Dazzling me with its metallic-gold paint, this car was one that ached to be picked up. Found in an antiques store in Horncastle, this is not the first time I have found a Mercedes-Benz in the exact same cabinet – the last one was the 230 SL roadster.
The Car: Mercedes-Benz W111/112
There are so few cars that command the kind of respect an old Mercedes-Benz has. Even if Citroën was able to make floatier suspension, it couldn’t match Mercedes for image, and the German automaker has carried the flag of the European motor-car into the 21st century with ease (with, perhaps, the exception of a rocky patch in the 1990s).
The chromed, finned, flashy Mercedes first began in 1958 after Mercedes consolidated its model range onto one platform, first culminating in the W128 “Ponton”, and the year after, the W111 “Fintail” sedans appeared, to be joined by a line of coupes and convertibles four years later.
In the meantime, Mercedes was still working out how to replace its 300d limousine, so they stuck the six-cylinder engine in the W111 models to kill some time. That resulted in the W112 when it was also laden with extra sumptuousness – chrome was dolloped on, it sat on huge 14″ wheels, and automatic transmission and power steering would heave the floaty barge (which sat on air suspension as standard) up to 180km/h, one of the best performing cars you could buy from the German automaker.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly a success. In 1963 the W100 “600” made its debut, and that proved to be Mercedes-Benz’s golden egg. Demand soared for the 600 while it plummeted for the 300, and was dropped in 1965 in anticipation of the W108 and W109 series. Only 6,748 short and long wheelbase models made it onto the roads.
However, the two-door coupe and cabriolet models – that came about in 1962 – are a different tale. Their production continued until the 280 SE came in 1967, as the ageing M189 engine was replaced.
The Model: Lesney “Matchbox Superfast” Series no.46 Mercedes 300SE
The glorious and happy relationship between Mercedes-Benz and Matchbox is summed up, in my mind, with three models: The 230SL, the 300SE, and the 2009 SLR McLaren (as the latter proved Matchbox are still capable of something good if they put their minds to it).
Today I picked up the 300SE, from the same place I found the 230SL. A beautiful car, and, had it not cost more than the SL, would have been my first choice.
Everything about the model is stunning. From the floaty suspension to the deep metallic gold paint, every inch is classic 1970s Matchbox.
Built between 1970 and 1972, and sitting on Matchbox Superfast axles and wheels, a low-friction response to the success of Hot Wheels, the car blends Matchbox’s attempts to keep up with the popularity of free-rolling models while remaining true to its nature as a manufacturer of some of the most accurate and best looking castings in the market. The wheels are typical superfast style, and roll very well, despite its very soft, squishy suspension.
Sitting upon a metal base, proudly imprinted with “Made in England”, is a detailed metal body, based upon the two-door coupe introduced in 1962. The lines are well defined as the paint is not thickly applied.
The number plate is difficult to read as it is so small, however I think it says “S-TTI62”. While I can deduce 62 is a reference to the 2-door being released in 1962, “TTI” remains a mystery to me. While I have some ideas what it stands for, I don’t know for certain, so maybe someone could help me out with that.
The interior is fabulously detailed, and is a tasteful, unoffensive beige.
Of course, as with many Matchbox of the era, an opening boot lid is a novel feature that adds to its play value.
The Matchbox 300SE is a perfect symbol of an era gone by – for two great manufacturers. The first being Matchbox, who now are limited in their designs by cost and numbers. How often have you walked into a store to see nameless, tragic examples of unlicensed fantasy-cars? Or seen with excitement a great model only to find it is scaled down and has been loaded with plastic?
The other loss is Mercedes, who, despite still building eye-catching cars, cannot capture the quintessence of motoring that could only be seen in the wistful slipstream trailing behind 1960s tail fins.
Mercedes once stood for the greatest thing on wheels. Matchbox once stood for the greatest thing on scaled-down wheels.
And who deserves that accolade more than the people who, respectively, invented both the automobile, and its scale complement.
Thanks for reading! And once again, hope you enjoyed the pictures.
Featured Image: Mercedes-Benz W111/W112 Oldtimertreffen Schwarzenborn 2013. By philipphenke. Original