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“Form follows function.”

There were larger limousines, there were more powerful ones and there were also more prestigious ones from Mercedes-Benz. But none owed more to American influences than the W 110 series, which many also know as the “fintail” model. The “fintail” combined with the star does not really fit into the European or even German street scene. Opulent vehicles with fintails are well known as being a feature of American history. Such magnificent luxury models as the Chevrolet Impala, Cadillac Eldorado, Buick LeSabre or Plymouth Belvedere showed off their enormous fintails in the 50s and 60s as a visual climax to underline their extravagant shape. Some Cadillac, Ford and Chevrolet models looked more like spaceships or aeroplanes than vehicles designed exclusively to travel on asphalted roads. The most imposing car designs of the post-war period came from the USA. Everyone in Italy and the United Kingdom was still struggling with the after-effects of the Second World War, and in Germany the phrase “form follows function” was the guiding principle for all vehicles apart from sports cars.

The legendary Route 66 was the way to the promised land for thousands of Americans as they headed west.

The legendary Route 66 was the way to the promised land for thousands of Americans as they headed west.

The Mercedes-Benz 230 in the Coachella Valley near Indian Wells.

The Mercedes-Benz 230 in the Coachella Valley near Indian Wells.

By U.S. standards, a “baby fintail”.

This changed overnight when the Mercedes-Benz W 110 series was launched as the successor to the popular “Pontoon Mercedes”. Suddenly, a German top-class saloon was also displaying designs worth seeing; even if these were not as opulent as those of its American counterparts. As a result, the “fintail” Mercedes, especially the top-of-the-range 230 model, is absolutely at home in the land of opportunity. No other car of the period was able to unite the USA and Germany in terms of automotive compatibility more suitably than the model 230 of the W 110 series – nicknamed the “fintail”. By U.S. standards, it was more like a “baby fintail”.

To 100 km/h in a little over eleven seconds.

No wonder, that the dark green beauty, colour code 291, first registered in Boston, Massachusetts on 15th of November 1966, was dubbed “Minnie Finnie”. While most models in Germany were equipped with four cylinders – diesel or petrol – this particular Californian-registered model, which cost more than 4,500 dollars at the time, is proud to wear its power pack on its sleeve. The “230” tag is short-hand for the M 180, straight 6 engine, that produced 88 kW or 120 PS at 5400 rpm and achieved an impressive top speed of 175 km/h. Anyone that feels like it can still power the four-door saloon to 100 km/h (or 62 mph) in a little over eleven seconds from a standing start.

The deep dark green lacquer of the 230 is a real show-stopper.

The deep dark green lacquer of the 230 is a real show-stopper.

Salt is still mined in the Californian desert. However, many of the large plants have been abandoned for years.

Salt is still mined in the Californian desert. However, many of the large plants have been abandoned for years.

Qualities of upper-class models.

The best way to savour the qualities of such an upper-class model is to take it for a long journey. And this is why we took it from the urban jungle of the Los Angeles conurbation and pointed it towards Palm Springs. The 4.73 metre long saloon has a manual gear shift, which evidently suited it very well when accelerating. Even on highway and interstate ascents, you find you can do without a downshift to third gear. With a maximum torque of 178 Nm, this flagship model from Germany easily cruises up all the mountains and hills – and thanks to the disc brakes fitted as standard on the front axle, it also comes safely back down again.

The Mercedes-Benz sails on regardless.

Since it is now late autumn, the cooler temperatures mean that not having air conditioning does not pose a problem. The further we travel towards the desert, the more at ease the 1.3 tonne Mercedes-Benz 230 feels and pulls past gigantic trucks and pickups with sovereign ease. Now and again, a weak English or Spanish music programme sounds out from the mono speaker in the fascia. The first owner, Constance E. Fuller, ordered her luxury saloon with a $ 125 Blaupunkt AM radio, which still produces sounds today without any problems but is decidedly weak.

The gloomy clouds hardly affect it and even when heavy rain sets in shortly after Corona, the Mercedes-Benz sails on regardless.

Things get a bit more awkward on the Interstate 10 towards Indio. The lanes have longitudinal grooves, which is not exactly compatible with the narrow crossply tyres and the ever-increasing amount of water. After a quarter of an hour, we turn off right towards Palm Springs and the bumpy ride comes to an end. Before going to the hotel, we want to make a quick detour to one of the numerous car dealers who are particularly keen on European models. An elderly couple stops next to the dark green Mercedes-Benz 230 and they are evidently enthralled. The couple, from New York, spend every winter here in the Coachella Valley and are on the look-out for just such a Minnie Finnie.

In Twentynine Palms at the northern border of the Joshua Tree National Park there are far more than 29 palm trees.

In Twentynine Palms at the northern border of the Joshua Tree National Park there are far more than 29 palm trees.

Twentynine Palms.

The next day, the weather is better and we can continue our trip into the desert in blazing sunshine. Unfortunately, we will have to do without our planned detour along the Box Canyon Road to get from Mecca to Joshua Tree National Park. The heavy downpours have made the narrow road impassable and so we head north through the picturesque desert park to Twentynine Palms. Even in December, the campsites here in the park are still fully booked and numerous hikers are enjoying the sunshine temperatures of about 20 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, the 230 continues to gobble up the miles and seems to feel just as much at home on Route 66 as in the winter paradise of Palm Springs. The refuelling stop in Twentynine Palms and a reassuring actual consumption of around eleven litres of high-octane fuel per 100 kilometres save us a costly refill at what is probably the best-known petrol station in the USA, if not in the world.

