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    Light restoration required

    CAR: #1967-Mercedes-Benz-230 / 1967 / #Mercedes-Benz-230 / #Mercedes-Benz / #1967-Mercedes-Benz-230-Fintail / #Fintail / #W110 / #1967-Mercedes-Benz-230-W110 / #Mercedes-Benz-230-W110 / #Mercedes-Benz-W110 / 1967

    OWNER: Massimo Delbo

    I believe that, no matter how old you are, a day when you learn something is a good one. So I should have been very happy when I discovered something I hadn’t known before about my Fintail. But truth is that, instead, my feelings are a little mixed.

    Since I bought the car as a restoration project in February 2005, and during the following years of work, I’ve been puzzledby the right rear light because the cluster - a single unit - had a reversing-light lens that was a very strange amber colour. It was too dark to be the ‘right’ white that was shining on the left side, and too orange to be the all-red American-spec unit, the good quality of the part and the way it was moulded looked very original, though, so I didn’t think it was a cheap spare part bought by the previous owner some time in the past.

    Looking at the inside of the lens, I could see that the amber colour was not the result of fading by sunlight or heat because the hidden internal corners were all the same shade. Unable to solve the mystery, and not liking the mismatched effect of the two lights, I looked for a new part with a normal white reversing light.

    This process was neither easy nor fast, because I didn’t want a brand new cluster, which would look too shiny compared with the left side’s original one. I had to find a used, but not too-used, part.

    I bought, for almost no money, five old rear lights, but all of them were too tired to look good. In trying to resurrect one of them I also learned that you can’t separate the chromed frame from the lens, because they are thermally attached. So for a good 10 years I’ve lived with the wrong rear light.

    Then, a few days before Christmas, I found the correct piece, in the right condition, from a dismantled Fintail. there was just time to clean the new part, install it and take a picture before tucking the car away for winter. It was lucky that I kept the old one, because I discovered that I’d been wrong and that ‘meddling without knowing’ is the worst thing to do.

    What I’ve discovered is that the rear lights of cars sold in France had to conform to a unique French law. We all know that for a few decades front lights had to be yellow, but very few seem to be aware that for two years only, 1966-1967, the right-hand reversing light had to be of an amber colour. For Mercedes-Benz, this applied to Pagodas, Fintails and S-series saloons and coupes.

    So now I don’t know what to do. the ‘originality is a must’ side of me says to refit the historically correct one. My aesthetic side prefers to keep the wrong one I have just installed, which looks right to 99% of the population. I have always kept the 230 as original as possible, so I can guess what the final decision will be, but I wonder why, after 13 years of research, I couldn’t have found this out two weeks before I bought the light. I would have been less tempted to change it - and I’d have €200 more in my account...

    Clockwise from top: Mercedes as saved from the scrapyard; ‘correct’ (amber) and ‘incorrect’ (white) reversing lights; how the 1967-Mercedes-Benz-230-Fintail looks at present - aesthetically right, yet wrong!
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    £ One to buy #1965 / #Mercedes-Benz-190 / #Mercedes-Benz-190-W110 / #1965-Mercedes-Benz-190-W110 / #1965-Mercedes-Benz-190 / #Mercedes-Benz-W110 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-Fintail / #Fintail

    Cream and red is an excellent colour combination for a classic #Mercedes – and while this might be a base spec 190, it’s no less charming for it.

    Free from much of the chrome trimming of the more upmarket Fintails, this 190 is if anything better for its simplicity. Finished in Ivory and with red trim echoing the traditional German racing colours, it looks the part – and a pleasant change from the black and grey which seem to dominate on these models. There’s no rust, and the chrome is all in good condition. The original hubcaps are present and match the body – and it’s nice to see that previous owners haven’t succumbed to the temptation of whitewall tyres.

    The interior is relatively sparse as a base spec car, but this doesn’t mean it’s lacking in comforts. None of the plastics on the dash are cracked, which suggests to us that there has been a replacement. The steering wheel however is delightfully patinated – several hairline cracks and the rim is split in a number of places. Yet this doesn’t detract – if anything, a small sign of use endears us to the car and makes it feel more like a used and loved example than a museum piece. The seats were recoloured just prior to our test, and the shade of red was a little sudden for our liking. This will settle with time and use though, and the interior certainly lives up to the rest. From cold it starts well, settling into a smooth idle. There’s little evidence of recent mechanical work, and while there are invoices in the history file we can’t translate from Japanese. It has however been recently serviced and inspected by experienced mechanics, and we had no concerns about how it felt on test. There was no evidence of leaking fluids, and it ran like a new example might.

