A tail-fin Benz from that blessed time when trunk badges denoted displacement
Given the continued presence of W123 Mercedes-Benz cars on the streets, embodying the image of the “vintage Benz” alongside the W108 cars, it’s easy to forget what came before them. Mercedes’ history in America certainly did not begin with the W123 or its more luxurious siblings, but finding an example of a sedan between the Adenauer and the Pagoda is a tall order these days.
The sedan in the photo above is one of those rare cars, hailing from Mercedes’ short-lived Heckflosse or tail-fin era. Codenamed W110, it’s a midsizer positioned below Stuttgart’s more luxurious W112 cars, but it shared a large number of components with them. In a nutshell, the less expensive W110/W111 cars were simpler, less powerful versions of Mercedes’ sedans of the time, lacking the luxury features and chrome details of the more upscale sedans. This makes them far more difficult to spot today — because they were the everyday sedans of the time, they didn’t get be pampered or preserved, in contrast to the pricey coupes and sedans in Stuttgart’s lineup.
The W110 range debuted in 1961. If you have seen or remember the early cars at all, they likely wore the 190 badges with some letters after them. This platform received an update in 1965, gaining slightly more powerful versions of the M121 four-cylinder engines in base form. The two gas models from this range were badged 200, for the 2.0-liter inline-four, and 230 for the 2.3-liter inline-six. Yes, this was still that magical time when badges actually corresponded to displacement — a nearly extinct feature in today’s German cars.
The easiest way to tell that this 200 sedan is from the later 1965-1968 series of cars is the orange indicator lighting: Cars from 1961 and later wore them on the shoulderline, just ahead of the side mirrors, while the later cars wore them below the headlights. This gives the 200 a busier look, but it also mimics the large oval headlight look of the plusher W112 sedans.
The tail-fin era was a short one for Mercedes-Benz — even the German automaker was not immune to trends from across the Atlantic — but these days there are probably well over a hundred Pagodas in the U.S. for every one of these. You won’t spot a 200 at Pebble, or even a marque concours with a lot of rare Benzes, as there aren’t enough of these in the whole country to fill up a Safeway parking lot. And that made this street find a special treat.
Writer: Jay Ramey
Published: March 27, 2019