All of the Mercedes-Benz sedan lines built during the ’50s and the ’60s got coupe-bodied derivatives, and the case of the Mercedes W 111 – W 112 coupe and cabrio makes no exception. Yet, it certainly was an exceptional achievement.
At the first glance, it seems pretty easy to take a sedan, shorten the wheelbase to a certain extent, chop the rear doors and enlarge the front ones – and here comes your brand new coupe. This idea also fits well the idea of exploiting as much as possible the potential of a techincal platform, even using it for more than one class of cars. Mercedes-Benz developed successfully this kind of philosophy during the second half of the 20th century. In fact, making Mercedes-Benz coupes out of the brand’s sedans was never something simple, since we are talking here about supreme refinement aspirations, as those of Mercedes-Benz, and highly sophisticated designers, as Paul Bracq, Friedrich Geiger and Bruno Sacco.
Drawing and elaborating the Mercedes W 111 – W 112 coupe, this was approached as a very complex process, A bit something like the effort spent by Leonardo da Vinci to paint the right kind of smile on Mona Lisa’s face, except we have here three prolific designers involved, who all had to agree finally about just one styling vision.
Cliché element of the sixties, applied on the Mercedes W 111 – W 112 sedans, the tail fins were not taken over for the Mercedes W 111 – W 112 coupe.
By the way, Paul Bracq and Bruno Sacco never liked them at all, as they said. While approaching his retirement age (he was working at Daimler-Benz since 1933), the german designer Friedrich Geiger was a deeply creative kind of person, always ready to embrace new points of vue. Three of the styling developments concerning the Mercedes W 111 – W 112 coupe show how the car was not drawn “just like that”. We have here a radical vision (Bracq, probably), with bubble-like windshield and SL/W 113 front grille. Then, an example of “doing it without pushing thing too far”: a “tail fin” coupe, immediately assimilable with the range of the Mercedes W 111 – W 112 sedans.
And one more: a drawing signed by Geriger, showing a rather angular glasshouse, with a dynamic line of the windshield and the rear pillar. Any of these designs might be considered more striking than the definitive shape of the Mercedes W 111 – W 112 coupe itself, yet none of them expresses in a such convincing manner the idea of a perfect harmony.
The Mercedes W 111 – W 112 coupe was shown to the public for the first time in February 1961, at the opening event of the Daimler-Benz Museum from Unterturkheim. Officially named Mercedes 220SE Coupe. It’s mission: to replace the old W 128-series (Mercedes “Ponton”) based coupes. The technical platform of the Mercedes W 111 – W 112 coupe was taken from the W 111 – W 112 sedan series without any wheelbase modification, yet all of the main body parts had a more or less different design.
The presentation of the cabrio version happened about half a year later, in August. The Mercedes W 111 – W 112 coupe and cabrio was widened six months later with the 300SE Coupe and 300SE Convertible. These more powerful versions had their debut at the 1962 Geneva Motor Show.
Three years later, when the Mercedes W 111 – W 112 sedans were replaced by the W 108 – W 109 series, the Mercedes W 111 – W 112 coupe and cabrio remained unchanged. In fact, their modern design could be considered as a relevant preview of what the W 108 – W 109 sedans brought in 1965. Anyway, the technical platform underneath these cars was un upgrade based on the W 111 – W 112 series. The engine upgrades specific to the “phase II” W 108 – W 109 sedans left it’s mark also on the Mercedes W 111 – W 112 coupe and cabrio.
New six and eight cylinder engines became available for them starting from 1968, respectively 1969. The V8-engined top version Mercedes 280SE 3.5, with a 3499 cc (200 PS) power unit under it’s bonnet, was able to reach the maximum speed of 210 km/h ant to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 9,5 s (manual gearbox). The production of the Mercedes W 111 – W 112 coupe and cabrio ended in 1971. Their total production figure was 32.804 units, 7456 of those being convertibles.