Strich Acht

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I really hope you like generally meaningless model designations, because this is a German car, and the Germans for whatever reason are weirdly into naming their cars alphanumerically, as if they were inspired by the random series of numbers under bar codes. This is a 1976 Mercedes-Benz 280c. But if you’re a true Mercedes fan, it’s the W114.673. I, needless to say, am not a true Mercedes fan, so you’ll all have to bear with.

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To clarify: W114.673 is the chassis code, not the official name of the car. That’s honor goes to the equally unmemorable moniker 280c. Every car technically has a chassis code, but only fans of cars that hail from Deutschland seem to care that much about them. So let’s break it down. W114 means that this is a six-cylinder car, and 673 indicates that it was a facelifted model made between the years of 1973 and 1976. That’s actually not too bad. And here I was all ready to tear into Mercedes for stupid names.

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What was I talking about? Right, the car. Well, the W114 and its four cylinder sister, the W115, were the first models under Mercedes’ “New Generation,” beginning in 1968. As it happened, they also ended up being the only cars that were part of the “New Generation.” Beginning to sense the company really needs to work on its naming strategy? The W114 was the first postwar Mercedes built on an entirely new platform, and what a bulletproof platform it was. So durable in fact that in 2004, a Greek taxi driver donated his diesel W114 to the Mercedes Benz museum with nearly 3 million miles on the odometer. Small wonder it stuck around in some form or another until the 1980s, when the W123 took over.

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This is a 280c, which means it’s powered by a 2.8 liter inline six-cylinder, and it’s a coupe. Both of which are things I like. The coupe part in particular, actually, because while the W114 wasn’t offered as a convertible, the coupe model didn’t have any B-pillars. That meant that when you rolled all the windows down, it gave the impression of open topped motoring.

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The 280c was positioned as a “premium personal luxury coupe,” which effectively is a fancy way of saying “ludicrously expensive.” When it was on sale, this car listed for $9,994, at a time when a top of the line Cadillac put you back “only” about $8,500. In fairness, these things were intended to last forever, when the Caddy only stuck around until the end of the drive home from the dealership before it started falling apart.

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Luxury is a funny thing. There’s the American way of doing it, which involves things like leather, gold plating, small dogs and large stuffed animal heads mounted to walls. Then there’s the English luxury, with its tea, velvet and coattails. But this is German, which is a different thing entirely. The 280c is understated. It’s brutally simple, and yet there’s no denying it is a pretty piece of machinery. This is a car that you could easily walk by and forget about, but is undoubtedly a nice thing to have. The 280c is luxury without the flash of the Americans, or the posh of the British. It’s German, unabashedly, an attribute that Mercedes has honed and evolved countless times over the years. Now, if only it had a better name.

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Additional Thoughts:

  • North American W114s changed bumper styles at least three times during the time the car was on sale
  • The W114 was the first Mercedes sedan to have a center console
  • The title of this post, Strich Acht, roughly translates to “Stroke Eight” or “Slash Eight” which was nickname assigned to Mercedes’ “New Generation.” No, I don’t understand why either.
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2 thoughts on “Strich Acht

  1. Pingback: Building Bloc | Forgotten metal

  2. Pingback: Safety Dance | Forgotten metal

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