Following the second world war, Mercedes-Benz led the recovery described as the “Postwar Miracle” of the German economy, aided by the American European Recovery Program also known as the Marshall Plan after U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall who initiated the assistance.
Typical of this early time was the Daimler-Benz Waiblingen Ordnance Rebuild Shop, whose activities were limited to repairing Allied Jeeps!
Mercedes-Benz’ post-war recovery began when production resumed in 1946 on the Type 170, a pre-war design that had once been the company’s smallest car. Mercedes-Benz pioneered diesel-powered automobiles in the 1930s, and the post-war 170 Diesel proved a valuable asset in the fuel-starved post-war years.
But it was the 300 series that re-established Mercedes-Benz as a producer of well-engineered luxury automobiles in the post-war years of the 1950s-1960s.
The 300 series was offered as an opulent sedan, limousine, coupé and various cabriolet models, powered by an in-line six-cylinder engine displacing 183 cu. in., with 125 horsepower at 4,500 rpm. These and the smaller 220 series were the first Mercedes-Benz many people today ever saw. The 220 was designed around a 134 cu. in. straight-six with 130 hp at 4,800 rpm and a four-speed gearbox.
When there were no funds to develop all-new engineering in the 1950s, Mercedes-Benz racing chief Alfred Neubauer led creation of the 300 SL sports cars based on the 300 series running gear in a purpose-built lightweight space frame tubular chassis. The additional strength provided by the side rails of the tubular chassis also presented a problem for later production, accounting for the unique overhead-opening “gullwing” doors.
The 300 SLR coupé exhibited in the museum was developed to be the ultimate road-going 300 SL. Borrowing from the dominating 300 SLR racing cars, the 300 SLR coupé provided 310 hp and a top speed of more than 173 mph. Production plans for the 300 SLR were scrapped after Mercedes-Benz withdrew from racing after 1955, but not before M-B racing engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut made good use of one of only two prototypes built.