300 SL Models Emulate Export Success
Soon after the launch of the W 198 I, a large number of tin miniatures emulating the Gullwing coupe hit the international toy market. More than a few of them, such as a few Japanese-made versions, were rather crudely made. These tin models of the 300 SL didn’t sell very well in Germany, and the vast majority sold well in foreign markets. The popularity of these original models present another parallel between the original Mercedes-Benz automobile and the models that based themselves upon it. Both were successful exports right from the start.
Some other very fine miniatures were produced in Germany, such as the model made by Tipp & Co./Tippco with electric drive and functioning column shifter. This toy car not only lived up to the technical standards of the original, it also matched the luxury sports car’s premium price. The 300 SL from Tipp & Co./Tippco would set you back DM23, a rather serious amount of money for a toy in the mid-1950s.
While German toy manufacturers showed some reluctance towards the 300 SL at first, this all changed in 1955 with the 190 SL Roadster. Eventually, the vast majority of all models of this open-top sports car were made by traditional German firms such as Gama, Huki (Kienberger), JNF, Kellermann, Schuco, and Seidel. In terms of design, these miniatures followed the models of the 300 SL, i.e. they had a tin body that was painted or lithographed.
Technical Innovations in the Toy Sector
Certainly not all technical details of a real sports car can be accurately reproduced in a model, but since the launch of the first 300 SL as a competition car, development in the toy sector has been characterised by a number of important innovations. These range from the production of the body through injection moulding to using processes such as photo-etching for the decor. This development can be seen particularly well in the 300 SL from model series W 198 I and the 190 SL from model series W 121. Both of these Mercedes-Benz sports cars are still being offered in model form by a number of manufacturers, with significant variations in their attention to detail and, accordingly, in price.
The evolution undergone by models can be demonstrated using the example of the 300 SL Coupe by Wiking, made from plastic on a scale of 1:87, which was first introduced with the 1956 price list. At that time, the Gullwing sports car, on the same scale as an H0 gauge model railway, had a body without holes for the windows and the glass on the headlights represented by color. In 1960, this was followed by a 300 SL with a transparent windscreen and windows to go with the 190 SL with coupe roof introduced by Wiking in 1957. Wiking continued to produce more and more refined versions of the Gullwing coupe, culminating in a version with an intricate radiator grille and bumpers.
In addition to the finer details, technical functionality has also been in demand among certain enthusiasts. Around 1960, there was not only a model of the ‘Pagoda’ by Gama with a removable hardtop, but even a 230 SL (W 113) by Schuco with a fully-functioning four-speed transmission. For many enthusiasts, the importance of replicating an automobile in miniature form is not isolated to the flowing lines of the exterior, but also includes the technical details underneath.
Mercedes-Benz Quality in Model Form
Many independent manufacturers continue to strive for ever-better models in a range of different scales. This inevitably leads to an increased demand for precise information about the original automobiles. Mercedes-Benz has always been a much sought-after partner for the toy industry. Back in 1961, a manufacturer of “children’s cars” contacted Daimler to ask for detailed drawings and photos to use as templates for their pedal cars, which were about 1.5 metres long.
Today, Mercedes-Benz collaborates with well-known toy and model manufacturers for its own Classic Collection of models and other related memorabilia. These models are sold exclusively through Mercedes-Benz sales and service outlets, dealerships, an online store, and the Mercedes-Benz Museum. These modern collaborations have put a great emphasis on authenticity regarding aspects like paint finishes, trims, and technical details.
And so, when an ardent collector finds exactly the high-quality miniature of a 300 SL coupe or 190 SL Roadster he has been looking for in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Collection, it all comes full circle. Ethnologist Hermann Bausinger has described part of the source of our fascination with collectors’ items like model cars as an interest in the “harmony of design reconciled with the finesse of technical construction.” The continued interest in so many of these models, both classic and contemporary, is a modern-day echo of the enthusiasm felt by the witnesses items, is a modern-day echo of the enthusiasm felt by the audience at the 1954 launch of the 300 SL Coupe and 190 SL in New York.
[Source: Daimler AG]