Η Mercedes ανακοίνωσε ότι οι πωλήσεις της νέας SL-Class θα ξεκινήσουν από το Σάββατο 31/3 στη Γερμανία, με αρχική τιμή 95.534 ευρώ για την SL 350 και 117.096 ευρώ για την SL 500. Έτσι, η Mercedes για να το γιορτάσει έδωσε μια σειρά φωτογραφιών όλων των γενιών της SL αλλά και ένα νέο ασπρόμαυρο promo video για την νέα SL-Class. Αναλυτικές λεπτομέρειες για το αυτοκίνητο μπορείς να βρεις εδώ, καθώς και στο δελτίο τύπου που ακολουθεί.
Stuttgart – Supreme sportiness, style and comfort define the new SL Roadster from Mercedes-Benz, which is available from Mercedes-Benz sales partners from 31 March 2012. Its body and body-in-white have been produced as all-aluminium constructions for the first time. At the market launch, there is a choice of two new powerful 6- and 8-cylinder engines featuring cutting-edge injection technology, with ECO start/stop function as standard. These engines are up to 29 percent more fuel-efficient than their predecessors. Two world-firsts are also being premiered in the new SL – the Frontbass system for the ultimate in listening pleasure even with the roof open and the MAGIC VISION CONTROL wiper/washer system, which applies the water to the windscreen directly from the wiper blade.
The new generation of the Mercedes-Benz SL takes the meaning of the famous abbreviation “SL” – super-light – quite literally.Systematic weight reduction
is one of the outstanding structural design features of the new SL. Dr Joachim Schmidt, Member of the Management Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Sales and Marketing, elaborates: “It was around 60 years ago that we celebrated the successful launch of our first super-light sports car. Since then, every generation of the SL has set new standards. And with the new model we are continuing this tradition.”
The new SL sees Mercedes-Benz introducing an all-aluminium body-in-white into volume production for the first time. Together with a host of other intelligent improvements to points of detail, this leads to an overall weight reduction of up to 140 kilograms in comparison to the predecessor model. The aluminium structure is also superior to the predecessor’s steel design in terms of rigidity, safety and comfort. “The new SL is the safest roadster in the world!” says Schmidt.
Environmental Certificate for the new Mercedes SL
The neutral inspectors from the TÜV Süd technical inspection authority have confirmed the high environmental compatibility of the new Mercedes-Benz SL in good time for the market launch, duly awarding the sporty and stylish Roadster the Environmental Certificate in accordance with ISO standard TR 14062. This certification is based on an exemplary life-cycle assessment for the SL, which entailed a comprehensive analysis of the Roadster’s environmental impact throughout its entire life cycle – from production through extensive service to recycling at the end of its life.The results make good reading: the new SL-Class reveals advantages over the previous model in all impact categories. Primary energy requirements have been reduced by 23% and NOx emissions by 16% over the entire life cycle, for example. In addition, the new SL incorporates a higher percentage of high-quality recyclates and renewable raw materials. For the first time in automotive engineering, a secondary alloy has been qualified for aluminium inner panels in the body-in-white, in order to minimise the environmental impact in the manufacturing process. This goes far beyond the legal requirements. The Environmental Certificate and supplementary information are made available to the public in the “Life Cycle” documentation series, which is retrievable at http://www.mercedes-benz.com. In addition to the SL, the models of the A-, B-, C-, E-, M- and S-Class, the GLK, the SLK and the CLS have also received the Environmental Certificate from TÜV Süd.
Prices in Germany for the new Mercedes-Benz SL incl.19 % VAT:
- SL 350 93,534 euros
- SL 500 117,096 euros
The design of the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
- Always a result of the interaction of aesthetic features with the constructional demands on the product in each epoch
- Strongly influenced by engineers in the first SL, later by designers
Stuttgart – The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class has always set the highest design standards in all model series. Both outside and in, the vehicles are as if hewn from the same block and most show their credentials as future classics during their own production lifetime. The word “design”, also adopted in German for the creative process from English usage, incorporates the concept of technical design, of engineering in the English sense of the word. What is commonly seen to have a double meaning today has special and far-reaching significance in the case of the SL, since from its inception back in 1952, the history of SL design has been fuelled in particular by the interaction between aesthetic features and the relevant contemporary constructional requirements on the product.
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 194) racing sports car, 1952
The demand for two seats and high efficiency through very low wind resistance clearly determined the design of the 300 SL racing sports car (W 194 series). The shape created in the process optimally met the principal demand on body design expressed in the phrase “form follows function”. For example, the fact that the six-cylinder engine was canted 50 degrees to the left was due to the low-slung bonnet and small frontal area.
