Vintage Left Brain Ad: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 300SD Turbodiesel

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Long before any car becomes a classic, it was a new car, and the advertisements dreamed up by the Mad Men usually proclaim every new car to be the latest and greatest.  In the case of the 1978 Mercedes-Benz 300SD Turbodiesel, profiled earlier today, the advertising did it with far more justification than most.

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Mercedes-Benz advertisements from the 1960s through the 1980s were lengthy, uber-technical treatises that blended arrays of facts and detailed statistics (“turbocharging this Diesel engine boosts maximum power by 43 percent – and maximum torque by a lusty 46 percent,” “It is less than 18 feet long, needs a mere 2.7 turns of the steering wheel lock-to-lock, and whips around within a turning circle of 38 feet”), company legends in some way relevant to the featured car (the 300SD sharing an engine “barely differ[ing] in design and major components” from that of the record-setting C-111/3 experimental vehicle, ignoring that the C-111/3 engine was modified to produce twice the horsepower), and relentless logic explaining the car’s engineering superiority.  Instead of ending with the tagline “Engineered like no other car in the world,” they politely and intelligently rammed the message into the reader’s head for an entire page.  The campaign originated at the advertising firm of Ogilvy & Mather, then followed its creator David McCall to his own firm, McCaffrey & McCall.

In the case of the 1978 Mercedes-Benz 300SD Turbodiesel, the copy on the second page of the ad had impressive facts to boast.  The 300SD, new for 1978, was indeed the first turbodiesel passenger car, and its claimed 0-60 time of 12.7 seconds was quite respectable for a large sedan during the late 1970s and a quantum leap improved over any previous diesel car.  The connection to the C-111/3  experimental vehicle and its ability to drive at an average speed of 195.4 miles per hour for 12 hours was tenuous, but using “the same basic turbocharged Diesel engine” (as stated in the fine print) made for an impressive group photo and several paragraphs of eye-popping statistics.  Viewed 35 years later, it is a reminder that a car that is now a classic with old-fashioned engineering was once on the leading edge of automotive technology.