This year the 'Kleine Heckflosse', the Mercedes W110, celebrates its sixtieth birthday. But actually the Heckflosse is already 62 years old. After all, the Mercedes W110 is a simplified version of the 'Big Heckflosse', the Mercedes W111. And it was with this model that Mercedes pioneered safety in the late 1950s.
The Mercedes W110 and W111 are very similar in appearance, which is why there was talk about the Standard body. Even though the W110 operated a market segment lower than the 'Big Heckflosse' (W111). The W111 was distinguished by larger bumpers, more chic, 'standing' headlights, more chrome and six-cylinder engines.
Mercedes preferred to speak of the Safety body. The Mercedes W111 was the first car with 'pre-programmed' crumple zones at the front and rear. These were the result of systematic crash tests with complete cars.
This method of improving the passive safety of cars did not come out of the blue at Mercedes. The manufacturer had already hired the Hungarian engineer Béla Barényi in 1939, who took over the management of the Security Development Department. That turned out not to be a bad decision. In the 31 years that Barény worked at Mercedes, he wrote 2500 safety patents to his name.
Under Barény's leadership, Mercedes had already started crash tests on individual parts and components in the 1950s. In 1951, Mercedes patented the safety body with crumple zones. The Mercedes W111 was the first production model in 1959 where this technique was applied in practice.
In addition to the safety body, the Heckflosse also has an interior optimized for passive safety. For example, the top and bottom of the dashboard is covered with soft material and sharp edges are reduced to a minimum. You can also see this in the large, covered hub of the steering wheel. Other safety items include the collapsible steering column and door wedge locks. These were to prevent the doors from opening spontaneously in the event of an accident.
Besides a lot of praise, the Mercedes W110/W111 also received criticism. This especially applied to the design with the tail fins. The tail fin fashion had come over from the United States, but was already on the decline in the late 1950s. Mercedes countered the criticism by saying that the Tail fins were not a design feature, but also served safety. After all, the tail fins ensured that the driver could clearly see where the rear of the body ended during manoeuvring. But we doubt whether they were indeed intended for that purpose from the drawing board.
In 1968 the Mercedes W110 was succeeded by the rectilinear W114/w115, also known as the Strich Acht.
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