The special thing about the body of the W 194 is that it took aesthetic factors into account to a high degree – in great contrast to many competitors of the day – even though this was not the main concern in designing it. Several decades later, the W 194 continues to impress the beholder with what many people still regard as beautiful proportions. As was customary in the period in which it was built, this body was developed by coachwork engineers. Designers as we know them today did not yet exist at Mercedes-Benz.
Wind tunnel measurements on historic vehicles in January 2012 confirmed the targets of the vehicles’ engineers. The 300 SL racing sports car from the W 194 series and a direct contemporary, a 300 S (W 188), a sporty luxurious touring car, were measured, along with a 300 SL production sports car from the W 198 I series, which evolved from the W 194. The figures shown below were obtained with an airflow speed of 200 km/h to make them comparable with measurements normally made today.
The W 194 attained a drag coefficient of cd = 0.38 – a very good value for those days, as the comparison with the W 188 (cd = 0.48) shows. The body of the W 194 was optimised for low wind resistance, and this shows in the overall design of the exterior, whereas the W 188 was designed in line with criteria more typical of the pre-war period. The production sports car of the W 198 series achieved a cd value of 0.40.
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 198 I), 1954 to 1957
Further factors now found consideration in the construction of the
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 198 I), whose frame and chassis engineering derived from the 300 SL racing sports car (W 194). The demands on car bodies were becoming increasingly complex. In addition to purely functional and aerodynamic criteria, a growing importance was attached to aesthetic demands. Together with superior performance, customers of the target group expected elegance, exclusivity, prestige and the appearance of prosperity.
On the basis of the racing sports car, Friedrich Geiger, then head of the styling department, developed a shape which neither Mercedes-Benz nor any other manufacturer had in its programme at the time. With his artistic sense of style, Geiger sculpted a body which, with inimitable elegance, gave visible expression to the abilities of this high-performance sports car through the muscular design of the car’s body. The two powerdomes on the bonnet were invigorating elements. The dome on the right was determined by the position of the intake pipe. For reasons of symmetry the bonnet was given two domes.
Geiger developed an entirely new face for the W 198, one completely different from that of the W 194 racing sports car, and one that, as a second “Mercedes face”, would be typical for decades to come both for the SL and – something nobody expected – for the design of the front ends of Mercedes-Benz buses and commercial vehicles. The characteristic feature is the ensemble positioned in front of the large radiator opening and consisting of a centrally arranged Mercedes star flanked on either side by horizontal chrome inserts as design elements.
Geiger made very clever use of “eyebrows” fitted over the wheel arches to “stretch” the curvaceous body.
The gullwing doors did not give easy access, but they certainly helped give the car its air of exclusivity and are the hallmark of the Coupé to this day. Geiger adopted them from the W 194. Only the bumpers, required by registration regulations, diminished the harmonious overall impression of the silhouette. Bruno Sacco, the later head of design, once said in an interview he felt it was a strategic mistake in the 1950s to replace the gullwing Coupé with the Roadster. The high regard shown today for the Gullwing, the 300 SL (W 198 I), proves Sacco right. For good reason it was voted sports car of the century in 1999. It established the legend of the SL and has retained its fascination as a design icon over the decades. Admittedly though, its successor, the Roadster, remains the super sports car with greater everyday practicality.
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster (W 198 II), 1957 to 1963
Just a few months after the presentation of the production Gullwing in February 1954, Friedrich Geiger made preliminary sketches for the open-top 300 SL, urgently requested by US importer Max Hoffman. In 1957, the 300 SL Roadster (W 198 II) was finally able to fulfil the wishes of the rich and beautiful for unhindered enjoyment of the sun and fresh air. The chief design feature was the lamp unit recessed in the front wing, with indicators, main headlamp and fog lamp combined under one lens. Compared with the Gullwing and its circular headlamps, these lamp units give the car a more powerful look. Geiger obtained the longitudinal dynamics in the side view by using swage lines that ran the length of the doors. He did not change the basic body shape. Available later, a removable hardtop with a panoramic rear window extending far around the sides particularly enhanced the balance of the design. When the roadster soft-top was folded down, it was stored under a cover smoothly integrated into the body lines. From the side the car looked all of a piece. Owing to its simple handling, Geiger’s soft-top construction was described at the time as the fastest manually operated soft-top in the world.
The 300 SL Roadster successfully met the aspiration of Mercedes-Benz to return to building absolutely world-class, sporty roadsters after the Second World War.
The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121 I), 1955 to 1963
The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121 I) was not the favourite of its initiator, Max Hoffman. But Hoffman quickly recognised that the 190 SL was the most important vehicle for him in the North American market. Following its successful unveiling at the show in New York, both the engineering of the vehicle and its styling were subjected to extensive revision.