    The gearbox is a delight. Column mounted changes are far nicer than floor mounted gearboxes of this era, and this car is no exception – it takes car on the way from second into third but barring that the gearbox is one of the nicest we’ve used. The clutch bites fairly high, and it’s easy to make rapid progress. Despite the lack of power steering it’s not a heavy car to drive, and it’s easy to place on the road even as left hand drive. There was a little hesitation early in our test under load at low revs, but this cleared with use and we believe was owing to a period of having been started and moved while cold. It wouldn’t deter us from purchase given how rapidly it cleared. The history file is relatively small, and mostly in Japanese. It is believed that the car was imported from Japan into Britain in 2015, though as we cannot read Japanese we couldn’t understand the limited history file. It’s not known where the car was prior to its time in Japan, though with the help of Mercedes Benz a potential owner may be able to establish its original country of sale.

    CONCLUSION

    While it’s not the cheapest Fintail on the planet, it’s certainly one of the nicest, and it drives just as well as it looks. In years to come, cars like this will appreciate – we’ll wish we’d bought them while they were affordable. This car has clearly been cherished – and while we can’t trace its history prior to its time in Japan the condition speaks for itself. Don’t worry about the lack of cylinders either – it’s more than pokey enough and will definitely put a smile on your face.

    Above: Seats have been recoloured recently.

    BUY THIS CAR FROM: Spurr Cars, Old Wheel Farm, Rowell Lane, Loxley, Sheffield S6 6SD 0114 2315000 www.americancarsuk.com

    "Having been recently serviced, it ran like a new example."
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    Time to take W110/111 #Fintail saloons more seriously

    / #Mercedes-Benz-280SE-W111 / #Mercedes-Benz-280SE / #Mercedes-Benz-W111 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-W110 / #Mercedes-Benz-Fintail / #1963 / #1964

    Sixties Mercedes saloons just look better and better. Long eclipsed by the more dashing W108s, the Fintail cars still have wood trim, vertical speedos and mostly white steering wheels. Yet despite their period Stuttgart charm prices have stayed resolutely lat.

    Last January SWVA sold a blue ’1963 220S with 52,000 warranted and four owners for only £6250, followed in August by Anglia dispatching a beautifully restored ’1964 220S in dark red for £15,960. In March 2016 CCA sold a cracking factory black ’1966 230S with red trim for £10,120. These feel very cheap cars now.

    As all Mercs from the Sixties and Seventies continue climbing, the ’1959 to ’1968 110s and 111s have been left in the slipstream of Pagodas and 190SLs.

    But their familiar silhouette and dinky tailins mark them out as the definitive Benz of the period and we should be taking them more seriously.

    However, there are signs of movement in the trade. Cheltenham Motor Works is offering a green ’1963 300SE with 53k and full history just out of long-term storage and needing recommissioning for £50k while Auto Cave in Belgium is selling a mint ’1964 restored ex-Peruvian ambassador 220Sb in metallic grey for £17,350. But the odd cheap one still pops up, like the ’1963 220S with PS Autos in Surrey. A straight example needing underside welding, it’s up at just £5000.

    As the lowest-priced classic Sixties Benz, the Fintail has to be worth a look. Fine examples are currently available at a fraction of what you’d pay to restore one.

    VALUE 2012 £9500
    VALUE NOW £16k
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    A look back at Mercedes that deserved more recognition for their sometimes hidden qualities - this month... Why I love the W112 300SE? This much style didn’t come cheap in the early 1960s, the 300SE the ultimate Fintail and a favourite of one Mercedes Enthusiast contributor.

    Sports cars have never really appealed to me. I can’t deny the prettiness of the Pagoda SLs, but I have always preferred room to stretch out and the space for suitcases or shopping.

    That’s not to say I don’t appreciate performance and handling, though - I like a fast car as much as the next man or woman, and if it goes round bends without a fight so much the better.

    But style is equally important. I admire discretion in a car, yet I’ll admit a weakness for the American excesses of the late 1950s - whitewall tyres, an abundance of chrome, and tail fins that made a car appear capable of space travel.
    Convey these requirements to a late 1950s #Mercedes-Benz engineer and the only result can be the Mercedes-Benz Fintail, and more specifically the #W112 300SE . In taxi cab W110 #190D form, the #Fintail looked elegant, perhaps even (dare I say it) cute, but mix in an extra dose of style, luxury and power, and I don’t believe Mercedes made a better looking car than the 300SE saloon.