Memories of a glorious era.

In Amboy, time seems to have stood still and, in one’s mind’s eye, one can see American fintails rushing past on their way to the golden west. The former motels have long been abandoned and only the petrol station and picturesque Roy’s Motel sign remind us of a glorious era in which almost everything in the USA revolved around the motorcar. And then a crowd of Harley bikers grumbled past, acknowledging the sight of the Mercedes-Benz 230 with a show of approving upward-pointing thumbs.

On the sandy road to the Joshua Tree National Park towards Twentynine Palms.

On the sandy road to the Joshua Tree National Park towards Twentynine Palms.

The old post station of Kelso in the Californian steppe has been abandoned since 1985.

The old post station of Kelso in the Californian steppe has been abandoned since 1985.

Not much left to see.

And the same spectacle is repeated as we continue our journey towards Las Vegas. Again, we leave the highways behind us and, in the ever yellower afternoon light, we continue on to Kelso, which experienced its heyday as a railway junction during the Second World War because troops and supplies could be distributed from here in all directions. After the Union Pacific railway line closed its local depot here in 1985, there is not much left to see except an old post station and a tourist centre. And so we continue northeast towards Las Vegas. As the sun slowly sets, the W 110 turns onto the first highway for some time shortly before Primm and shows, on Interstate 15, that faster motorway speeds are right up its street. The spiral speedometer points to more than 70 miles per hour as we approach the as‑usual magnificently illuminated Las Vegas at a fairly fast trot.

Home of the small fintail.

Despite the wildly flashing LED displays, this German luxury saloon from 1966 is well able to turn heads in Vegas. In car parks, in front of hotels, at traffic lights and even on the dazzlingly bright Las Vegas strip, inquisitive spectators pull out their mobile phones and keep asking how old the car is and what make it is, about the year of manufacture and vehicle type. After Palm Springs, Vegas underlines more than ever that the USA is the real home of the small fintail. Two days later, after an early morning start, we return to Irvine, about an hour south of Los Angeles. This time the small, charming roads are left to one side and the Mercedes-Benz 230 takes the direct route via Interstate 15 back to the San Bernardino Valley.

A short refuelling stop in Baker, a small town at the foot of the Death Valley, which, since the 1960s, has hardly had more to offer than a few petrol stations, snack bars and run-down motels, where nobody has lived for years. After Victorville, the W 110 says goodbye to the seemingly endless desert, shallow ranges of hills and a moderately frequented highway. The trip from Riverside to Irvine covers the last 50 miles on this road trip where the Mercedes-Benz 230 has been able to immerse itself in its history. The trip was a real homecoming – in the USA, of course.

Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert Stromverbrauch im kombinierten Testzyklus

Product may vary after press date on 31.01.2019.

1 Die angegebenen Werte wurden nach dem vorgeschriebenen Messverfahren ermittelt. Es handelt sich um die „NEFZ-CO₂-Werte“ i. S. v. Art. 2 Nr. 1 Durchführungsverordnung (EU) 2017/1153. Die Kraftstoffverbrauchswerte wurden auf Basis dieser Werte errechnet. Der Stromverbrauch wurde auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO₂-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch aller neuen Personenkraftwagenmodelle“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.

2 Die angegebenen Werte sind die „gemessenen NEFZ-CO₂-Werte“ i. S. v. Art. 2 Nr. 2 Durchführungsverordnung (EU) 2017/1153, die im Einklang mit Anhang XII der Verordnung (EG) Nr. 692/2008 ermittelt wurden. Die Kraftstoffverbrauchswerte wurden auf Basis dieser Werte errechnet. Der Stromverbrauch wurde auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Aufgrund gesetzlicher Änderungen der maßgeblichen Prüfverfahren können in der für die Fahrzeugzulassung und ggf. Kfz-Steuer maßgeblichen Übereinstimmungsbescheinigung des Fahrzeugs höhere Werte eingetragen sein. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch und die CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.

4 Angaben zu Kraftstoffverbrauch, Stromverbrauch und CO₂-Emissionen sind vorläufig und wurden vom Technischen Dienst für das Zertifizierungsverfahren nach Maßgabe des WLTP-Prüfverfahrens ermittelt und in NEFZ-Werte korreliert. Eine EG-Typgenehmigung und Konformitätsbescheinigung mit amtlichen Werten liegen noch nicht vor. Abweichungen zwischen den Angaben und den amtlichen Werten sind möglich.

6 Stromverbrauch und Reichweite wurden auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Stromverbrauch und Reichweite sind abhängig von der Fahrzeugkonfiguration. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO₂-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch aller neuen Personenkraftwagenmodelle“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.

7 Angaben zu Stromverbrauch und Reichweite sind vorläufig und wurden vom Technischen Dienst für das Zertifizierungsverfahren nach Maßgabe der UN/ECE-Regelung Nr. 101 ermittelt. Die EG-Typgenehmigung und eine Konformitätsbescheinigung mit amtlichen Werten liegen noch nicht vor. Abweichungen zwischen den Angaben und den amtlichen Werten sind möglich.