Curbside Classic: 1965 Mercedes-Benz 300SE (W112) Coupé – Bottom’s Up, Your Majesty

“Automotive royalty” is an appropriate term for the W112. We haven’t had too many of them on CC, but then they are a rare thing – this was probably the first one I’ve ever seen. Although given how similar they are to their far more common W111 stablemates, it’s not possible to really know. When I found this one last Sunday, the first properly hot day of the year, my temperature rose. Strangely enough, this august Mercedes’ finless behind was also defying gravity.

I’m sure we’re all more or less aware of the long and complex history of the Fintail Benz, which graced this planet with its presence in 1959 and whose direct (yet finless) two-door derivatives lasted all the way to the early ‘70s. The W112 saloon was the finest and rarest of the Fintails, but it still shared its bodyshell (and many components besides) with the rest of the Heckflosse clan. Likewise, the W112 two-door is related to the W111 coupe/cabriolet, albeit with extra gingerbread, air springs and the 3-litre engine.

Simply put, the Fintails’ pecking order was, from cheapest to dearest, W110, W111 and W112. I’ve used these tables before, but I reckon they could be re-used here. The W110 was the base/fleet model, with little chrome and Ponton-like round headlights. For its part, the W111 was the standard-issue 6-cyl. luxury Benz, with coupé and cabriolet variants and all mod cons available on the options list.

The W112, however, had the same 3-litre fuel-injected engine as the Adenauer limo (and the 300SL), as much chrome as it was possible to add, pneumatic suspension and a special LWB saloon that was probably ordered by folks who wanted something a bit less ostentatious than a 600. But the production numbers speak for themselves: unlike its serially-produced sisters, the W112 was more or less handmade, or at least hand-finished. The Sindelfingen special works’ happy ending…

Our feature car is a 1965 model – the last year of the W112 saloons, but the two-door variants were kept on for another couple of seasons. Price-wise, a two-door W112 was worth three W110s or two 220SE saloons. Dear oh dear!

How do I know it’s a ’65? Well, I just found the above video as I was writing this post. Trying my usual kitchen sink approach, I typed “Mercedes W112” into Youtube and unearthed this short (and silent) 12-year-old clip that clearly features the very same car. I mean, how many burgundy 300 SE coupés with a red leather interior, a column shifter and fugly turn signals can there be in this country?

Speaking of the interior, let’s take a good look at it, as it’s where quite a lot of the substantial added value is located. That dash is an unadulterated delight, a real piece of wood carving artisanship. I’m a total sucker for those white bakelite steering wheel as well!

The rear seat looks a bit on the tight side, legroom-wise. But if you really want to park yourself at the back of a W112, the four-door was the one to get. No point in getting a snazzy two-door hardtop if you’re not planning to grasp that big white wheel and drive the damn thing.

Our CC du jour may be exclusive, but it’s not a complete unknown. Mercedes have been exported to all corners of the globe, perhaps more than any other marque. So when something is amiss, even a small detail, it’s easy to pick it up. In the first place, we have the additional turn signals to ponder about. The standard Euro-spec W111/W112s (and their W108/109 successors) have their turn signals as part of the famous Lichteinheiten, the composite “lighting units” our feature car also has.

This should have sufficed, but obviously someone thought that a pair of supplementary mini-Dagmar indicator lights, placed in-board so that they could only be visible from the front, were a necessary and well-thought-out addition to the W112’s front end. Turns out this was done by M-B themselves: Our Editor informs me that these turn signals are standard US-spec items, which means this car may have originally worn the US-style quads and was retrofitted with the Euro lights. So odds are this car was sold new in North America and migrated to Japan late in life.

The other elephant in the room is the invisible one that appears to be sat on the front end of this poor W112. This high-rear stance is hard to explain, for those of us who have no experience with the Benz pneumatic suspension. I assume it has to do with that, just possibly perhaps maybe, though I could be completely off-piston (har har).

Since the lady was showing me her knickers, I took a quick pic of the undercarriage. I’m not sure if this is all standard-issue W112 down there, but the source of the stance issue may not be visible anyway. The rear wheels are stood partially on those cement parking lot thingamajigs (seriously, what do you call those?), which may have played a part in forcing the air cushions to be acting up in this way.

I dearly hope that this awesome machine’s complex pneumatic suspension is not on the fritz. Either way, it seems like we caught this sophisticated aristocrat on an off day, so we’ll close this post here, discreetly and politely. Auf wiedersehen, Frau W112. Keep your end up!


Related posts:


Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: Mercedes 300SE Cabriolet (W112) – A Rare and Pricey Gem – What’s It Worth Today?, by PN

Automotive & Design History: Mercedes-Benz W110/111/112 Fintails – Béla Barényi And The Elusive Pluckenheckflosse, by Don Andreina

Curbside Classic: Mercedes 300SEL (W109) – Trying To Make Sense Of The Magic Number “300”, by Don Andreina