By the mid 1950s the Mercedes-Benz model range was changing. The large, luxurious W187, W186 and W188 were all beginning to look rather dated. The ‘Ponton’ range of cars were proving to be a huge commercial success, but Mercedes-Benz didn’t have a full size luxury coupe to offer well heeled clients looking for exclusivity, comfort, luxury and prestige. Although the ‘Ponton’ series offered a two-door six-cylinder coupe, it didn’t offer the true size and luxury that Mercedes-Benz buyers really wanted. The shortened floorpan of the Ponton Coupes meant they weren’t true four-seat luxury coupes, and as the 1960s approached, Mercedes-Benz planned to chance that.
In 1959 the all new W111 Saloon was launched, with the distinctive and very American ‘fin tail’ design. Although Mercedes-Benz always claimed these were to assist with reversing, it was a clear nod to the fashionable fins that had taken American by storm in the 1950s. The W111 would bring the Mercedes-Benz range into the new era, introducing designed-in safety and signalling the end of the curvaceous 50s design that the brand had become so well known for.
Two years after the saloon arrived, Mercedes-Benz gave the world the W111 Coupe.
- A W111 Coupe is pure elgance…
- From any angle…
- Inside is luxurious and smart…
- And effortlessly comfortable.
When it came to reinterpreting the saloon into an elegant coupe, it was Paul Bracq who was chosen for the task – the name that’s instantly recognisable as the man behind the Pagoda.
The Bracq design that launched in 1961 softened the edges of the W111 saloon, retaining the same wheelbase but losing the distinctive tail fins. Where previous coupes from the brand had been shorter versions of the full size saloon, the W111 used the same wheelbase – a full size, luxury saloon and exactly what the buyers had been clamouring for. The big two-door coupe offered ample space for four adults without compromising on style and luxury; setting the mould from which every S Class coupe since has been cast.
Instead of shortening the wheelbase and losing visibility in the rear of the car thanks to the extended size of the C Pillar; the W111 Coupe lost central B Pillar to become a true pillar-less coupe. This style would come to epitomise the S Class coupe in years to come, offering the full experience of an open car (especially when combined with a sunroof) whilst retaining the rigidity and luxury of a closed coupe.
When Mercedes-Benz phased out the ‘fin tail’ design in 1965, they replaced the W111 and W112 saloons with the newer W108 and W109, but never offered those as a luxury coupe – instead the range topping W111 coupe lived on until 1971… when the big Coupe passed the ‘flagship four-seat coupe’ torch to none other than the C107 SLC.
- A 1967 W111 Saloon with…
- those distinctive fins…
- And a 1970 W108 saloon…
- With the fins now absent.
Where Mercedes-Benz coupes had traditionally been shortened Saloons, the C107 SLC is interesting because it is instead a lengthened sports car. The SLC is unique in the classic car world, being a model that is very hard to find a contemporary competitor for. Many would draw comparisons with a Jaguar E Type or Lotus 2+2, but in terms of true comfort and space for four adults, neither of these cars can hold a candle to the SLC.
The W111 and C107 SLC helped Mercedes-Benz to truly establish a foothold as the ultimate four-seat coupe, a section of the market that would be further explored and then dominated by the W126 SEC and it’s subsequent successors.
What we have in the W111 Coupe then is the great grandfather of the luxury Mercedes-Benz flagship, the first in a long line of beautifully designed and superbly appointed large two-door coupes that we now recognise as distinctly S Class.
As an ’S Class Coupe’ the W111 would not have a true successor until the W126 S Class two-door of 1981.
- 1971-1981 C107
- 1981-1991 C126
- 1991-1998 C140
- 1998-2006 C215
- 2007–2014 C216
- 2005-2020 C217
The W126 platform would launch the pillar-less coupe into a new era, opening new markets and redefining the very concept of the luxury coupe. It was a highly exclusive and prohibitively expensive car, a true icon of the 1980s and the perfect candidate to continue the legacy that had been laid down in the 1960s with the introduction of the W111. Mercedes-Benz set out to build a luxurious coupe for well-heeled customers, and created a segment of the market that we now instantly recognise.
Eventually the W126 gave way to the W140, and with that came a more sporting and dynamic approach with driver aids and handling assistance becoming the norm. Things changed again with the arrival of the C215, with the big coupe sliding further away from ‘luxury coupe’ and aligning itself closer to the ‘performance grand tourer’ segment. Each S Class Coupe that has followed in the footsteps of the W111, C107 and C126 has developed the concept in a slightly different way, but it is the groundwork laid down by the likes of the 280SE 3.5 upon which this luxury coupe concept is founded.
- The SLC, like an SL, but…
- longer, and more spacious…
- Still luxurious, uber comfortable…
- And more exclusive too.
Buying a Mercedes-Benz W111 or C107 Coupe
Both the W111 and C107 are superb cars to drive and own, well established in the classic car world and stalwarts in their own right. Within both camps, buyers seek out the late model, V8 cars, although in terms of values the SLC looks somewhat of a bargain compared to the six-figure sums that a W111 280SE 3.5 V8 will set you back. The very best SLCs are creeping upwards, but we still believe these cars represent quite the bargain when compared to what an equivalent SL or British alternative from the likes of Aston Martin or Jaguar might cost.
We are starting to see a shift in the perceptions of the SLC… Although this shape has always had a dedicated following, buyers are now starting to realise what capable, comfortable and well appointed cars these make as classics for regular use – and rightly so.
SLC prices won’t languish where they are for much longer, they are already on the march.
Are you looking for an SLC or W111 Coupe? Now is a great time to speak with Bruce, or browse our showroom.
We do happen to have one of the finest SLCs that money can buy…
This fully restored 380SLC is currently available in our showroom…