offered a Universal station wagon with six cylinders in the guise of the upper mid-range series, but even on the basis of the luxury model series, 111. With its longer front end and the typical face of the six-cylinder saloons, with vertical rectangular headlamps and ample chrome ornamentation, this 1966 variant is a particularly representative ancestor of subsequent lifestyle station wagons. All four variants were sold in Germany from August 1966 to the end of 1967 through the Daimler-Benz sales organisation.

Long-wheelbase chassis

The new Universal models had 15-inch wheels, a changed rear axle ratio, reinforced springs and a newly developed hydropneumatic compensating spring as basic equipment. All chassis on which the special versions of other manufacturers were based also profited from these improvements. In particular, the ambulance bodies of Binz in Lorch and Miesen in Bonn enjoyed great popularity.

A particularly high degree of flexibility was ensured by the offer of long-wheelbase chassis versions of all revised models, from 200 D to 230, which Mercedes-Benz included in its line-up. The wheelbase grew by 40 centimetres to 3.10 metres. It provided the preferred basis for ambulances and hearses.

Even more space was offered from April 1967 on by a 200 D-based saloon with 3.35 metre wheelbase. This vehicle could seat seven passengers along with chauffeur. Such special versions of the economical diesel saloon were requested in particular by a great many taxi and hire car operators abroad. But airlines, consulates and government authorities also used the eight-seater.

Production of the last "tailfin" models ceased in February 1968 after the technically and stylistically completely redeveloped "Stroke 8" models had hit the market in January. During six-and-a-half years of production, a total of 622,453 saloons and 5,859 partially bodied chassis were manufactured at the Sindelfingen plant.

Name change: When the Mercedes-Benz 200 (W 110 series) came onto the market in 1965, the diesel variant of the "tailfin" was renamed the 200 D in keeping with its displacement.

Economy on four wheels: A 1965 Mercedes-Benz 200 D.

Old streetlamp, new saloon: A "tailfin" from the Mercedes-Benz W 110 series (1961 to 1968).

American flair: The "Little Tailfin" by Mercedes-Benz (190 c model) came onto the market in 1961 and initially had its rear-view mirror mounted on the front wing.

In the countryside: Mercedes-Benz from the "tailfin" W 110 series (1961 to 1968).

Idyll with tailfin: Advertising photo of a saloon of the Mercedes-Benz W 110 series (1961 to 1968).

All-rounder: The first estate cars offered by Mercedes-Benz as production vehicles bore the name "Universal". The special models (the pictures shows a Mercedes-Benz 190 Dc Universal) were built from 1965at IMA in Belgium.

Dignity for one's last journey: Hearse by bodybuilders Rappold on a Mercedes-Benz 1965 series W 110 chassis.

Modern shape for rescue services: Mercedes-Benz 200 D ambulance dating from 1965. The Binz company provided the body.


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