Under the direction of Walter Häcker, the body was redesigned prior to production readiness. The front end got a trapezoidal radiator opening which imitated the 300 SL design; in contrast to the vehicle shown in New York, the upper edge protruded beyond the lower edge and, in addition, was slightly wedge-shaped. The bonnet was dominated by a centrally positioned powerdome, which created room for the vertically installed four-cylinder engine underneath. The front view of the 190 SL was strongly reminiscent of the 300 SL – a feature that has won the vehicle many friends through today. Optically, as with the 300 SL, the sides were stretched by “eyebrows” positioned over both wheel arches. The omission of the distinct suggestion of rear wings – in its original form these made the car appear unnecessarily stocky – lent the body additional elegance. Visually, the rear wings, or the merest hint of these in the production version, appeared to lengthen the body and give it a certain lightness when viewed from the side.
The changes made by Häcker proved a resounding success. With an unusual display of euphoria, the Swiss “Automobil Revue” passed judgment on the design of the 190 SL in November 1956: “With its elegant design, the 190 SL generally is considered to be the finest creation from the house Daimler-Benz.” In “Motor Revue”, No. 16, 1955, Heinz-Ulrich Wieselmann observed: “Because of its really handsome exterior, everywhere the 190 SL appears it draws attention. With the top folded down it is downright beautiful.”
In 1959, when the hardtop of the 190 SL was given a rear window
that curved around the sides exactly like that of the 300 SL Roadster, the 190 SL then truly looked like the little brother of the high-performance roadster. Although this was just a case of appearance, it did nothing to harm the vehicle’s reputation.
The Mercedes-Benz SL of the W 113 series, 1963 to 1971
The creation of the W 113 series under Friedrich Geiger marked a paradigm change in SL design; not because of the Pagoda roof, but in spite of it. The break with curves and arches symbolising organic forms such as muscle strands meant SL design for the W 113 model series called for a new perspective. The designers of those years were called upon to create more useful space, while retaining the basic area of the predecessor, the W 121 I. The result was a body with characteristic smooth surfaces, which refrained from extensive use of trim elements. Only the flared wheel arches and tyres that completely filled them conveyed a sense of power and dynamism. In the area of the rear wings, a delicate, barely perceptible shoulder echoed the tailfin era that was coming to an end. The angular end of the rear wing, in conjunction with the boot lid that followed it in silhouette, resulted in useful load compartment capacity. Owing to the low waistline and large glazed surfaces, even with the top closed the car gave the impression of lightness and airiness, making one forget the feeling of confinement which many convertibles and sports cars give their occupants.
A fillet running from the headlamp unit through to the rear end, in combination with sills drawn inwards at the bottom and two rubber-capped chrome strips in the lower area of the doors, gives the compact two-seater a stretched appearance. This avoids the impression of tedious two-dimensionality in the side view.
The front end is dominated by a radiator opening which is wider than in the previous model and integrates the Mercedes star and the two flanking chrome inserts. The now almost rectangular headlamp units form the outer boundary. This is the first car in the SL design story that displays a vertical homogeneity of traditionally evolved style elements. But there were also critics for whom the even wider face of the W 113 model series, though effective, was at the same time a formal exaggeration. The chrome frame on the arch bordering the top of the grille was made thicker and prominently emphasised the expressive power of the face of the SL in the W 113 series.
The curvature of the bonnet with its striking powerdome contrasted with the otherwise level surface structure of the body and resulted from the installation of a vertical in-line six-cylinder engine.
A special feature of the W 113 series, and one that is often overestimated in terms of its significance for design, was the concave hardtop, spontaneously dubbed “il pagoda” by the Italians – an expression which over the decades has become established as a synonym for the entire model series. The starting point for this hardtop shape came from the idea of safety pioneer Béla Barényi to create additional carrying space on the roof of a passenger car. To this end Barényi conducted extensive tests on saloons of various model series. But to put this idea into practice for the first time in a sports car, of all things, did not meet with unanimous approval. The head of development, Hans Scherenberg, regarded the Pagoda roof as a signature of the vehicle – it served no functional purpose as far as driving was concerned. And his successor, Werner Breitschwerdt, pointed out another aspect, rooted in the personality of Karl Wilfert, head of body development in Sindelfingen: “Imagine a modern sculpture – people stand around and argue about it until they are blue in the face. That was to Wilfert’s taste. The fact that one had to discuss it – that appealed to Wilfert.” And Bruno Sacco, successor to Geiger (a collaborator of Barényi’s for many years) as head of design, also went on record on the topic of the Pagoda roof: “Realising this Pagoda roof in a sports car was the most off-beat thing one could do.” The editor in chief of “auto motor und sport”, Reinhard Seiffert, voiced this opinion in the issue 21 of 1963 in his test report on the 230 SL: “The purpose can only be to achieve a stylish effect. Wilfert argues that it permits high side windows and thus comfortable access, but that would also have been the case had the roof bulged upwards rather than downwards. On the other hand, the cd value (Daimler-Benz keeps very quiet about that) certainly would have been better.”
