In addition to some other shots from Cuba posted at the Cohort, this one by ptfour caught my (and his) because of the obvious similarities between the Rambler and Mercedes. Of course, we’re undoubtedly not the first to notice the similarities, and I specifically alluded them in my 1959 Rambler CC (which I did not run during already crowded AMC Week). But this shot shows even more clearly the basic architectural similarities between them, even though the Rambler’s gaudiness is (naturally) toned down a bit for German consumption.
Here’s the comparison shot from that CC. The ’58 Rambler appeared in the fall of 1957, and the W111 220S/SE had its premiere in August 1959, almost exactly two years earlier.
Of course, the ’58 Rambler was just an evolution of the 1956, which in terms of its smaller rear fins is almost more like the Mercedes. And it wasn’t just design: the two cars (1958 Rambler and W 111) are almost identical in dimensions: both have 108″ wheelbase, and are less than an in apart in overall length (191″). I can’t readily find the track and height dimensions for the Rambler, but I suspect they’re very close too.
Obviously, Mercedes didn’t start totally from scratch with the W111/110, as its wheelbase was similarly sized to its “Ponton” predecessor. But when it came to “styling” the W111, which was under the purview of Karl Wilfert, the W111 was a totally new direction for Mercedes. And although there undoubtedly were other influences at the time, there’s little doubt in my mind that the Rambler played a role, likely quite a significant one. The Rambler, with its space-efficient boxy body, was rather unusual for America at the time, but it was the very model of a European modern full-size sedan.
Well. I’d say the Rambler was a crib from the Studebaker Hawk
I don’t really mean the fins so much, since they were spreading among American cars like an STD after a condom-less orgy. I meant much more the overall shape, size, and proportions of the Rambler. The hawk was very different in that regard.
The Hawk also had the reverse slant C pillar and curved back window going on.
So did the Rambler. The Hawk, despite certain superficial similarities of some details, would not have been on MB’s radar. It was already an obsolete design; a low-lung coupe with poor space utilization stretched out over a very long wheelbase with tacked-on fins that were hardly organic to the original ’53 coupe body. Sorry, but nobody was copying the Hawk.
Obviously, the Hawk’s classic stand-up grille was an homage to Mercedes, so if anything, the influence went more the other way.
The Rambler had the “architecture” that was suitable for the sedan MB was designing.
Studebaker-Packard was Mercedes’ US importer at the time. The Hawk was most certainly on Mercedes’ radar.
Dave: In what way? Like in that Mercedes copied the Hawk’s stand-up “classic” grille? 🙂 Or?
“I don’t really mean the fins so much, since they were spreading among American cars like an STD after a condom-less orgy.”
If so, who first had the STD, Cadillac?
An STD would be a Mercedes S-Class diesel wagon, I believe. 🙂
He he he +1
And for the record, it was NOT me who injected the Studebaker reference into this thread! 🙂
And for the record, it was NOT me who injected the Studebaker reference into this thread!
Mia culpa! Mia culpa! That reference was a bit tongue in cheek as styling themes were pinched all over the industry. Recall the Hillman thread, where the original post noted the greenhouse of one model looked like it had been cribbed from Studie.
The finned Mercedes always looked very American to me,although I could never be sure which car it looked like til now.
I could never be sure which car it looked like til now.
like the Hawk?
There is a lot of Studebaker there Steve especially the grille
And where did the inspiration for the Hawk’s “classic” grille come from?
You’d have to time-travel back back to ’55 or so to find out… and I don’t think you’d find that grille on an M-B.
Unless there is further evidence Paul, I would support your theory. Though thankfully, the MB is substantially less gaudy than the Rambler. As you point out.
It didn’t seem uncommon for foreign car makers attempting to break into the American market to try to ‘Americanize’ their designs. To appear more palatable to American tastes.
But it’s one thing to follow general design trends. And another, to closely follow a specific existing model. lol
I still chuckle at the list of car models you generated, that pay homage to the original Corvair’s innovative styling.
I’ve always wondered how the finny would look without the fins. Daniel, time on your hands?
It would be pretty easy to photoshop the rear end of the fin-less coupe onto the end of a sedan. I’d like to see it done 🙂
I’ve always wondered. Sorry Daniel, I know this is your space.
I did a very quick mockup Don. And retained the C pillar and rear glass of the coupe for comparison. It looks much cleaner. But the trunk lid could be less tall.
