W116 History

Of course you W116-lovers know the "normal" versions of these legendary Mercedes-Benz model, the sedans with the regular wheelbase and with the long wheelbase.
But do you know the crash testing, the design studies and the special versions ?
If you don't, you're on the right page. Here you get info and photos you will see nowhere else on the whole internet.
But let's begin now with the W116 specialties. At first we will have a look at the only spy-photo I could get hold of and the design studies. All these show how the car nearly would have looked.

Below you will find photo's and information about the following topics:

Spy Photo USA-Version
Crash Test Long Versions (Limos)
Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 22 Olympic Car
Design Studies Tow Car
Private Conversion X-Ray
Station Wagons Rally Car

 At the end of this very interesting material you will find a refference list with the book where this information is coming from.

W116 Spy-Photo

photo w116spy.jpg  16KB Photo from reference #1, page 76. The text says: 
"Most probably at the beginning of the year 1972 Mercedes 
  will present a completely new sedan. It will replace the 
  300SEL and will have its 3.5-litre engine or a 4.5-litre 
  engine developed at the same time and in the most costly 
  version the 6.3-litre V8 engine. It will also have a diagonal 
  strut rear axle and a body in mild wedge shape". 
  Note C-pillar, windshield wipers and front air intake.

W116 Crash Test

photo w116crash.jpg  25KB Photo from reference #2, page 150. The text says: 
"A 350SE after a 50 km/h crash test - the passenger 
 section remained intact". 
  The photo is from 1972 and the car obviously was 
  frontally crashed into a wall. 
  In the beginning 1970`s car safety began to play a big 
  role in the public and led to many drastic enhancements 
  in the construction of new models. 

W116 Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 22

photo 73044_mbb.jpg  12KB Photo from ref. #9. 
The car was presented in 1973 as successor to ESF 05 
and ESF 13 which both were W114-based. 

W116  Design Studies

photo w116sty.jpg  12KB Photo from reference #3, page 172. The text says: 
"1:5 scale model of the W116 sedan - still with the finally 
  not realized third side window in the style of the 
  SLC-coupes - is going to be scanned three-dimensional in 
  the ESEM-method." 
  Note front and rear bumpers, C-pillar and hub caps.
photo w116sty2.jpg  14KB Photo from reference #4, page 11. The text says: 
"February 1969: The new car begins to take shape. 
 A similarity to the predecessor can almost not be seen." 
 Actually despite the hubcaps I can`t see any similarity at all.
photo w116sty3.jpg  16KB Photo from reference #4, page 11. The text says: 
"The fine tuning of the designers concentrated to the 
  shape of the turn signals and the side-line." 
 Note the line of the rear lights and also the front turn signals.
photo w116sty4.jpg  10KB Photo from reference #4, page 11. The text says: 
"Greetings from the SLC: Note the C-pillar with lamellas 
  and the "corrugated iron-doors"." 
  Note the distance between upper and lower rear bumpers, 
  the skirt below the rear bumper and that the lower rear 
  bumper doesn`t reach forward until the wheelhouses. 
photo w116sty5.jpg  16KB Photo from reference #4, page 11. The text says: 
"Until the end the designers tested new variations of the 
  turn signal- and chrome trims". 
 Note the chrome trim on the horizontal edge and again the 
 C-pillars - the designers seem to have had their problems 
 with these... 
photo w116sty6.jpg  20KB Photo from reference #4, page 11. The text says: 
"Despite the (too small) front air intake and the windshield 
 wipers nearly ready". 
 Note the additional little ventilation windows in the front 
 doors and also the license plate below the bumper, exactly 
 in front of the very small air intake.
photo w116sty7.jpg  17KB Photo from reference #4, page 11. The text says: 
"Only the missing door for the gas tank and some details 
 reveal the 1:1 scale model". 
 Note the windshield wipers here resting at the left hand side 
 of the car and that the little ventilation windows are no more 

W116 Special versions
Now that you've got an idea of the W116 design studies we come to the "special versions" which means these cars do differ more or less from the normal sedans.

W116 Private Conversion
This is the only photo of a private conversion - not counted the only "tuned" cars with spoilers and wide tires and such.

photo w116126.jpg  13KB Photo from reference #3, page 298. The text says: 
"So in private initiative a W116 becomes a W126. This 
  product of a noble-do-it-yourselfer had been spotted in 
  Taipei, Taiwan". 

