As an architect, I often get caught in conversations where I’m pegged as the “designer” who knows nothing about engineering, budgeting, building and lets not forget how we destroy the planet. At one level, being a designer is revered but in the industry I work in, it seems us “designers” are just flamboyant artists who get in the way.
This made me look to my 1971 Mercedes- Benz 230 wondering whether the emotional choice I made had anything to do with design. I mean good design, not the design that thinks only of the finished product, but design that makes life that little bit more pleasurable, convenient, easy. Design that surprises us in our own abilities without making a song and dance about it. Design that when it is good, is invisible.
This 1971 born car has features which, even in today’s world of reverse cameras and seat warmers, make driving easy, safe and pleasurable. Don’t get me wrong, I love they way it looks, but that’s not what makes me want to go for a long drive. It’s the way it feels, its performance, its design.
Starting out in 1957 automotive designer Paul Bracq, the man behind the design of this Model and many of that era of Mercedes-Benz, built his skill set in wooden sculptures, hand drawing and drafting. The subject of his work was often automotive, his interests leading him to work for Mercedes-Benz for over a decade working with engineers to produce some of the most iconic models the manufacturer ever produced including: the iconic 230 SL / 250 SL / 280 SL “Pagoda”, the W108 and W109, the 600 (W100), and (my favourites) the W114 and W115 series.
Not bad for a designer.
Engineering wise, for a 42 year old car it is still a dream. Disc brakes, independent rear suspension, automatic transmission, power steering and a turning circle that turns on a dime are just some features that make this car remarkable for the time of its make, which all still work beautifully. The engine is solid six-cylinder within the W114 series chassis that put Mercedes-Benz engineering back in the race, and continued to be used in M-B cars until the 1980s. My favourite feature is the independent suspension for the engine and rubber insulation all designed stop the engine from busting through the cab when slamming on the brakes, making for a smooth drive and easy braking.
Everything in this car has a purpose, the lines and detail give it personality and style and the engineering makes for a reliable stead. Made possible by a passionate designer and great engineers.
Heleana is a force of nature. Our Editor in Chief, the founder of In Venus Veritas and The Petrolette, and a co-founder of Rising Sun Workshop. Heleana shares her love of vintage cars, riding motorcycles, and (not-so-secretly) dreams of flying planes and piloting a riva aquariva (a la Sophia Loren) very fast through the canals of Venice. Supportive and connected, community is her lifeblood, and she is as real as they come.