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Mercedes 300S. 70 years after the resurgence after the Second World War

After World War II, Mercedes needed a high-end model with which to regain its prestige. Thus, in 1951 the Paris Motor Show saw the presentation of the 300S. The coupe and enhanced version based on the 300 saloon (W186) of that same year. A vehicle that under its conservative aesthetics hides mechanical solutions that were the basis for the 300 1954SL. It is now seventy years old.

Of all the models created by Mercedes, the 540K Autobahn Kurier is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating. Which boasts an aerodynamic design where sportiness and gentleness go hand in hand in the manner of the coupe signed by Mercedes. What's more, its 5-liter in-line eight cylinder is capable of delivering 4CV. Not a negligible figure for the time, even more so if we take into account how the action of a compressor boosted it up to 180CV.

Of course, only occasionally at times when the driver needed extra power to overtake. Feature operated by a pedal responsible for releasing the gasoline contained in a small tank. Liquid that, for a few moments, supercharged the engine, having to wait a few minutes to perform the action again if necessary. A ingenious mechanism and very useful for certain moments, although constantly inadvisable as it could destroy the crankshaft.

Anyway, this use of the compressor in motoring for the early date of 1938 is truly amazing despite having already been used extensively in aviation. Another of the singularities of the 540K Autobahn Kurier, of which Mercedes only made two units. One of them -the only survivor to date- was delivered in Gibraltar to the Barcelona ophthalmologist Ignacio Barraquer, whose family guarded it for decades until its sale and transfer to the Keller collection.

540K winner of Pebble Beach 2021

Current owner who last August took over the triumph at the Pebble Beach Contest of Elegance thanks to this model. A perfect excuse to remember the Mercedes 300S. Another of the models that Doctor Barraquer had in his garage, which this October marks 70 years since its presentation at the Paris Motor Show.


After World War II the big German car brands faced a particular crossing of the desert until you find your way again. Thus, BMW had to manufacture pots and kitchen equipment. Products so far removed from the brand-new 328 with which he reigned in the Mille Miglia as necessary to survive after the war. In this sense, when Mercedes-Benz resumed its automobile production in 1946, it only had the mid-range passenger car. 170V apart from some industrial models needed for rebuilding.

A vehicle that sold more than 70.000 units before World War II, but that after it suffered from the obvious delays of a model born in 1936. Therefore, if Mercedes wanted to go back to being what it had been I needed to present a high-end vehicle where luxury and power are mixed with finishes at the highest level. Thus, the 1951S was born in 300. The model with which Mercedes returned to the market in all its splendor, emphasizing a long series of technical innovations with which to express its engineering chest.

Chassis and mechanics of a 300S

In fact, despite its conservative aesthetics underneath the 300S body, there are such advanced mechanical solutions that it was even the basis and inspiration for the 300 1954SL performance. All centered around its M188 engine. Variant of the legendary M186 with a three-liter inline six cylinder cast in aluminum. The same block fitted to the 300SL but also to the 300 Adenauer saloon (W186). A prestigious saloon whose coupe version was precisely the 300S thanks to a weight lowered to 1670 kilos and an increased power to 150CV.


With the 300 saloon Adenauer Mercedes returned to the segment of representation cars. Level where he moved with Bentley or Rolls thanks to this model that took over from the impressive 700 (W150) prior to the war. However, the launch of the 300S as a more performance and sporty two-door version was a success at an advertising level since the mixture of visual charm and power clamored from the rooftops for the return of Mercedes through the front door. Even more so if the price is taken into account.

Around 50% more than the saloon. Reason why only 216 units were manufactured throughout its four years in production. After that it was replaced by the 300SC in 1955. Second series of this top-of-the-range Mercedes, which included as its main novelty the direct injection applied for the first time to motorsport in series for the 300SL to raise it up to 176CV. An invention taken from aviation, where the brand had used it in the DB605 engine. The inverted V12 that powered the Nazi Messerschmitt BF109 / 110 fighters manufactured in numbers exceeding 40.000.

After this, in 1958 the 300SC (W188) ceased production, being replaced in 1961 by the coupe derived from the new 300SE (W112) saloons. Model designed by Friedrich Geiger. Responsible for the pre-war 500K, thus closing the circle of a history in which Mercedes is establishing its tradition of coupés derived from saloons. Something in which, seventy years later, the 300 Mercedes 1951SC has a lot to say.

Photographs: Catawiki / Mercedes-Benz / Pebble Beach

P.D. The unit with which we have illustrated this article is that of Doctor Ignacio Barraquer. Kept by the family for decades until its sale through Catawiki in 2017. A vehicle in perfect original condition, which has not received any notable restoration.

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.


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