W116 Station Wagons
Today its natural for Mercedes-Benz to offer station cars ex-factory. But not for the S-Class and so independent
companies manufactured them.
It`s interesting that the German coachbuilders Binz and Miesen who manufatured many station wagons and derivates
(ambulances, hearses) for the middle-class W120 Ponton`s, W111 fintail`s and W114/115 /8`s didn`t make any
station wagons for the S-Class W116.

photo w116stcr5.jpg  11KB Photo from reference #2, page 158. The text says: 
"280SE fitted-out as station wagon by Crayford in the UK". 
 The Westerham-based company Crayford called the car 
 "Mercedes Estate". 
 The additional side windows obviously are derived from 
 Ford Consul/Granada station wagon.
photo w116stcr4.jpg  21KB Photo from reference #2, page 159,  The text says: 
"Rear view of the Crayford-Estate which was built in 1977". 
The photo is a promotional picture from Crayford. 
The text of the same photo in reference #3 page 298 says: 
" Crayford in the UK converted some W116 sedans into 
  formally well turned out station wagons." 
  Both references are from the same author. 
  Here you can see the back door hinges also are derived 
  from Ford Consul/Granada.
photo w116stcr3.jpg  14KB Photo from reference #5, page 67. The text says: 
"[Crayford is a] Coachbuilder who specialized in ... 
  conversions of Mercedes-Benz sedans into station 
  wagons...".  The price of the MB estates started at British 
  Pounds 12,500, the conversion alone at BP 2,200. This 
  long-wheelbase car was for export to the USA.
photo w116stcr6.jpg  14KB Photo from reference #2, page 122. The text says: 
"Unique specimen of a noble station wagon from the British 
  coachbuilder Crayford on the basis of a 450SEL, 
  USA-version 1978". 
  The car is the same as on the photo above still wearing 
  the oval German customs license plates. The rear window 
  obviously is from Ford Consul/Granada station wagon.
photo w116stpo.jpg  10KB Photo from reference #5, page 34. The text says: 
"...There is still no luxury station wagon in the upper class, 
  read S-Class ... . A solution is given by Norddeutsche 
  Karosseriefabrik ((Conrad Pollmann, Bremen, Germany)) 
  specialized in custom bodies (e.g. hearses). All sedans of 
  the W116 series can be converted into station cars. The 
  price for the conversion is DM 20.000,-- ...".

W116 USA-Version
For you W116 lovers in the USA it`s of course the most natural thing to see a US-version, but for us in the rest of the world
it is not. The US-versions look a bit different due to the large bumpers and the two double round headlamps with the round sealed beam lights.

photo w116usa2.jpg  27KB Photo left from reference #2, page 148. The text says: 
" USA-version of the 116 series: Beginning with modelyear 
  1974 the voluminous bumpers contained hydraulic crash 
  dampers. The not so nice double headlights followed 
  American light regulations. 
Photo below from reference #2, page 149. The text says: 
"S-Class for the North American market - an impact with 
  8 km/h ((5mph)) onto a stiff barrier the cars had to survive 
  completely intact". 
photo w116usa3.jpg  11KB
photo w116usa.jpg  13KB Photo left from reference #2, page 150. The text says: 
"The start of the sale of the 300SD with the five-cylinder 
  turbocharged-engine was in spring 1978 but for the 
  American market only". 
  The OM 617 Turbo - known from the W123-series 
  300TDT with 125hp - had 115hp and allowed a maximum 
  speed of 165 km/h (103 mph). The acceleration of the car 
  equipped with a 4-step automatic transmission from 0-62 
  mph took only 17 secs despite the cars weight of 1.815kg.
Same photo in ref.#6, p.524 and in ref.#3, p.189  