The design was developed under the direction of Friedrich Geiger and followed the functional trend of passenger cars of the period like the luxury saloons of the W 108/W 109 series or the “Stroke Eight” model series W 114/W 115. The hardtop design was realised by Paul Bracq. Today the “Pagoda” is still seen as a harmonious design – as Friedrich Geiger’s original and lifelong aspiration, it is an achievement confirmed both by Werner Breitschwerdt and his successor Bruno Sacco.
The design of the hardtop with concave roofline also demonstrated the increasing influence of design elements on contemporary marketing considerations. But in this respect, the Pagoda roof itself proved more or less inconsequential, since when the fabric top was in use, all arguments for and against the Pagoda roof were rendered superfluous.
The Mercedes-Benz SL of the R 107 series, 1971 to 1989
The design of the R 107 series SL was influenced by an abundance of internal and external requirements. Internal requirements included the call for more powerful V8 engines and the planned installation of rotary piston engines. Sufficient installation space had to be provided especially to fit rotary piston engines with their high centre output shaft. A further point to take into account were the stiffer demands on crash behaviour, which meant the installed position of the fuel tank was moved from underneath the boot to an impact-protected area above the rear axle. These measures had a significant impact on the proportions of the overall package.
A noticeable difference from the predecessor was the strong
emphasis on horizontal design elements. In keeping with the brand philosophy of vertical homogeneity, the front end again showed a classic SL face. But its expanse was distinctly reduced through the use of horizontal headlamp elements. Owing to the less strongly arched lines, the upper edge of the chrome-plated grille frame appeared much tauter than in the previous model series W 113. The glass of the indicators bordering the headlamp units flowed over into the lines of the car’s side, satisfying legal requirements specifying that turn indicators also had to be visible from the side. All in all, the waistline was higher than in the previous model. The larger side surfaces that resulted were relieved by placing increased emphasis on horizontal elements. These included rub strips connecting the ends of the front and rear bumpers, which were drawn round into the lines of the side, as well as wave-like shapes in the wings and doors underneath the rubber strips and a swage line connecting the tips of the front and rear turn indicators.
A special feature that really should have earned the R 107 the honorary title “Pagoda” was the homogeneity in design of the hardtop and boot lid, both of which curved slightly inwards. Compared with the previous model, the rear end appeared much fuller in its design. Relocation of the fuel tank and the enlarged boot capacity engendered changed rear proportions. The dominant horizontal design element at the rear were two large rectangular taillights with their ribbed surfaces. The horizontal element was further emphasised by the continuous bumper, the boot lid handle and the chrome strip that completes the boot lid.
The rear quarter window of the hardtop did not follow the window-level upper edge of the body but was drawn slightly upwards to hide the soft-top compartment cover, which lay flat but in a raised position.
The design of the R 107 was only marginally changed during the 18 years in which it was built. The changes concerned mainly the post-1985 front-end design. Owing to the use of more powerful engines with higher cooling air requirements, spoilers were fitted there to improve the cooling air supply.
Also starting in 1985, only aluminium wheels with a diameter of 15 inches and a smoother design were used after the facelift. These enabled fitting larger brakes.
The reactions of the press to the new SL were critical. Belgian journalist Paul Frère had this to say in “Motor Revue” in 1971: “In the C 111 Daimler-Benz showed what it is capable of offering. After this, I would have expected more in many areas. In purely visual terms, the car is reminiscent of its predecessor.” And Reinhard Seifert observed in his test report on the 350 SL in “auto motor und sport”, No. 20, 1971: “Once cannot talk of progress in body styling in this case. The 350 SL can hardly be described as more beautiful than the more smoothly and cleanly designed 280 SL. The pronounced arch of the bonnet is irritating even from inside the car. Since the waistline is very high and rises towards the rear, visibility can be described as satisfactory at best. The interior seems more confined and darker than one is wont to expect from modern sports cars.”
Despite all the criticism, the R 107 series was to have the longest production run – 18 years – of any passenger car series in company history, the G-Class excepted.
The Mercedes-Benz SL of the R 129 series, 1989 to 2001
When the R 107 SL series was replaced by the R 129 series after a production span of 18 years, a murmur passed through the world of admirers of beautiful automobiles. An SL of such simplicity, with clean, elegant lines, created a new point of reference in the Mercedes-Benz SL story.
SL design attained a new formal quality not only under the direction of Bruno Sacco, but through his active involvement. Under Sacco’s patronage, an SL was created in which body design combined utmost simplicity of expression with smoothly flowing lines to compose a work of great formal harmony. Powerfully swept curves in the style of muscle cars were not to be found in the R 129.
