Mercedes-Benz 300B by Pininfarina, 1955

Creating a one-off Adenauer Coupe

The general ’50s era design ethos of Italian coachbuilder Pininfarnia and that of Mercedes-Benz could be politely described as divergent. Sober and generally functional designs marked Mercedes sedan offerings while Pininfarina penned more voluptuous, often less functional but more emotional designs.

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When Pininfarina indicated to Mercedes in late 1954 their desire to purchase a 300B to be rebodied as a pillerless coupe, the typically fastidious Germans wary of a design detrimental to the firm’s standards requested renderings of the proposed design. Once satisfied with the design, Mercedes shipped chassis #186.010 450005, a 1954 300B, to F.A. Saporiti, the Mercedes-Benz dealer in Milan. The car was shipped on January 17th, 1955.

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As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This Italian Mercedes-Benz-bodied 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300b Coupe has always been the object of mixed opinions, it’s styling far more contemporary than any other luxury car that Mercedes-Benz offered in 1955.

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The 300s were DBAG’s luxury flagships in the Eisenhower years, with flowing fenders and dignified Sindelfingen coachwork influenced by pre-war tradition. This 300b, built in 1955, forecast the look that Mercedes-Benz adopted when the 220S Coupe was introduced for 1957.

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Styling Stages

This 300 was “dressed-up” in four stages, as documented by photographs before it was sold in 1956.

  • Stage one, as the car was originally shown at the period European Auto Salons, used virtually no chrome trim except in the mandatory places like the radiator shell, bumpers, wheel and window trim. Even the headlamp bezels were painted.
  • In stage two the bezels were all chrome, the only noted change.
  • Stage three saw the addition of well-placed lower side molding, flat chrome bands around the front of the fenders, and extended chrome fairings on the auxiliary lamps.
  • In its fourth stage, the car was displayed in Europe, and in this final version it appears today, with wheel-well moldings and another belt molding to facilitate two-toning the hood and deck. This molding also bridges the gap in height between the bottom edge of the hood and the bottom of the pre-existing belt molding, occurring via a “hop-up” at the trailing corner of the hood.

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A bespoke coupe

Of the three Mercedes based projects completed by Pininfarina in the ’50s, this elegant – and rather massive – 300 was the most harmonious. Walking around the car keen observers will see a tail treatment distinctly Facel Vega in execution and the rear 3/4 view revealing a Bentley-esque profile.

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Records indicate that it was not until Sindelfingen received and approved Pinin Farina’s drawings that an automobile was delivered. Whether a complete car or just a running chassis was sent to Pinin Farina is unclear. During an extensive restoration of this car, workers discovered a body identification tag with an assigned number under the left front kick panel (upholstery) on a structure manufactured by Sindelfingen. The tag number, 186.010 450005, indicated a 1954 300b sedan. DBAG records show that the car was sold to F.A. Saporiti, the Mercedes-Benz dealer in Milan, on January 17th, 1955, and shipped by rail to Turin. Saporiti then delivered it to Pinin Farina for the new body. The November 1955 issue of Road & Track carries a photograph of this car on page 34 under the heading “New…From Italy.” The car was also pictured in international publications including Industria Automobilistica Italiana, 1957, and Automobil Revue, published in June 1955.

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In 1956 the car underwent several exterior changes, mostly additional chrome moldings and a more defined two-tone paint scheme. After the European shows, it was sold and did not resurface until mid-1972, when opera singer Roland Dutro in Wiesbaden, Germany, wrote Pininfarina requesting body crests to put on the car following an accident. Two years later it was sold and found its way to America.

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Rescued in 1992

The decaying one-off 300 was purchased after it was discovered in the San Joaquin Valley as “an old clunker,” by MBCA member Fred Kriz, (present owner) who commissioned MB restoration specialist Scott Grundfor to entirely restore the car. So, in August 1992 a lengthy restoration was completed by Scott Restorations, and the car, now painted in two-tone green color, was subsequently invited in 2014, to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, in UK, where it was judged best in class.

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The distinctive styling is best viewed in profile. The sleek fender line draws your eye back to the modest kick-up forward of the C-pillar and the triple chrome molding accenting the greenhouse. Minor features include small trafficator turn signal lamps at the base of the C-pillars and two rear window wipers.

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Whether or not you find this singular Coupe attractive, it is significant, providing a look back at the end of an era when the three-pointed star could be found atop the grille of a coachbuilt car.

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It remains an important example of the occasional collaboration between Pininfarina and Mercedes-Benz and a particularly memorable one-off.

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Sold for $112,750 at 2010 RM Auctions.
Sold for $151,250 at 2014 RM Auctions.

The car is powered by a 2996cc inline six-cylinder engine offering 123 horsepower. There is a four-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel vacuum-assisted hydraulic drum brakes.