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History of the Marques - Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes Benz 300SL Art

300SL (History Of The Marques)

If one were to consider any of the immediate post W.W. II cars as works of Art the 300SL and its more powerful SLR would have to stand out as one of the best examples..The Cisitalia, which is on display in New York's Museum of Modern Art is relatively unknown to many but the truly dedicated automotive design enthusiasts and industrial art lovers.It can claim, in Europe at least, as being one of the first cars to have been designed with flank sides and clean aerodynamics and is one of the truly first envelope bodied production automobiles ever, but it did not have the impact on the buying public and stylists that the 300SL did. So, though the Cisitalia is resting in this famous museum and forgoten by most of the public the MB is restored, auctioned, pampered, loved and treasured as a work of art by thousands of owners and enthusiast.

What made this car so wonderful to look at was its balanced and proportioned lines. In the production model with the rear and front under body taper and nearly circular wheel openings allowed for a rounded sculpted unity to the whole car which was not usual for cars of the time.This was also emphasized by the hood blisters, side wheel arches as well as a tapered rear end. GM had to put these blisters on the hoods of its Corvette and 57 Chevy sedans. It also helped to dramatize the affect of solidity that the bottom of the doors opened way up from the side of the car and into the roof. This was done to allow for the space frame.

The car ordered in the Mercedes Benz trademark silver looked like it was drilled from a solid billet of steel. There was no fine mesh grille evident on this car; all openings were purposeful and relatively large with bold chrome pieces to interrupt the openings when intended. Even the wheels hubcap, grill bars and Mercedes Benz logo were solid and perposefull.It would take a decade with the introduction of the Corvette Stingray and Mustang for the Americans to achieve such modern styling parity in their sporty production models and only a few European manufacturers such as Jaguar, Maserati and Ferrari could match in time design of such timelessness.

The postwar years were hard for Germany as their infrastructure and factories were devastated by allied bombing. It took a number of years for the country to get back on its feet. Its primary task was to rebuild its housing and feed its people first rather than working toward items that seemed more of a luxury. Even its automobiles were at first economical three wheelers that were built by BMW and Messcherschmidt The major factories soon turned their attention from war production to automotive production but initially what was of most concern was the family sedan. Mercedes Benz of course got a late start since it was the premier luxury car on the mainland and Europe could ill afford its products.

When Mercedes Benz finally got into building cars after it had begun production of its well regarded sedans and coupe passenger cars it went with a vengeance to reclaim its past racing glory. Previously, that is before war broke out, Germany had dominated in racing and in particular in Grand Prix. It was the two German automotive powerhouses Auto Union and Mercedes Benz who kept winning and after the war all former antagonists rejoined the battle but this time in the circular tracks and road races of Europe. Up to then Mercedes had not thought much about anything but Grand Prix. It realized that a new era in automotive engineering and design centering on the customer was evolving especially with the new world leader emerging across the Atlantic whose citizens had the capital and desire to buy sports cars. No longer would fast cars be the plaything of the rich but the new vehicles would have to appeal to a larger buying and discriminating public.

Mercedes Benz began a program of engineering cars that could run on road courses and later be built as sport cars and raced as such. With the new found wealth of the American giant there was an interest in courting these new owner racers as had never been done before by European car makers. On top of this the Stuttgart car manufacturer had had experience before the war building record breaking streamlined World Speed Record cars. This certainly gave them the advantage in designing closed and full bodied automobiles. With American GIs coming back from Europe road racing and nimble coupes had now taken hold of the American consciousness like never before and the Europeans new it. It was only a matter of time who would dominate.

The main contenders in the fifties were a surprise as these were non existent or relatively unknown manufacturers before the war. The biggest of these was Ferrari which did not exist as a car company but whose guiding light and creator, Enzo Ferrari, was responsible for the pre war success of Alfa Romeo which is another story onto itself. He was chomping at the bit until he left Alfa Romeo to develop his own company after the war. The other of course was Jaguar which began as the Swallow side car company but did not succeed on a grand scale in racing until after the war. A third company that did well but is not mentioned much today is Maserati.