Author Topic: Which was Mercedes' best era?  (Read 13703 times)

michaeld

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Which was Mercedes' best era?
« on: 01 March 2006, 06:59 PM »
Hi all,
After my last long-winded post I thought I'd be brief: In what era/decade did MBz make its greatest cars?

Denis

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #1 on: 02 March 2006, 12:39 AM »
If we are talking about "normal" passenger cars, the short answer is the years when Fritz Nallinger and Rudoplh Uhlenhaut were of some importance (194?-1972) ! the answer lies in an historic recorded statement by Rudoplh explaining the "ideas" of Daimler-Benz that came from the late 30s racing requirements. The fuehrer had a strict budget and wanted results - the young engineers did not dare deceive him  :o they had to come up with a plan to succeed !

 I only wished I could find the source of said recording : it explains how they had to test individual components for the Grand Prix cars and then made a sum of all these tested components : it breeds a culture of refining everything. In the postwar years, this mentality was carried on by the two figures named in this post with spectacular results starting with the ponton.

By the early 80s, when that generation had retired or died, the accountants took over. The results could be seen by the late 80s.

Denis

Paris, France


John Hubertz

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #2 on: 02 March 2006, 04:28 AM »
I'd say an argument can be made for the era our cars were produced in....another reason I dearly love them.

If "excellence" is relative, then look at the relatives!!

1977 Ford (Lincoln):


1977 MB:

During a period when planned obsolescence was all the rage in design/build circles of the industry, Mercedes emphasized durability, reliability and timeless design elements.

I'm not so sure current-era Mercedes have gotten worse - but I'm DAMN sure that everything else has risen to the challenge posed by Mercedes and Porsche during the 70's and 80's.
John Hubertz
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(Hunter S. Thompson) 

1977 450SEL (Max Headroom)

Tomi

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #3 on: 02 March 2006, 10:56 AM »
The best era for mercedes, well to answer this you have to compare it to the other cars of the same era. And when doing that, I would think that all the years before about -95 were supreme for mercedes. After that came the problems, rust problems (for new cars I mean), electric problems and the paints became water soluble for environmental reasons and they dont last as before.

Nowadays a toyota is more reliable then a new mercedes and that was certainly not the case before. The best era could be the W115, W116, W123, W124 chassis era of mercedes. Well maybe aso W126 and W107
« Last Edit: 02 March 2006, 11:01 AM by Tomi »
MB 450 SEL -80 (oldtimer for the class)
MB E220T -95 (daily driver)
MB 230E -82 (a present for my son)

michaeld

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #4 on: 02 March 2006, 07:11 PM »
It's funny that John should show the old Lincoln pic.  When I was a fairly young (but old enough to remember) kid, my parents bought a '76 Mercury Montego station wagon.  They hauled my brother and I to lot after lot looking at cars.  It was a big decision as to which car to buy.  So mid 70's cars were "planted" in my soul.
70's cars get no respect by a lot of motor heads.  The smog and govm't bumper regs are the usual culprits cited.  Technology has overcome a lot of the problems that made high horsepower and low emissions mutually incompatible missions.  70's engineers had to overcome a lot of technological obstacles.
I like old cars because I like to be surrounded by a lot of metal, and I like to have a lot of cargo room in a four door.
The 50s-70s cars have these things.  The 50s and early 60's cars were usually underpowered by today's standards, though stylistically beautiful.  And, as time goes on, rust and corrosion has become more and more of a problem.  It's getting harder and harder to go out and find a clean older car these days, without having to put a lot of money into expensive restoration.
I know that this is slightly altering the post topic, of just looking at the best cars era by era, and thinking in terms of 'the best cars of which one can purchase a clean specimen without taking out a 2nd mortgage,' but I wonder - in terms of buying classic cars today - if the 70's might be the best bets after all?  There are still a lot of clean cars from the 70's available at pretty good prices. 

Denis

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #5 on: 03 March 2006, 01:10 AM »
Quote
The best era could be the W115, W116, W123, W124 chassis era of mercedes. Well maybe aso W126 and W107

Look at the chief and the body designers :
W115 : Uhlenhaut/Bracq, W116:Uhlenhaut/Sacco,W123:Uhlenhaut/Sacco,W124/ No Uhlenhaut...and most people now say that the W123 was a better (read traditional Mercedes reliabilitydurability) car than the W124. W126: the last good big one, W107:Uhlenhaut/Sacco

Also, while they are harder to find, look at the build quality of the W108/W109 : the W116 is actually a notch down.