Sacco’s statement that the R 129 series impressed through simplicity of expression is confirmed by inspection of the car. The most sparing use of chrome trim and the omission of chrome inserts on the radiator grille next to the star make the star the sole focus in a face with a straightforward brand message bare of provocative dominance. The elimination of superfluous decorative elements underscored the impression of elegance owed to the unsurpassed simplicity of the body’s lines. A body as a work of art – only rarely was design accorded such recognition. The body’s design met with great approval across the board.
The Swiss journal “Automobil Revue” made interesting observations in its first test report on the R 129 in issue 41 of 1989, quoting the voice of the people: “It was a star at the Geneva Motor Show this spring, and it is most definitely a star in normal road traffic. Wherever one goes in the car, it is the object of unqualified admiration. Whether younger or older, female or male – with very few exceptions everyone feels the new showpiece from Stuttgart is brilliantly and impeccably bodied.”
In 1990, Mercedes-Benz received the Car Design Award for the R 129. The jury, comprised of two US journalists and one each from Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands and Switzerland, as well as a representative of the city of Turin and one from the Piedmont region/Italy, voted the R 129 its first choice by a large margin, giving as its reason: “In the Mercedes-Benz 300-500 SL the ensemble of safety innovations, exemplary ergonomic solutions, and stringent adherence to the traditional design culture of the manufacturer’s brand is convincing. The new SL embodies the most valuable elements of state-of-the-art industrial design, without compromising the flair that distinguishes every sports convertible.”
The Mercedes-Benz SL of the R 230 series, 2001 to 2011
The R 230 series introduced in 2001, in its first version, built until 2008, impressed through the resurgent emotionality of organically influenced arched surfaces. The rediscovered and re-implemented curves were intended to give visual form to the impression of power and dynamism that found its counterpart in models with more powerful engines.
The front design was dominated by twin headlamps, which merged into one another in a horizontal eight; their layout continued three-dimensionally towards the rear, ending in the wing and bonnet. In the upper part of the radiator opening, the centrally arranged Mercedes star held the eye, but the star’s central function was partly relativised by glossy horizontal louvres. The increased space requirements at the rear on account of the folding steel roof, used for the first time in an SL, and increased boot capacity – the accommodation of two golf bags was one development target – resulted in a longer wheelbase. The optical heaviness of the larger mass was skilfully covered up by the curves and arches of the rear end.
In the 2008 facelift, the front end was thoroughly reworked. With the centrally arranged Mercedes star again flanked by two chrome-plated horizontal louvres, as in the early days of the SL, and with the two powerdomes on the bonnet, it definitely conjured up memories of the original SL of 1954, whose dominant appearance symbolised unreserved power and superiority.
Creator and design engineer
Born on: 16 July 1905 in Patschkau (Upper Silesia) Died on: 24 December 1989 in Aidlingen
Walter Häcker joined Daimler-Benz AG in the early 1930s. As a body designer he was entrusted with the design and technical realisation of production vehicle bodies, including several landmarks in company product history. Among other things, after the Second World War he designed the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121 I).
Walter Häcker’s career was shaped by engineering and design work. After attending upper intermediate school in Göppingen and Ulm, he completed practical training in the fields of general mechanical engineering and metallurgy at Rheinische Metallwerke (Rheinmetall) in Düsseldorf and at Deutsche Werke (D-Werke) in Berlin-Spandau, where he got his first taste of the engineering profession. He then trained as a skilled craftsman, initially working as a machine fitter – a job that helped him appreciate the immediate connection between the use of materials and the challenges of practical work. This experience had such a formative influence that Häcker later often gave preference to prospective job applicants with a strong practical bent.
Häcker chose to undertake further professional training and attended the State Mechanical Engineering School in Cologne from 1924 to 1926. After graduating, he found a position at the coachwork factory of Deutsche Werke in Berlin-Spandau. Here he met Hermann Ahrens, one year his senior – a meeting that would acquire considerable importance for his further career as a coachwork engineer and designer. When Deutsche Werke sold its coachwork unit to the American bodybuilders Ambi Budd, which also had a factory in Berlin, Häcker first went to Ambi Budd, which was versed in the production of all-steel bodies based on patents of its own. The manufacturing methods were exceptionally progressive for that period, when it was still common practice to build vehicles from a chassis, a wooden auxiliary frame and sheet metal planking.
Häcker moved on from Ambi Budd when he was offered a position at Horch-Werke in Zwickau at the instigation of his former colleague from his Berlin days, Ahrens. Ahrens himself had gone to Horch on 1 October 1928; four years later, on 12 September 1932, he took over as head of special coachbuilding at Daimler-Benz AG in Sindelfingen. Special coachbuilding referred mainly to the design and production of one-off bodies built to customer specification.