W116 Long Versions (Limos)

photo w116lohcs3.jpg 28KB
Photo above from reference #2, page 161. The text says: "...The lengthening of the not so small Mercedes sedans. This 
450SE "Custom Phaeton Limousine" is a creation of  the "Horseless Carriage Shop" in the US-state of Florida".
photo w116lohcs.jpg  21KB
Photo above from reference #5, page 144. The text says: "Since 1972 the Mercedes 600  because of the US safety-regulations is no longer imported into the country which especially for the High Society of New York City and Los Angeles leaves an unreasonable gap in the market. This gap was filled by the "Horseless Carriage Shop" with a version lengthened by 81,3 cm to 6,12m of the Mercedes 450SEL (Mercedes W100 600 Pullmann = 6,24 m). 
Edward Josey, owner of the shop, buys brand new 450SELs or converts customer`s cars. Despite length he offers some 
more things: e.g. colour TV, additional seats, maybe a small bar with refrigerator in the car`s rear - all to customer specification. For a complete 450SEL Josey asks USD 56.077".
photo w116loph.jpg  32KB
Photo above from reference #8, page 165. The text says: "Amongst the now numerous conversion specialists the "Phaeton Coach Corporation" is one of the older companies with a very reputed name. They offer the different conversions on the basis of American, European and Japanese models. Phaeton Coach mainly supplies after the catalogue, but is also ready to deliver every requested conversion for a negotiated price. Most wanted are lengthened representation limousines, e.g. the pictured lengthened Mercedes 450SEL".

W116 Olympic Car

photo w116oly.jpg  14KB Photo from reference #2, page 123. The text says: 
"At the Olympic Winter Games 1976 the "Olympic Flame" 
  was brought from Vienna to Innsbruck by two 280SE 
  instead of ((human)) torchbearers". 
  Remove the flag from the hood and the only provisionally 
  mounted top from the roof and its a normal car. 
  The license plate is for demo only because it doesn`t have 
  the necessary sticker of the German authorities required for 
  road use of the car. 

W116 Tow Car

photo w116tow.jpg  35KB
Photo from reference #2, page 145. The text says: " For such big trailers, too, the 450SE proves to be a suitable tow car". 
This is one of many photos showing the W116 towing a caravan, but this shows the by far biggest trailer. 
W116`s were very famous amongst fairground showmen to tow their big trailers.

W116 X-Ray

graphics w116slcut2.jpg  29KB
Graphics from Mercedes-Benz ads in Germany in the late 1970`s. The headline is: About the ideal size of automobiles. 
Very good to be seen how the gas tank is located behind the rear seats to ensure it to remain intact after a crash from the rear.

W116 Rally Car
And here finally comes the W116 variant you have never seen before and can not see in a printed publication and on no other internet site: The one and only ever W116 rally car.

photo w116rc2b.jpg  14KB Photo from reference #7. 
This 350SE was prepared for rally driving. It was raced in the 1985 and 1986 rally season at national German events. Things like bumpers, chrome trim and most of the interior were taken off the car to lighten it and the roll-over cage was hand-built especially for this car as was the drive for the Hella Tripmaster. The two front license plates were stipulated by the authorities. Of course the car was a bit bulky but at all rallys it was the only one having power steering, automatic transmission (!) and wood on the dashboard... 

References (all in German language):

1) Auto Katalog 1970/1971 issue 14/70 published by Vereinigte Motor-Verlage GmbH, Stuttgart, Germany 1970
2) Mercedes-Benz Automobile Band 5 Vom 600 zum 450SEL 6.9  (MB Automobiles Volume 5 From 600 to 450SEL 6.9) written by Heribert Hofner published by BLV Verlagsgesellschaft Muenchen Wien Zuerich, Munich, Germany 1984,  ISBN 3-405-12793-9
3) Die S-Klasse von Mercedes Benz - Von der Kultur des Fahrens (The S-class from MB - From the culture of driving) written by Heribert Hofner published by Bleicher Verlag, Gerlingen, Germany 1993. Reprinted by Bechtermuenz Verlag, Augsburg, Germany 1997, ISBN 3-86047-589-4
4) Oldtimer Markt 8/97 monthly classic car magazine published by VF Verlagsgesellschaft mbh, Mainz, Germany
5) Auto Katalog 1978 issue 21 published by Vereinigte Motor-Verlage GmbH & Co KG, Stuttgart, Germany 1977
6) Mercedes-Benz Personenwagen 1886-1986 (MB passenger cars 1886-1986) written by Werner Oswald published by Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany, 1st edition 1984, ISBN 3-87943-976-1
7) Private photo 1986 from MBEP webmaster
8) Auto Katalog 1982 issue 25 published by Vereinigte Motor-Verlage GmbH & Co KG, Stuttgart, Germany 1971
9) Mercedes-Benz Classic-Foto 73 044/4

Translation, additional text and background image design by HDClassics webmaster.

Made by: HD Last updated: 11-08-2003