Mercedes-Benz had apparently fired ALL their accountants back then  ;)

A final joke by Paul Bracq : "instead of selling the Maybach, they could build an updated 600 and make more money is money is the only point today". As many of you know, Paul Bracq designed the bodywork of the 600 and several other classics.

Denis

Paris, France

John Hubertz

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #6 on: 03 March 2006, 05:48 AM »
I agree - the Maybach would be a wonderful modern 6.9/600 variant....I'm not OK with AMG this and that....  to me the performance Mercedes I enjoy the most are the "stealth" models.....

(off topic musings)
(sigh)  I suppose I'll sell the 450 soon enough and get a low-mileage 6.9 just on general principles and underlying Freudian issues.....(MY 116 is BIGGER then YOUR 116)

One thing I find interesting is the objections of so many Euro and Aussie owners to the 300SD variant that was North America-Only....   Those cars are cherished here and TONS of them are well beyond 300,000 miles.
(Ahemm - back to topic):

Besides - until they get a revised set of body dimensions the Maybach looks like a "blinged-out" SEL anyway - see this month's road and track for a styling analysis.
John Hubertz
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
(Hunter S. Thompson) 

1977 450SEL (Max Headroom)

michaeld

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #7 on: 03 March 2006, 12:22 PM »
John Cleese was once asked by an interviewer, "So, is there one thing you'd like to be remembered by?"  He said, "Yes there is one.  When I'm gone, I'd like my friends to say, 'You know, old Cleesy had his faults, but he did have the most enormous d**k.'"  The interviewer (a woman) exclaimed, "I mean the sketch."
I suppose to some extent all of us 450 SEL 4.5 owners suffer from motor envy.  I must confess, one day when I was looking for parts on ebay I came across a 6.9 trunk emblem and thought, "No one would ever know..."

The reality for me is that I drive like a little old lady.  I don't scream out of red lights, and I don't blur past other cars on the freeway.  Putting me behind the wheel of a 6.9 would be like putting a eunuch in the bed of a beautiful nymphomaniac.  It would just be wrong somehow.  That said, even a eunuch has his fantasies, I suppose.

While I still adhere to my belief voice on another post that the 6.9's M100 is a fundamentally less durable engine than the M117 (Of course, you could keep a 74 AMC Pacer on the road if you keep replacing parts forever), I also unequivocally state that the 6.9 is the epitome of the 450 SEL.  Our 4.5 cars are fundamentally less fast, less valuable, less sexy, and less cool than 6.9s.

Denis' post had me genuflecting in the direction of Paris.  Denis makes me want to look into the 108/109 cars.  Motor envy aside, maybe I want me one of those old but gold beauties?

Denis points out that the designer of the cars ultimately results in their quality (or lack thereof).  He also mentions the accountants - who safeguard profitability.  He is clearly right.  But I also wonder this: in addition to the vision of the leadership of a car maker, how important is the satisfaction of the line workers?  It seems like every unionized assembly plant worker in the world is just angry and bitter about everything these days.  Did Mercedes build quality rise and fall with the happiness levels of its employees?

OzBenzHead

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #8 on: 03 March 2006, 03:18 PM »
... One thing I find interesting is the objections of so many Euro and Aussie owners to the 300SD variant that was North America-Only ...

I'm not aware of any Aussie objections to the 300SD - it's just that we've never had them here.

Quote
... until they get a revised set of body dimensions the Maybach looks like a "blinged-out" SEL anyway - see this month's road and track for a styling analysis.

I'll seek out a Road and Track. Meanwhile, IMO, the Maybach is externally uninspired at best; internally it is the ultimate in crass! Only the nouveau riche (renowned for lack of taste) would like such gross flashiness, surely. Sure, the W100 was trimmed out to the (then) max of luxury, but it was reserved rather than tasteless.

By introducing the Maybach, DC has further devalued the M-B name by pushing it down the ladder to "second-best". I wonder if the Maybach will demonstrate the same disease (less unburstable reliability) as the '95-'05 Benz range.

