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A W108/W109 History Course

The Production Time-line

The W108/W109 line was the upper class model of the New Generation or /8 Mercedes family in 1967. It was introduced two years earlier in 1965 with the 250S/SE and the 300SE/SEL, but never the less served as the S-Class member of the stroke-eights for the first production years. It's predecessor was the "Fintail"; or "Heckeflosse"; W111/W112 and the successor was the W116.

The S-Class Body Evolution

Below are pictures of three S-Class body styles as to demonstrate the evolution of the upper class Mercedes through a 20 year period. It's the classical Mercedes of the 60's and 70's. Observe how what makes the classical "Mercedes" a "Benz" become less and less obvious. See how the traditional grille is shrinking and the hood and front fenders flatten out.

The predecessor W111 & W112, fintail (1959 - 1968)

The W108 & W109 body style (1965 - 1972)

The successor W116 (1972 - 1980)

Production Milestones

- 1965 -

The W108/W109 family was first introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1965. The models that where introduced where the 250S, 250SE and 300SE from the W108 chassis and the 300SEL from the W109 chassis.

The W108/W109 had a brand new body style and the tail fins from the predecessor W111/W112 had been entirely eliminated and the overall appearance was similar to that of the coupe models. The body waist line was lowered and window area increased, with the windshield being 17 percent larger than of the predecessor. The flat roof made it look wider, but width had increased by only 15 millimetres. Height was reduced by 60 millimetres.

The suspension system had been improved and the reinforced rear axle was equipped with the new hydro-pneumatic compensating spring. Larger wheel (14”) and disc brakes all around where fitted.

The 250S and 250SE where powered with a 2,496 cubic centimetre 6 cylinder engine that was developed from the 2.2 litre power unit, but it had a larger bore and stroke and a seven-bearing crankshaft. A higher compression ratio and larger valves and induction passages where other changes. The 250S had a 2 dual downdraft carburettors and delivered 130 horsepower (DIN) at 5,400 rpm, while the 250SE had a six-plunger fuel injection pump with the fuel being injected intermittently into the suction pipe and delivering 150 horsepower (DIN) at 5,500 rpm.

The 300SE and 300SEL where both powered with the M189 engine. It was a 6 cylinder light alloy fuel injection engine, equipped with the six-plunger pump which adjusted automatically to accelerator pedal pressure, engine speed, atmospheric pressure, and cooling water temperature, thus giving the best possible mixture for all driving conditions. Maximum power output was 170 horsepower (DIN) at 5,400 rpm.

- 1967 -

The 280S, 280SE and 280SEL from the W108 chassis and the 300SEL from the W109 chassis where introduced as a part of the “New Generation” automobiles or the “stroke eights”, /8, in 1967. Later that same year the flagship of the family, the 300SEL 6.3, was introduced. The only outward difference between the 280’s (W108) and the 300’s (W109) was a more generous use of chrome around the window areas. Inwardly, the furnishings where of the finest as befitting this most elegant limousine of the New Generation class.

The 280 models and the 300SEL where all powered with the new M130 engine. The 280S engine had dual downdraft carburettors, air oil cooler; and a new cylinder arrangement for increased cooling, and developed 140 horsepower (DIN) at 5,200 rpm. The 280SE/SEL & 300SEL fuel injected engine had a six-plunger pump for increased performance with improved economy and was not affected by altitude or by temperature. The fuel injected version engine developed 160 horsepower (DIN) at 5,500 rpm. Otherwise the 2.8 litre engines where alike.

- 1968 -

The 300SEL 6.3 was introduced in March 1968. It was a slightly modified, but outwardly regular sedan of the New Generation type, but under the hood there was a 6.332 cubic centimetre fuel-injected 300 horsepower (SAE) V-8 engine, the M100. The car weighted 3.835 pounds and had a power to weight ratio of 12.8 pounds per horsepower. The sedan had the air suspension system of the 600 series and many extra features were included as standard, such as air conditioning, radio, leather upholstery, power steering and power windows. Except for the number 6.3 on the trunk lid, the car was not distinguishable from the regular 300SEL model.

- 1969 -

The 300SEL 3.5 was introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1969. It had a new 3.5 litre V8 Bosch electronic fuel injected engine, but the body style was identical to the earlier 300SEL sedan. This new model was the top of the line, a most luxuriously appointed automobile, more advanced than the coming 280SE 3.5 sedan in the chassis design and with a longer wheelbase, a somewhat better riding automobile. It had the suspension system of the 6.3 models sedan and shared some other technological improvements of that model.

- 1970 -

The 280SE/SEL 3.5 where first introduced at the Auto Show in Amsterdam in 1970. Before the luxury Coupe and Convertible 280 models had been equipped with the same engine, and it only seemed natural to equip the sedan in the same manner.

- 1971 -

The 280SE 4.5 sedan mode its first appearance in early 1971, just few months after the new 4.5 litre engine had made its debut. It was available at the same time as the 3.5 litre engine sedan, and gave the buyer another option in power for his car. It was however never very popular. The 280SEL 4.5 sedan was produced at about the same time as the regular length sedan was available. Again this longer wheelbase car was identical to the other model, and the extra ten centimetres gave the rear-seat passengers additional space to stretch their legs. Inside out this new model and the earlier 3.5 model where alike, with the more powerful one having, of course, better performance. Acceleration was slightly faster and the maximum speed was five miles better, but the fuel consumption was 1.5 litres more for the 4.5 engine. The 300SEL 4.5 was introduced the same year. While the actual performance data compared with the 280SEL 4.5 model was identical, the owner of the 300SEL 4.5 sedan experienced the feeling of driving a car with truly unsurpassed readability, the very best available model in every respect.

The Mercedes-Benz New-Generation Family (/8's or stroke-eights) in 1967.