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Motoring: Mercedes Benz Fintail Series - 1959

Of the continental European carmakers, Mercedes and Volkswagen made the greatest impact in the 1960s as both had assembly facilities in Australia (Port Melbourne and Clayton in metropolitan Melbourne). In 1957 Mercedes Benz was well advanced in a feasibility study for the local assembly of cars. This entailed obtaining Government approval and seeking out a suitable local partner with production facilities. The existing import license entitlements held by distributors, and their willingness to place these at the disposal of the local joint venture played a vital role in Mercedes Benz getting the green light from the authorities. Mercedes Benz began local assembly of its cars at Standard's Port Melbourne plant now run by the newly re-established Australian Motor Industries. Passenger vehicle sales show 729 locally assembled Mercedes-Benz cars were sold between July 1959 and June 1960. By 1960 Mercedes-Benz had increased passenger car sales by 10 fold annually, selling as many cars per year as had been sold in the first fifty years.

Mercedes Benz dominated the luxury car market, which had previously been dominated by British makes like Jaguar, Rover and Humber, with its Fintail series, which went on sale in 1961, a year after its release in Europe. Mercedes offers a range of models (230, 250 and 300) with the choice of petrol or deisel engines. So well received were these vehicles, the 113 Series Pagoda 230SL sports convertible was introduced in 1963, followed by the 600 GL (Grosser) in 1966. For a while, Mercedes sold more 600 Grossers in Australia than any other market.

Fintail is a nickname given to the W110, W111, and W112 series of Mercedes sedans produced from 1959 to 1968. These replaced the Ponton series sedans introduced in 1953. These series' modest tailfin era styling reflected the US-led trend. In Mercedes terminology the short rear fins were designated Peilstege, parking aids which marked the end of the car for aid in backing. The production series included:

Six-cylinder sedans
1959 68 Mercedes-Benz W111  220b, 220Sb, 220SEb, 230S
1961 65 Mercedes-Benz W112  300SE

Four-cylinder sedans
1961 68 Mercedes-Benz W110  190c, 190Dc (1961 65), 200, 200D, 230 (1961 65)

Design of a replacement for the two-door Pontons began in 1957. Since most of the chassis and drivetrain were to be unified with the sedan, the scope was focused on the exterior styling. The basic Ponton cabin was widened and squared off, with a large glass greenhouse improving driver visibility. A milestone in car design were front and rear crumple zones for absorbing kinetic energy on impact. The automaker also patented retractable seatbelts. The rear featured small American-style tailfins, subtle compared to the fintails' and evocative of the later squarish styling of the W108/W109.

All modes initally shared the 2195 cc M127 straight-six engine carried over from the previous generation, producing 95 hp (71 kW) at 4800 rpm and capable of accelerating the heavy car to 160 km/h (155 if fitted with optional automatic gearbox). The 220Sb featured twin carburettors and produced 110 hp (82 kW) at 5000 rpm, raising top speed to 165 km/h (103 mph) (160 km/h (99 mph)) and improving 0 100 km/h acceleration to 15 seconds (16 on the 220b). The top range 220SEb featured Bosch fuel injection producing 120 hp (89 kW) at 4800 rpm, with top speed of 172 km/h (107 mph) (168 km/h (104 mph) for auto) and a 0 100 km/h in 14 seconds.

In 1961, the W111 chassis and body were shared with the even more basic 4-cylinder W110 and a luxury W112 version built on the W111 chassis with its body and the Type 300 series' 3-litre M189 big block 6-cylinder engine, many standard power features, and a high level of interior and exterior trim.

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