Tomi

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #9 on: 04 March 2006, 02:26 AM »
Quote
The best era could be the W115, W116, W123, W124 chassis era of mercedes. Well maybe aso W126 and W107
Look at the chief and the body designers :
W115 : Uhlenhaut/Bracq, W116:Uhlenhaut/Sacco,W123:Uhlenhaut/Sacco,W124/ No Uhlenhaut...and most people now say that the W123 was a better (read traditional Mercedes reliabilitydurability) car than the W124. W126: the last good big one, W107:Uhlenhaut/Sacco

I think the 124 is as good as the 123, The 124 has a better feel (if the axle rubbers are intact) and is a more modern version of a 123.  Durability, I dont know, but the 123 is also prone to rust problems. I have no experience with the 108, it is so rare nowadays.

My first experience with mercedes was when I was a kid of 5 and my father had just bought a new W115 (250 gasoline). It was a fantastic white car. We were living in Bagdad at that time (then it was very peaceful and a beautiful place, much before Saddam, -66 I think) and when leaving the place, we drove all the way from Irak to Finland, thru Libanon-Turkey-Greece-Jugoslavia- and so on, with the mercedes of course. Must be about 5000 km. I still have memories of that, but I have to admit I have never been in a W115 since, although we have them here quite a few. The W115 is a great car.


MB 450 SEL -80 (oldtimer for the class)
MB E220T -95 (daily driver)
MB 230E -82 (a present for my son)

Denis

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #10 on: 04 March 2006, 10:18 AM »
Hello gentlemen

Oh la-la so many ideas in these posts that I MUST reply to.


First ,the M100 versus M116/117 engines : the M100 was the first OHC V-8 Mercedes ever designed - I know this engine from the days when I had a 6.3 : it is incredible in weight balance and quality. The bottom end is so massive and well balanced that I once got mine to idle at 525 rpm !!! if anything, it was overkill...and too heavy. The second V-8 from Mercedes was the M116 and they did take the quality from supreme to very high  >:( ;) and improved the engine in terms of weight.

I once showed a cross-section of an M100 to an experienced engine designer at Renault and he had one comment : the extreme curvature of the exhaust ports (angle of valve heads to exhaust manifold plane was over 90 degrees and would naturally lead to very hot exhaust runners right under the valve gear. This could be a thermal weakness and lead to problems... depending on the quality of the engine  ;)

The only real problem with the M100 is high price of parts. That second V-8 is finally a better solution and perhaps the best ever built at Mercedes : the port profiles are more conventional while the engine oil supply is still huge : a 3.5 has almost as much oil reserve as a 6.3. As for the 6.9, it has a huge advantage : still the same "hotspot" exhaust ports but the most glorious of oil systems.

Now Tomi, I think that the W124 is a much better car than the W123, it has better suspension but durability-wise - they are not as good as their predecessor.

In conclusion, the Maybach versus 600 comparison.

The Maybach is a worldcom "go-like-hell" car : it is "vulgar" as Ozbenzhead says because it is a bloody mobile office ! when you get tired, you just throw the seat back and take a nap. You are important but must get hopping before some other company launches a buy-out on another that you are trying to acquire. You just have to be there on time to do business ! You can email a fine hotel down the road and settle in comfortable accomodations with a swimming pool. You might even bite into a hamburger because you are so hungry.

The 600 was an aristocrat's (people respect me, I as go as I choose) car : it was actually a small personal office where you could take a friend to sample some fine 20 year old scotch after a long walk in a park to discuss international politics. You could talk there, even smoke a fine cigar but did not sleep there - taht is NOT proper. You were not interested in quick communications as people actually WAITED for your appointments at the office, later, next week ! You could also ask teh chauffeur to use the telephone to contact a good friend. And you just drove up to his castle and dined in a large dining hall with some well dressed guests. You might even enjoy some "truffe au chocolat" before the meal.

This says it all to me.

Now the 108 : beware, these cars are also complicated beats, many parts, bizarre rear suspensions and ont even think of a W109 or an M189 engine unless your bank account is ready !

Still, they are wonderful sedate saloons.

Denis

Paris, France



John Hubertz

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #11 on: 04 March 2006, 12:10 PM »
That Maybach article was in Motor Trend - one of the last two months - nuevo Camaro on the cover.
John Hubertz
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
(Hunter S. Thompson) 

1977 450SEL (Max Headroom)

Denis

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #12 on: 05 March 2006, 01:26 AM »
Quote
But I also wonder this: in addition to the vision of the leadership of a car maker, how important is the satisfaction of the line workers?  It seems like every unionized assembly plant worker in the world is just angry and bitter about everything these days.  Did Mercedes build quality rise and fall with the happiness levels of its employees?

