IAA Frankfurt Motor Show: time and again the stage for world premières from Mercedes-Benz

Frankfurt Motor Show

  • The Mercedes-Benz 600 (W 100) thrilled the public and the experts in 1963
  • Representational vehicle set benchmarks with regard to technical features, safety, comfort, size, and power
  • IAA première 1983: Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 became the new top-of-the-line model in the W 201 model series
  • Frankfurt Motor Show

Frankfurt Motor Show

The IAA International Motor Show in Frankfurt on the Main is one of the most important venues for outstanding world premières from Mercedes-Benz. In September 1963, the Mercedes-Benz 600 (W 100) opened the door to a new dimension in motoring: the representational vehicle set benchmarks with regard to technical features, safety, comfort, size, and power. The debut is one of the great moments of Mercedes-Benz in the history of the International Motor Show (IAA). Another was to follow 20 years later: in 1983, the Stuttgart-based brand presented the Mercedes-Benz 190 2.3-16. The Saloon was the new top-of-the-line model of the recent W 201 model series and at the same time opened up the segment of sporty and compact vehicles for the brand.

Just one touch or at least one look – that was the motto at the IAA 1963 in light of the Type 600 on the Mercedes-Benz show stand –, period photos show the vehicle closely surrounded by visitors. It was the new representational vehicle from Mercedes-Benz and its technical features set benchmarks: in the sum of all systems and design solutions, the Mercedes-Benz 600 was a unique vehicle that comprehensively represented the pinnacle of automotive technology at the time. On one hand, the Type 600 followed in the tradition of the “Großer Mercedes” (Grand Mercedes) models from the 1930s, but its visionary technical features clearly made it a car of the modern era.

The Type 600 was – as the first passenger car in the history of Mercedes-Benz – powered by a V8 engine with fuel injection. It produced 184 kW (250 hp) and in conjunction with the standard-fit automatic transmission, delivered performance on the level of the sports cars of its time. The top speed of the “Großer Mercedes” was far in excess of 200 km/h and it took just 10 seconds to accelerate from rest to 100 km/h. Right after the first advance media premières in late August 1963, the 600 was also attested a level of agility nobody expected from the large vehicle. Among the systems that ensured the highest levels of safety and comfort were shock absorbers that could be adjusted while driving, a dual-circuit braking system with air-pressure power assistance, disc brakes on all wheels, air suspension, power steering, a central locking system as well as an electronically controlled heating and ventilation system. Functions usually operated manually such as the doors or the boot lid for example were controlled by a convenience hydraulic system in the W 100. Mercedes-Benz offered the Type 600 as a Saloon with short and long (Pullman) wheelbase, and as a Pullman-Landaulet. The huge success of this spectacular vehicle was also demonstrated by the long time it remained in production: in June 1981, the last 600 left its production site at the Sindelfingen plant. During the 17 years the vehicle was manufactured, a total of 2,667 vehicles were built in single-piece production.

16 valves for the top-of-the-line model of the W 201 model series

Exactly two decades after the presentation of the Type 600, the IAA was again the stage for an important world première from Mercedes-Benz. It had been just under a year since the presentation of the Mercedes-Benz 190 Saloon when the Stuttgart-based brand introduced the new top-of-the-line model of the compact class at the IAA 1983. Already from the outside the 190 E 2.3-16 set itself apart from its brethren with its aerofoil and extravagant paintwork that came exclusively in the shades “smoke silver” and “blue black”. The potent visual appearance was matched by the power output of 136 kW (185 hp). The power was produced by an ultra-modern four-cylinder engine with a displacement of 2.3 litres and 4 valves per cylinder. The engine was part of the M 102 engine family and was developed from the engine of the 230 E model.

Already four weeks prior to its world première at the IAA, the powerful predecessor of the C-Class had achieved impressive results on the track: three prototypes of the 190 E 2.3-16 set long-distance records on the high-speed track in Nardo in southern Italy over 25,000 kilometres, 25,000 miles and 50,000 kilometres, achieving an average speed of almost 250 km/h. Nine more records rounded out the results.

The 190 E 2.3-16 opened up the segment of sporty and compact vehicles for Mercedes-Benz. The 190 E 2.5-16, which was presented in the autumn of 1988, and other vehicles of the 201 model series continued it: starting in 1989, the “Sportline” equipment line went on sale – including in the 124 model series. Optionally available for ordering separately or in conjunction with other equipment features were wide-base sports tyres on alloy wheels, tighter damping and suspension characteristics, a more direct power steering system, a sports steering wheel, sports seats, as well as a ride-height lowered by up to 30 millimetres. “We build your new Mercedes as sporty as you like” was the motto. Things got even sportier with the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution (1989) and the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II (1990), both of which were manufactured in a limited production run of 502 vehicles each for motor sport homologation. Shortly thereafter the story of the compact class saw its successful continuation with the 202 model series – for the first time officially under the name C-Class. It and other model series continue the tradition of sporty Mercedes-Benz vehicles to this very day, in a large number of models and variants.

Largest German motor show: from Berlin to Frankfurt

Nobody in this trade fair centre on the Main River had any inkling in the early 20th century that Frankfurt on the Main would one day become the stage for glittering premières from Mercedes-Benz. The International Motor Show was initially held in Berlin. Its origins can be traced back to the year 1897 when the Middle European Motor Car Club organised the “Automobil-Revue” show. These relatively small beginnings eventually evolved into the leading international trade show for automotive technology.

The Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) from Stuttgart with its Mercedes brand and Benz & Cie. from Mannheim were among the first regular guests at the Berlin motor shows. After both companies established an interest group in 1924, they were present with a joint exhibition stand for the first time in 1925. As a result of the merger to form Daimler-Benz AG in 1926, the vehicles of the new Mercedes-Benz brand lured visitors to the trade show stand – according to a report in the “Hamburger Nachrichten” newspaper the “arguably most besieged” exhibit of the show.

It was difficult to continue the trade show successes of the first third of the century after the end of Second World War. The first motor show with true international character did not take place again in Germany until April 1951. It was no longer held in Berlin, but in Frankfurt on the Main. The city is also home to the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), which organises the IAA.

Among the highlights of the first Frankfurt IAA in April 1951 were two premières from Mercedes-Benz: the Stuttgart-based brand introduced its new Mercedes-Benz 220 (W 187) premium-class saloon and the Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186) representational vehicle. Both automobiles are counted among the forerunners of today’s S-Class.

The premières from Mercedes-Benz at this leading trade show were highly diverse after 1951 as well. September 1959, for example, saw the debuts of the new premium-class models 220, 220 S, and 220 SE of the famous “Tailfin”. In 1965, the 108/109 model series became the star of the leading trade show in Frankfurt. In autumn 1977, the first ever estate car from Mercedes-Benz celebrated its debut: the estate model of the popular middle range 123 model series was referred to in-house as the S 123. The S-Class saloons of the 126 model series followed in 1979, the associated Coupé in 1981. In September 1989, the facelifted saloons of the 124 model series were in the spotlight – the corresponding Cabriolet (A 124) followed in 1991. The Stuttgart-based brand opened up the market segment of innovative compact vehicles with the 168 model series A-Class, which premièred with its design and equipment lines at the IAA in 1997. And the model series 221 S-Class celebrated its debut in Frankfurt as well, back in 2005.

Finally, research vehicles and concept cars regularly provided glimpses of the visions of Mercedes-Benz for the future of the automobile. The F 700 celebrated its debut in Frankfurt in 2007, and in 2011 the F 125! was presented at the IAA – together with the new B-Class.

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