Ahrens was asked by the then manager of the Sindelfingen plant, Wilhelm Haspel, if he knew of a capable design engineer for production car manufacture. Ahrens recommended Walter Häcker, who began work as a body constructor at Sindelfingen on 1 October 1933. This job involved not only body styling, but also its constructional realisation – styling and design engineering were not separate disciplines in those days.
Häcker’s most important pre-war designs – little known to this day – include the Mercedes-Benz models 170 V (W 136 series), 170 H (W 28), 230 (W 143 and W 153), 290 (W 18) and 320 (W 142). For Häcker, esteemed for his calm and level-headed manner both among employees and in his family, was very modest and retiring in the way he presented himself to the outside world.
Having been employed to make bodies for military vehicles during the Second World War, in 1950 Haspel appointed him chief engineer for passenger car bodies. In this work he was responsible also for the production body of the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121 I), again a little known fact. The vehicle was presented in 1954 and went on sale a year later with marked changes in design compared with the original version. Häcker’s design was a fundamental part of the great success enjoyed subsequently by the SL model series. In particular, the 190 SL, as the first “volume-built SL”, owes much of its huge success to the winning proportions of its body.
Häcker, who was already invested with commercial power in 1937, was granted power of attorney for the Sindelfingen plant in 1950. In 1955, he was appointed department head for passenger car body design and was given the title of departmental director. During the course of his work, 120 patents in the field of body design were registered in his name. So altogether we can speak of a highly successful professional career.
Häcker retired after 37 years of service with Daimler-Benz on 30 September 1970. He died on 24 December 1989 at his home in Aidlingen.
Master of SL design
Born on: 12 November 1933 in Udine/Italy
Bruno Sacco and Mercedes-Benz SL – this is a very special success story extending over the past few decades. For the past and, for a time, the present of SL history, from the 300 SL (W 198 series, 1954 to 1957) to the R 129 SL series (1989 to 2001), are concentrated in the person of Sacco in a way that cannot be said of anyone else at Mercedes-Benz.
Bruno Sacco worked for what was then Daimler-Benz AG from 1958 to 1999, from 1975 until his retirement as chief designer for the Mercedes-Benz brand. In the course of his work he always obeyed a single principle: “I am a designer at Mercedes-Benz not because I think ‘l’art pour l’art’ should be my motto, but because I want the cars for which I am responsible to sell successfully.” Like nobody else before him, Sacco shaped the appearance of Mercedes-Benz during his 41 years of work.
Sacco came to Mercedes-Benz through Karl Wilfert, who he got to know in Turin. Wilfert, then head of body development and therefore responsible for bodybuilding and design, invited him to the Sindelfingen plant in late 1957 – and hired the dedicated young designer shortly afterwards. On 13 January 1958 Sacco took up his work at Daimler-Benz in Sindelfingen as second stylist – after Paul Bracq, who was hired as first stylist in 1957. This was to be Sacco’s job for life. The monthly starting salary was DM 650.
Sacco’s love of automobiles was awakened by cars designed by the Frenchman Raymond Loewy. For instance, in April 1951 Sacco visited the motor show in Turin and was inspired and fascinated by a Loewy creation on display there, the Studebaker Starlight. A little later he came across the Studebaker again. For with this car and others like it, American soldiers commuted from the seaport of Trieste to occupied Austria, crossing the border at Tarvis, the city where Sacco was living with his family at the time. The Loewy-designed Studebaker was a sculpture in movement, its styling suggestive of aeroplanes combined with futuristic elements. Sacco was so fascinated by this car that the encounter showed him the way to his future. Having passed his exam as Italy’s youngest geodesist in Udine in 1951, Sacco moved with his family to Turin in 1952.
In those years Turin was a melting pot for new design ideas coming across the Atlantic from the USA to Europe, where they were combined with the Italian feeling for style and elegance to produce new creations. Pinin Farina, Nuccio Bertone, Gigi Michelotti, and Carozzeria Ghia, along with the car manufacturers Fiat and Lancia, were the prophets of new automobile design in the 1950s. Captivated by the creativity in the world of automotive styling, Sacco quickly discovered the attraction of the design studios and became a frequent visitor there. Starting in late 1955, he was able to gain experience in model making at Ghia, at a time when the company was responsible for creations such as the fantastic dream car Gilda on a Chrysler platform and the Karmann-Ghia on a Volkswagen platform – to name just two. Sacco worked together with authorities such as Giovanni Savonuzzi or Sergio Sartorelli and benefited from their experience. And with his knowledge of the German language, he had already taken up contact with Karmann by the time of the momentous meeting with Karl Wilfert described earlier.