Well michaeld, are you teasing here ? OK, you ask the question and here is the short answer :

In Germany, the Adenauer years (fifties) brought prosperity to an auto worker but social practices that were seen as unfair by unions (like no pay on sick days). By the sixties, unions threatened to support the socialists (SPD) or even teh communists if changes were not quickly made. They got to sit on company review boards and see financial statements. They "shared" information and could explain to workers just WHY a raise was not possible at this time. They got into a "social partnership" with factory owners and productivity soared, the workplace climate being strike-free.

The German auto worker of the sixties had the best social benefits (state), respectability and standard of living of any worker in Europe. In the days of the W116, the social-democrat Willy Brandt (SPD), was chancellor.

Today, this is all being dismantled into the neo-liberal age vision (whose goals do not appear very clear to me) : Germany is now fiercely political and unstable. Hoping for the best for my German friends.

I am a strong supporter of the Franco-German friendship.

Denis

Paris, France

michaeld

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #13 on: 05 March 2006, 02:50 PM »
No, Denis, I am not teasing here (though I certainly love a good teasing!),

You mentioned some of the key components involved with the making of a good car.  But I believe that the guys who put the darned things together have to be part of the equation.
I really enjoyed reading your take on German automaking in the 50s and 60s.  My understanding is that Benz very nearly went under in the early years after WW2, and was building off of designs intended before the war with a destroyed infrastructure.  But the German worker was working to build, and not to fight a self-destructive war.  I imagine they were quite content to build Germany by building Benzes.

But let me give you a hint about what I'm talking about by focusing on the USA.  Let me begin w/ a persoanl example when I worked for the US Postal Service.  Despite good pay and benefits, workers were sliggish and hostile.  I watched employees literally try to walk as slowl as possible rather than work productively.  During the war, the USA had were wage controls, and automakers gave increased benefits packages (medical + retirement) to attract workers.  This certainly created a Paradise for American autoworkers, but to coin Milton... Paradise (can be) Lost.

The American autoworker came to expect unreasonably high compensation packages to be the status quo.  And as the compensation slowed down, so did their work.  Even though they were the highest paid laborers in the world, they became bitter and dissatisfied.  And since they were devoted to the unions that brought them all their previous successes, they fought hard for everything that gave advantage to the union.  One result was that they fought any "labor saving" devices that reduced their rolls.  Robotics were resisted to the last.  The union workers wanted the same old inefficiencies because they wanted more union members.

Basically the unions began to hurt the big US automakers coming and going: coming by demanding a contuation in wage packages that was no longer sustainable; going because they insisted on preventing better and cheaper building methods so as to keep all the union jobs.  There are a LOT of reasons for the demise of the US car makers, but it would be a mistake to omit the workers' role.  At times they were smug and complacent - and their productivity and quality suffered because they had guaranteed jobs.  At times they were bitter and hostile - and their productivity suffered because they thought they were getting the shaft. 

Japanese quality improved dramatically because the workers and management were on the same page.  They were a team dedicated to the same goals.  During WW2 the USA committed itself wholeheartedly to victory... and became the greatest power in world history as a result.

If workers are content, if they are committed to their company's strength and prosperity, if they take pride in what they are building, I believe good cars will result even if other things aren't perfect.  But if workers are complacent or bitter, I don't think good cars will result even if management plans the perfect car.

It would be interesting to read surveys of the labor forces of the world's car companies to see if worker pride and satisfaction and car quality are inextricably connected.  What do you think? 

alabbasi

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Re: Which was Mercedes' best era?
« Reply #14 on: 05 March 2006, 08:31 PM »
I would have to say (while ducking for cover) that it has to be the 80's. I think that that 70's r107, w116 and w114 cars are excellent and laid a great foundation for what was to come. But I think my hat has to come off to the W126 cars. They look modern to this day and had the longest production run of any of the S-Class cars (1980-1991). Most of the Mercedes Benz mechanics that I have talked to say that they are the best Mercedes ever built.

A Euro spec 560SEL or SEC is still an excellent performer and quite beautiful.



The w123 and R107 just got better during the 80's and the w124 was a marvel in itself. Even the 190E was an excellent car, I don't think they could go wrong during that time. The 70's cars rusted like you wouldn't believe and the 90's cars had electrical problems that they are still suffering.
With best regards

Al
Dallas, TX USA.