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V.I.S.I.T. – Mercedes-Benz 230S W111

tailfin 1

Now here’s a classic Benz one doesn’t see every day, the 230S W111 “tailfin,” or heckflosse, built between 1959 and 1965. Even this very dramatic and very American design feature, Mercedes managed to pull off in a very understated manner. As in: okay, we’ll give you a small tailfin… but the rest of the car stays very restrained and serious. And that’s pretty much how it came out.

The W111 is not even seen at every German car or Mercedes-Benz gathering. I believe this is merely the third or fourth W111 or W112 tailfin sedan that I’ve seen in the US. These sedans were the volume, bread and butter cars of for Mercedes-Benz of the time, and even now aren’t valued especially highly even in concours condition, which is why we don’t see too many of them. Driver examples can still be found in pretty miserable cosmetic condition, and it’s of course the 280SE coupe that Mercedes collectors are after. So it was nice to see a daily driver sedan with one of the base engines for a change.

tailfin 2

I think its safe to say that these were much more popular in markets other than North America. It seems every time a cache of classics is unearthed in some place like South Africa or Morocco, a bunch of W111 sedans will invariably be among the cars. No, we weren’t exactly early adopters when it came to large Mercedes-Benz sedans.

Engines in the coupe and sedan ranged from the 2.2 liter 220 model, to the 3.5 liter 280 SE 3.5 coupe and cabrio. The W111 sedan didn’t get the range topping engine, as that was a version called the W112, which is moderately more sought after by collectors today.

tailfin 3

The coachbuilder Binz used to build ambulances and stations wagon based on the W111 platform, as with the preceding Ponton sedans, before M-B itself came out with the W123 station wagon. But that was much much later.

Aside from the more sunny states, I can’t imagine where else in the US one could find a W111 tailfin sedan that’s not garaged.

Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. B72 says:

    These rust rather quickly, which is another reason we don't see them much anymore.

    I've been lusting after a 4 speed 6 cylinder.

  2. Synchromesh says:

    A guy at work just bought an early 60s version of this for about $1000. It's a beater piece of junk but does get him to work. 4-on-the-tree must be interesting to shift though. Overall, not a fan of these.

    • B72 says:

      Ask him what the shift pattern is!

      • adam_b61 says:

        The shift pattern jwill be exactly like a normal 4-speed, but turned sideways so the left-right axis is parallel to the steering column. I had a Citroen DS20 with a five-speed column shift – actually worked very well.

        When I was growing up near Vancouver, my best friend's parents drove a 1966 M-B 200 fintail – white with a red interior – but with a floorshift.

        • B72 says:

          With a US spec “3 on the tree”, 1st and reverse were closet to the driver, with 2nd and 3rd further away. The theory was that 1st was only used for pulling away from a stop, while 2nd and 3rd would be used while moving.Where was reverse on your Citro├źn? Was the shifter spring loaded to help you find the gears in the center of the pattern?

        • mdharrell says:

          The M-B's reverse is towards the driver's chest and up, unlike my SAABs in which it's found by pulling the shift lever outwards along its long axis, then towards the driver's chest, then down.

  3. mr. mzs zsm msz esq says:

    <img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-QOb81EA-Et4/TOvsnXzWoDI/AAAAAAAAB_M/4nmBH6b_7xU/s500/volga_fintail.jpg"&gt; My uncle was car nut, he's the 'one of these is not the same' in this photo. He had a fintail. I loved getting rides in it as a little kid. There was this train tracks crossing near his house and the suspension was so shot in that car that he would get up as much speed as possible and fly over. Only one thump that way. His wife hated it when he did it, but I loved it so much, he always did it that way with me in the car. He had this fintail for a long time, even when he had a lot of newer better cars later. It's Friday, tonight I drink to good memories of Olak! Join me.

  4. TheOtherMacLeod says:

    Need an ambulance? Look in the Binz Benz bins!

  5. marmer01 says:

    That last comment gave me the bends.

  6. BlackIce_GTS says:

    "…every time a cache of classics is unearthed in some place like South Africa or Morocco…"
    Does Barn Finds cover this sort of thing? It seems to happen more often than I hear about it happening, which I'd like to remedy.
    However the solution "Read more blogs" conflicts with my new years resolution to play more video games.

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