During his time with Daimler-Benz, Bruno Sacco was closely associated with the topic SL from the outset. The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL exerted a special fascination on him. It was so great that in the mid-1960s he owned and drove the 300 SL (W 198) with the chassis number 0001 – the one presented in New York in February 1954. But in shaping the brand the focus of his work was naturally broad. By the time Sacco assumed management of the design department in 1975, he had not only headed the Sindelfingen project for the first two C 111 models but also the Experimental Safety Vehicle (ESF) project. He recognised that he now had to think and act as a project manager and not as a designer to get his creations transformed into series products.
The SL models of series W 198 and of series R 129 had a particularly formative influence on him. He once described the difference between the two and the advance this represented in the following words: “The 35 years separating the appearance of these two, so different but yet eliciting similar emotions, could not be better documented by any other ‘pairing‘ of automotive history. When I think of the muscle power that had to be expended to drive the Gullwing, when I think of the continuous effort needed to keep this stubborn beast under control (or to try to) – how relaxing and even playful the new car behaves! It is obvious that I am too an enthusiastic SL driver, and have been for many years. I notice, not just incidentally (it’s really tangible), that open-top cars can also be safe. And even without a full head of hair I appreciate the effect of our draught-stop engineers’ ingenious idea.”
Sacco worked with particular dedication on the design of the R 129 series SL that debuted in 1989. It is one of the most convincing products of his labour, a masterpiece of balanced proportions with a special claim to dynamism, a sculpture of automotive styling one does not see very often. Bruno Sacco’s confident, subtle sense of style and form is brought fully to bear in this vehicle. The R 129 series is perhaps not the only vehicle of his era to embody this, but it is the most convincing.
A designer must always live partly in the future
Born on: 28 August 1943 in Dallwitz (then Sudetenland, today Czech Republic)
Peter Pfeiffer and automotive design – in particular Mercedes-Benz design – was never a story one might logically have predicted from the start. The move towards automotive design in Sindelfingen took place in several stages. In addition, Pfeiffer’s life as a designer at Mercedes-Benz was marked by two paradigm changes in design: clay models and computer-aided design (CAD) greatly influenced the design process in terms of the time process and immediate creativity.
Peter Pfeiffer, born in the Sudetenland, grew up in Franconia and lives his life according to Prussian punctuality and the Prussian motto: be more than you seem to be. He does not put himself in the limelight; his main concern is the business at hand. And for him this business is determined by the realisation: “When a customer stands in front of a Mercedes-Benz he should think: I want that car.” For Pfeiffer, the topic SL is one aspect of the overall image of Mercedes-Benz, with the emphasis on performance, passion and robust longevity.
After being expelled from the Sudetenland at the end of the Second World War, his family settled in the Franconian region of Germany in the small town of Schönbrunn near Staffelstein. After completing lower secondary school, Pfeiffer trained to become a porcelain modeller at the firm of Alboth & Kaiser in Staffelstein, and after completing that training attended the Technical College for Porcelain Design in Selb (Upper Franconia).
During a study trip to the Ford factory in Cologne, he asked the then head of design there, Wesely P. Dahlberg, about a work placement. Dahlberg, father of the legendary P 3 model (nicknamed “bathtub”), had initiated a design revolution in Cologne and was in the process of developing a design department at Ford. As a trial, he had Pfeiffer model a wing and liked what he saw. Dahlberg gave Pfeiffer the opportunity he had been hoping for; he started immediately. Pfeiffer was happy, although the switch came as a great disappointment to his father, who also worked at a porcelain company.
Pfeiffer cheerfully entered the big wide world in Cologne, where he remained for five years. In 1967 he got a call that ultimately led to a change in location: Josef Gallitzendörfer, also a Franconian with a career in porcelain similar to Pfeiffer’s, but older, had moved from Ford to Sindelfingen, to what was then Daimler-Benz AG, to work in the newly established design department (then still referred to as the styling department). For a year, Pfeiffer resisted the Swabian enticements, but after an extensive examination of the products of Mercedes-Benz and the brand history, at the age of 25 he decided to make the move – one that would be his last. The young designer and modeller arrived in Sindelfingen in the midst of the sea change from elaborately crafted wooden models to clay models. These could be made more quickly and – very importantly – allowed for the introductions of instantaneous modifications. Work with clay, and later plasticine, was speeded up by Gallitzendörfer, who made Pfeiffer a close collaborator. The two had their joint work and experience with the new design medium in common. Even then, Pfeiffer had a keen sense of moving away from past and present, a desire to seek out tomorrow’s world. And so without a break he carried out the second revolution in design, from clay model to computer model based on CAD (computer-aided design). There was no hankering after the good old days. He knew that a designer must live in the future.
