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SNAPSHOT 345: 1957-62 Mercedes-Benz 300D Adenauer

In 1951 Mercedes-Benz introduced their W186 Model 300. This four-door luxury saloon, the company’s flagship model, was built in three series, A, B and C (although these designations were added later by enthusiasts rather than by the company).

It was a direct competitor for the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and Bentley S1 and found a ready market among state and business leaders. Options included a glass partition, VHF mobile telephone, and dictation machine.

The car in our Snapshot is the W189 300D, introduced in 1957 as the successor to the first three series.

From the W186 through to the W189, these cars were often known as the ‘Adenauer’. Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), used six custom cabriolet, hardtop saloon, and landaulet versions of the W186 and W189 during his tenure from 1949 to 1963. The custom features in these cars included writing desks, sirens, curtains, dividing partitions and sunroofs.

For the W186 an all-new 3-litre overhead cam, aluminium head M186 straight-six engine was fed by twin downdraft Solex carburettors. An innovative diagonal head-to-block joint allowed for oversized intake and exhaust valves, and the engine produced 113bhp at a compression ratio of 6.4:1. It was designed for reliability under prolonged hard use, with deep water jackets, thermostatically controlled oil cooling, copper-lead bearings and a hardened crankshaft. There was no limited cruising speed: the car could run at its maximum speed all day.

The first three W186 series were updated gradually with such additions as vacuum assisted power brakes, front door vent windows, increased power, a larger rear window and optional 3-speed Borg-Warner automatic transmission.

The limousine-length Mercedes-Benz 300D was introduced in 1957. Fuel injection gave an impressive 178bhp output. A lengthened wheelbase and new bodywork added 4 inches of rear seat leg room over the 300C. Its new features included modernised bodywork, and a unique pillarless hardtop configuration. Power steering and Artic-Kar air-conditioning were new options on the 300D.

Despite their size, neither the W186 nor the longer-wheelbase W189 were wallowing limousines. Their four-wheel independent suspension (double wishbones at the front and double coil spring swing axle at the rear) on a rigid X-frame chassis gave all the 300 cars excellent handling, and a reputation as fine driver’s cars. A dashboard-operated rear load-levelling suspension engaged a torsion bar to increase stiffness by one-third when needed.

A total of 12,190 W186 cars were built between 1951 and 1957, and 3,077 300D models from 1957 to 1962. The 300D limousine was replaced as the company flagship in 1963 by the 600 Pullman “Grosser Mercedes”.

Photo courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive – from a donation of photographs by Graham Ashworth 

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