The name Mercedes-Benz today might be synonymous to luxury cars, but the German car-manufacturer has been around for more than a century and is the direct descendant of the first automobile. Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz freed the world from horse-driven transportation by building the world’s first internal combustion engine-powered conveyance in 1886. And since then, Mercedes-Benz has been at the forefront of motoring by becoming one of the most recognized and best-selling automotive brands in the world. Staying true to its slogan “Das Beste oder nichts”, which is German for ‘best or nothing’, the company has become a symbol of German engineering in the last 125 years. Out of all the legendary cars ever to wear the three-pointed star badge, here’s our pick of the 7 most iconic Mercedes-Benz cars of all time.
7. Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen (G-Wagen)
Claim to fame: The Mercedes-Benz G-Class, also sometimes called the G-Wagen, is a four-wheel drive luxury SUV that was originally designed to fulfill a military contract with the Shah of Iran, who at the time was a major shareholder in Daimler-Benz. Although, Mercedes-Benz is mostly known for luxurious sedans and some of the most iconic sports cars, the automaker managed to build one of the best off-road luxury SUVs ever made with the G-Wagen. Developed as a joined venture between Daimler-Benz and Austrian company Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the G-Wagen did not make its name as a combat vehicle but went on to become a global phenomenon. The current generation of the G-Wagen is a huge hit amongst celebrities and rappers, but the original 460-series Gelandewagen introduced in 1979 will always remain as an icon.
6. Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman
Claim to fame: Next on our list is the car that inspired Mercedes to create the S-Class range. The Mercedes-Benz 600 model line was an ultra-luxury sedan that was built in the 60s and 70s for the world leaders and hottest celebrities of its time. The Pullman variant was the stretched wheelbase version and everyone from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung to Elvis Presley owned it. This car was the ultimate luxury sedan for two decades, and yet less than 3,000 of them were ever built. In terms of technology, the Mercedes-Benz 600 series was way ahead of its time. It came with hydraulically operated moon roof, windows, trunk, and doors and included features like a liquor cabinet of Czech crystal.
5. Mercedes-Benz 540K
Claim to fame: Developed from the Mercedes-Benz 500K, sharing the same chassis, the 540K was a rear-wheel-drive sports car powered by a 5.4L supercharged inline eight, which made 180hp, and capable of reaching a top speed of 110mph. The 540K had an independent suspension all around, which is amazing considering that the car is from the 30s. Its top-notch performance, superior handling and ride quality and beautiful styling by Hermann Ahrens, all made it one of the best automobiles Mercedes has ever made. Less than 500 were built between 1935 and 1940, and the few all-original examples that have survived command top dollar at auctions.
4. Mercedes-Benz W25 Silver Arrow
Claim to fame: All the motorsports fans across the world are familiar with the name Silver Arrows given to the competition racing cars by Mercedes. The name was given by the press to Germany’s dominant Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union Grand Prix motor racing cars between 1934 and 1939. The story behind it is – for the Nurburgring race in 1934, grand prix cars were limited to 750 kilograms. The car Mercedes showed up with tipped the scales at 751. Alfred Neubauer had the bright idea of scraping all of the white paint off the W25 racecar, which not only allowed the car to race and win, but also made it look brilliant. After the 350 hp car of Von Brauchitsch won the race, the nickname Silver Arrow was born.
3. Benz-Patent Motorwagen
Claim to fame: In the list of most iconic Mercedes cars, how can we not include the 1886 Benz-Patent Motorwagen. As mentioned in the introduction, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz are credited for making the first car and the 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen is widely regarded as the first automobile in history. It was a three-wheeled automobile with a rear-mounted 954 cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine capable of producing .9 hp. Karl Benz officially unveiled his invention to the public on July 3, 1886 and only 25 were built in the next 7 years selling for $1000. The body was constructed of steel tubing with woodwork panels and steel-spoked wheels with solid rubber tires that were Benz’s own design. Steering was accomplished with a toothed rack that pivoted the unsprung front wheel and a simple belt system was used as a single-speed transmission, varying torque between an open disc and drive disc.
2. Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
Claim to fame: Jointly developed by Mercedes-Benz and McLaren Automotive, the SLR McLaren was a supercar built in England. Inspired by the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé of 1955, the SLR was one of the most capable supercars made by German automaker. The front-mid engined SLR McLaren made 617 horsepower from a 5.5-liter supercharged V-8 and 580 lb-ft of torque. It did 60 mph in just over 3.0 seconds, 11-second quarters and had a 211-mph top speed. At $450,000, it is also one of the ten most expensive cars in the world during its lifetime. Mercedes had planned to limit the total production of the SLR McLaren to 3500 units altogether, but with just 1400 units sold by the end of last year, the factory had to prematurely halt the production at the end of 2009. The SLR McLaren was succeeded by the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, which had less power and was a lot cheaper. Nevertheless, the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren was one of the most bonkers supercar built by the German automaker and has earned itself the status of an icon.
1. Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
Claim to fame: Introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing was the fastest production car of its day. It was also the first production car to feature direct fuel injection. It was powered by a 3.0-liter in-line six that produced between 212 and 222 horsepower and had a top speed of around 160 miles per hour, depending upon its gearing. The car gets its name from the upward opening gullwing doors. It was invented specifically for this car. What’s interesting is the fact that the gullwing doors were not added to the car to give it aesthetic appeal but due to the chassis design. In order to have the sill of the door higher to accommodate the chassis, the gullwing door was invented. Only 1400 were made and many credit it with establishing the reputation of Mercedes-Benz in the United States. The 300 SL Gullwing was recently ranked the No.5 sports car of all time, and it is nothing short of an icon.