In the case of the SL of the R 230 series, introduced under his aegis in 2001, this meant designing a vehicle, which despite its larger dimensions combined elegance, brand identity, harmony and sportiness, and in its original version presented a sporty face that appeared to the beholder as congenial and devoid of aggression. The launch in 2001 attracted euphoric acclaim, with commentators rating the car as the most beautiful Mercedes-Benz in a long time. It was a Mercedes-Benz of which many people said, whether they could afford it or not: “I want to have it.” And it is also proof of the successful work of a team of which Peter Pfeiffer always considered himself a part, and whose head and policymaker he was as chief designer from 1999 to 2008.
A stylist with a strong sense of aesthetics and proportion
Born on: 24 November 1907 in Süssen Died on: 13 June 1996 in Bad Überkingen
Friedrich Geiger was a remarkable person in many respects. Until 1975 he was the first head of the styling department, as the design unit was then called. And he was not only a masterly craftsman and engineer in this function, but also a gifted artist. But it was typical of the man that during his active working life his ability to paint beautiful watercolours remained virtually unknown. Exceedingly modest and reserved, Geiger was always happy to let others take the limelight.
Born at Süssen on the edge of the Swabian Alb on 24 November 1907, Friedrich Geiger first learned the coach maker’s trade before studying coach design. Given that most bodies at the time consisted of a wooden auxiliary frame planked with sheet metal, this was a logical and consistent career path. On 10 April 1933, Geiger then joined the special coachbuilding department at the Sindelfingen factory of Daimler-Benz AG, led by Hermann Ahrens. Here, too, this bodybuilding approach was practised, also for the individual creations which the customers had mounted on a chassis. All-steel bodies were not introduced by Daimler-Benz until 1938 in the Mercedes-Benz 230 (W 153 series). At the special coachbuilding department, Geiger was able to convincingly demonstrate his double talents both as engineer and a person with a sense of aesthetics and proportion. For instance, the body of the Special Roadster version of the famous 500 K/540 K models (W 29) is Geiger’s work. Specially armoured saloons for the Grand Mercedes (W 07 and W 150) and the 540 K also originated on his drawing board.
Geiger’s time of greatness began after the Second World War, in the 1950s, when he built up and managed the styling department of Karl Wilfert’s body testing unit in Sindelfingen. Werner Breitschwerdt, future chief engineer and Chairman of the Board, thought very highly of Geiger in retrospect on account of his creativity, inspirational power and ability to take a broader view, while Karl Wilfert, ever the artist, was more the visionary engineer and driving force for passive safety.
Geiger was a man of iron discipline and rigour – qualities that resulted in his being perceived in different ways. His self-discipline included a daily one-hour swim at the mineral spa in Bad Cannstatt before going to the office. Work in Sindelfingen began at 7 a.m.
A major, if not his most important, achievement was the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 198), the famed Gullwing, presented in New York in 1954. Only a year later, Geiger was designing the first bodies for the future 300 SL Roadster, introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1957. His design for the luxury car of the W 111 series beat studies submitted by colleagues Hermann Ahrens and Walter Häcker. He succeeded in producing a design of timeless elegance in the coupé variant of the 220 SE and 300 SE models (W 111/W 112), which was initially presented in 1961 as the 220 SE. In its formal finality, this Coupé attained a great significance in Geiger’s creative work. The Mercedes-Benz 600 (W 100) with its angular, restrained design idiom was also his work. The heavy use of chrome was more to the taste of the Board of Management members responsible for development, Fritz Nallinger and – later – Hans Scherenberg. But the composed and clear lines of the luxury vehicles of the W 108/109 series and the upper-intermediate range W 114/115 series also reveal his determining influence. Geiger was especially proud of the Coupé of the W 114 series, a car he himself drove for many years.
The body of the Mercedes-Benz 230 SL (W 113), the successor to the 190 SL (W 121 I), also took shape under his direction, while the “pagoda” roof was championed by the engineering duo of Béla Barényi and Karl Wilfert and its design realised by Paul Bracq. Prominent Geiger creations include other classic cars of today, notably both the SL and SLC models of the R/C 107 series and the W 116-series S-Class along with the E-Class predecessor W 123. One characteristic feature of the SL of the R 107 series is the logical mirroring of the concave roof shape in the rear boot lid – this too a Geiger creation which, as Breitschwerdt recalled, resulted in a few problems at the time. For the body manufacturing process did not make it easy to mould concave boot lids.
When Friedrich Geiger retired on 31 December 1973, he could claim to have decisively shaped and influenced the formal vocabulary of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars over four decades – and in particular the design idiom of the SL models built up to that time. Geiger died at Bad Überkingen on 13 June 1996.