Archive for October, 2010

Mercedes-Benz..Roadster meets Aluminum

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Readers have been exposed to the man-in-the-maze uniting his famed A/S Safari to a newly acquired Blu-Tech diesel Mercedes Benz GL320.  The wedding ceremony was presided over by the Reverend Hensley….the hitcher of high repute.  After the honeymoon, which lasted less than an hour, the relationship has matured and looks very favorable for the long term.

Airstream is also producing a high-end B-van, The Interstate, on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis.  Ho-hum.

Historically, however, the marriage between the two engineering icons, Mercedes-Benz and Airstream, began 50 years ago.  An archive photo from ~ 1960, depicted in several airstream references, illustrates a Bambi being towed by a 190SL roadster.  In the background, a mid-size trailer towed by an 8 cylinder, slab sided, four door Lincoln Continental.

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My interest for more than thirty years is the MB roadsters; the trailers are only a muse, a side effect.  In 1959, Stuttgart issued a service bulletin to the mechanical training staff in the U.S.; the proper installation of a hitch receiver on the 190SL (121 chassis designation).  This is somewhat laughable as the roadster had a 4 cylinder, dual Solex carbuerated, 125 HP engine.   Although the little two seater produced 105 ft/lb of torque @ 3200 rpm, it weighed only 1160 Kg. (2552 lbs).  With servo assisted drum brakes, the two seater touring convertible would be unsafe towing much more than a boat trailer.

That didn’t stop Schuco, a legendary producer of toy car models, as seen below:

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190SL Cabrio mit Wohnanhanger (from the insightout collection)

Not suitable for children under 3 years old due to the danger of swallowing small parts

A total of 25,881 were produced from 1955-1963.  With unibody construction and little rust protection, many have long since oxidized, were wrecked, or ended life in the crusher.  There remains, however, worldwide interest in the charming two seater touring car.  In the U.S., the International 190SL Group boasts an active membership of 600+. Although the 1954 NY Auto Show prototype hinted at racing, the reality was an inadequate power:weight ratio. The beautiful lines and exquisite build quality, however, have endured.

Within the last month, the racing prototype, a perfect re-creation was unveiled in the Hagerty Insurance lobby, Traverse City, MI to the delight of 100+ guests.

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Only $3,888, f.o.b. New York

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Vanna White’s mother* on the turntable

In thirty years I’ve had the privilege to examine more than 100 of these cars….not a single one had a hitch receiver.  An interesting side note, the roadsters had almost as much aluminum as a Bambi.  The hood, trunk lid, and both doors were solid cast aluminum, in an effort to reduce weight.

The last 190SL rolled off the assembly line, 47 years ago, only a year after the death of Wally Byam, yet both retain a parallel following.  Perhaps the Tour of America and the Mercedes GL will be equally popular in the year 2057.

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A 190SL racing a Great Lakes freighter, the James Barker, on the Munuscong Bay of the St. Mary’s River. The boat won.

*this is not Vanna’s mother.  Maybe older sister ?

About the Author

Retired 1997.
Frequent travel. Loyal companions: wife, Lynn; dog, Jack.
Avocation: writing social and political satire.
Past life: three decade clinical pharmacy owner. Now in recovery.
Location: Northern Indiana, Eastern U.P. of Michigan, Southern Arizona

No telephone;
E-mail cspiher@aol.com