    Growing affluence on both sides of the Atlantic meant Mercedes’ timing seemed just right. Launched at the #1959 Frankfurt motor show following over two million miles of prototype testing, the initial cars were the 111-series 220 Mercedes. The car maker’s innovative unitary construction included a passenger safety cell and crumple zones. In #1961 , the range grew with four-cylinder ( #W110 ) base models and a flagship - the #W112 300SE. Faced with the opportunity to sell luxury cars to the burgeoning American market, some manufacturers went entirely too far-witness Jaguar’s gigantic Mk 10-while Mercedes-Benz simply went as far as it dared.

    EXCLUSIVE LUXURY

    Hugely expensive at twice the price of a 220 model, the 300SE saloon stood out with extra chrome along its waist and around the C-pillars. An automatic transmission, servo-assisted steering, air suspension and a #Bosch fuel injected, three-litre alloy engine made for an impressive specification on paper.

    Although whitewall tyres were an optional extra, you’ll rarely find a period image of a 300SE that isn’t wearing a set, while discs on all four wheels with separate circuits for front and rear meant the braking was fail-safe. The air suspension used pressurised rubber bags in conjunction with hydro-pneumatic shock absorbers, allowing the car to self level. Large rubber bump stops ensured the 300SE could still be driven should the system fail.

    The W112 was deliberately kept apart from the lesser Fintails, even to the extent of having dealers put the cars in separate showrooms. It wasn’t until #1962 that 111-series coupes and cabriolets were introduced, yet the these would still outsell the 300SE by 24 to 1.

    Vertical speedo later dropped by Mercedes-Benz.
    With this much legroom who needed a LWB?
    Mechanical injection for two valve #M189 unit.
    Chromework suited the North American buyers.
    I don’t believe Mercedes made a better looking car than the #300SE .
    The perfect grand touring Benz saloon.
    Rear swing axle with air spring set up.

    The four-door saloon kept its fins, which even by 1959 were becoming passe, but the coupe and cabriolet models had theirs shaved, radically altering their appearance to complement clean lines that still look fresh to this day.
    We say ‘fins’, but Mercedes called them ‘peilstege’ - sight lines to aid parking. Mercedes chief designer Karl Wilfert conceded that they were, “In Rufweite der Mode” - within earshot of fashion. Mercedes had clearly attempted to Americanise the car, and Americans seemed touched by the gesture, but not enough to buy Pintails in significant numbers.

    A four-speed automatic transmission was standard on the 300SE, but #Mercedes would fit a four-speed manual gearbox if the customer insisted; in March 1963 the manual gearbox officially became an option, and a long- wheelbase version of the range topping Fintail debuted.

    A 1964 Autocar roadtest described the 300SEas “neither beautiful nor dainty,” but it had a “massive and solid appearance.” Testers drove it the length of the Ml motorway at 100mph (most UK motorways were less busy then, with no speed limit) and concluded after 1,465 miles of testing that “the comfort and size are well up to the Mercedes image.”

    The 300SE is hardly flawless. The saloon drew criticism over its Americanised speedometer design and those tailfins, which so rapidly dated its appearance. A prodigious thirst meant Mercedes was forced to fit a larger fuel tank to models made after #1963 , the increase from 65 to 82 litres offering just 50 miles more range. The air suspension suffers from water leaking past the seals - especially if the car isn’t used regularly - and, with all that shiny chromework, they are prone to rust.

    NO COMPROMISE

    The 300SE was - and still is - complicated, and expensive to buy, maintain or repair. The 5,202 examples built were bought by rich enthusiasts who refused to settle for a lesser Mercedes which, in many ways, were just as good. They wanted luxury and obvious prestige, regardless of the cost.

    But fashions had already began to change, and when the six- cylinder Pintail’s replacement arrived in 1965, it was clear Stuttgart had played the W108’s design very safe. Mercedes claimed the W112’s indirect successor - the range topping W100 600 - was designed to be the best car in the world. That’s how good it had to be to follow the 300SE.

    The Fintail saloons certainly would not be the last vehicles Mercedes-Benz built for the American market, but they were the last to be styled for it.

    Mercedes-Benz 300SE W112 Fintail
    Engine M189 2.996CC 6-cyl
    POWER 168bhp@5.400rpm
    TORQUE 184lb ft @ 4.000rpm
    TRANSMISSION 4-speed auto, RWD
    WEIGHT 1.565kg
    0-62MPH 10.7sec
    Top speed 115mph
    FUEL CONSUMPTION 20.6mpg
    YEARS PRODUCED 1961-1965

    Figures for a #1964 on car - 300SEs built before then had 158bhp/185lb ft torque, fuel consumption determined at X of top speed (110km/h. 68mph) plus 10 per cent.
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