Dunno ’bout the rear window, but I think you nailed the rear end.
Actually there’s a whole timeline of blatant rip-offs leading from the 56 Rambler through two model years of Opel Kapitän to the W110/111/112.
Still I’d prefer to call it fashion or Zeitgeist. I’d bet neither Mercedes nor Opel designers (though can’t be too sure about them) had especially Rambler (of all cars!) in mind.
Quite true; and I probably should have given a bit more credit to that. But keep in mind that I think it was the ’56 Rambler that provided any inspiration to that zeitgeist. For 1955, it was pretty advanced.
The one at the top in this picture looks like a bizarre cross of a 1958 Chevy roof with a diminutive 1956 body, with a few 1958 cues thrown in for confusion. Weird, really, to see something so relatively diminutive copying in their entirety so many 1950s American styling cues–the wrap-around windshield, the 1958 GM doors, the two-tone paint, the chrome.
i guess all of opel’s design came from detroit during this era, plus it’s a 58 model.
have a 55-57 for further studies
I don’t see it myself. They have a similar size and share plenty of era-correct styling cues in common like the wrap-around windshield and back light and obviously the fins. The share the proportions of a european-size sedan from the time. What I don’t see though are any specific cues that would really connect them to eachother. They both just look like products of their time.
When I think of blatant influences I think of the corvair with its distinct beltline that translated to so many other cars. The original Mustang had it’s silhouette ripped off by other makers.
I think you’re missing the main point. Mercedes was designing the W111 in about 1955-1956. Look at other European sedans of that time, like the Peugeot 403 (photo attached). Everyone was doing the “pontoon style” then, all over Europe.
The Americans were style leaders, largely, and the 1956 Rambler not only embodied these new design trends, but also in the exact size and form that Mercedes needed for the successor to their “Pontoon” cars.
Copying the new design trends in America, like the 1957 Chrysler Corp. cars really didn’t work, given how wide and long their proportions were. But the Rambler was right-sized, and I can’t help but see its influence in the W111. Of course I can’t prove it.
One can’t just tack on fins on an older design, like Studebaker did with the Hawk; the whole shape has to work. And the ’56 Rambler’s shape was organic with its design features. I’m not saying it was a paragon of great design (in fact it’s a bit tacky), but it was an early exponent of the design zeitgeist that almost all cars soon followed. In Europe, that change came a bit later, starting in about 1959 – 1961 or so.
And Peugeot, along with Fiat, and BMC, and most of the big European makers adopted this glassy and finny look within short order. It was a revolution in European design, and the influence was predominantly American. (Peugeot 404 pictured)
Yeah, despite sharing a dealer network with Studebaker, I doubt that Mercedes was influenced much by any Stude design. If any American car influenced those German fellows, it would have been the Rambler. This having been said, it’s too bad the influences didn’t flow in both directions. By that, I mean that it’s too bad Rambler wasn’t more interested in chassis development. I’ll never understand why they hung onto that torque-tube set-up for so long.
I’m not much good at all this yahoo uploading stuff but I took this in Havana last March.
Orange plates means it’s privately owned, almost certainly pre-1959
Is that a 356?!
Looks like a Gulf special with faded plates. Nice car.
I should have known you’d beat me to the observation about the similarities – nice job Paul
Dimensions aside, I think both designers had the publicity material for the Facel-Vega Excellence on their desks. One particularly liked the frontal arrangement, the other offered a sincere appreciation of the tail.
I thought the black sedan was the Rambler at first. For being about 50 years old and in somewhat rough shape these sedans still have elegance. Obviously that Rambler was one of the last American vehicles shipped over, little did they know.The rims on the Mercedes Benz look just like the ones I had on my 95 Voyager. I also find the Mercedes’ blue tinted headlight glass interesting.
Paul, we had a discussion recently where you cleared a vexing issue for me on the W108/9.
There is a 300SEL 2.8 nearby which I now feel is original. I think I can get inside the car, as I have met the owners. If you could give me an idea of exactly what you needed to cover, I can go over there and ask.
Mr. Edward Mann invited me to post on the cohort; the abovementioned MB is the light coloured W109.
Very much appreciating this site and apologies for the sidebar. Cheers, Don
I do not if this kind of copy is bad for you or not. But I do not see any great mistake here.