Design Notes: 1991 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Next step: full-size
Below is a full-size rendering for use in making a full-size model.
I’m not sure what it is about Mercedes-Benz grilles, at least those employed until the end of last century, but they were somehow iconic without the use of any memorable features. The look was one of royalty that no Rolls Royce radiator look-a-like could ever achieve.
From what I’ve read, the highly recognizable and somewhat traditional grille that is on the 1991 S-Class was originally intended for the V-12 models only. But when Mercedes management saw it, they insisted it be used on all models.
Smart move, I think. The new S-Class was an uncharted sea of risky styling and that grille offered a safe harbor for the old guard of Mercedes faithful.
Work on the full-size models shown below began in 1984. That seems amazing considering contemporary designs of the time. The bottom center and right pictures in the set below are what the designers proceeded from.
The car in the upper left of the set has a skirted rear wheel design. That’s a trait I’m not big on, at least not on modern cars. The middle upper model looks better to me than what was actually produced, while the upper right model’s C-pillar is served Merkur Scorpio style.
By the time you get to the bottom row, the large, presumably pyramid-inspired, side windows rear their ugly faces. Sorry for being blunt but they are almost as out of proportion as those on the recently discussed AMC Pacer’s. Unfortunately, that trait stuck and influenced the production S-Class.
Carving the inside out
Work on the interior of the S-Class was reportedly conducted concurrent with that of the exterior. The proposals appear to have been all over the map ranging from simple (by Mercedes standards), to high-tech, to hyper-tech overload.
The first two images below are early sketches. The one on the left is particularly attractive, especially considering what dashboards of the period looked like.
The set below shows the five interior bucks that were created. The one in the middle of the top row shows a date of May 1986.
The three interior mock-ups below were from later in the car’s development. I’d say they all look handsome.
My favorite S-Class designs are the model prior to this one and, in a close second, the model after it. This 1990s generation seems to have wandered from some unwritten company rulebook on successful design work.
While other companies were subtly emulating Mercedes I can’t help but feel this car left the mighty brand vulnerable for nearly a decade and at a time when challengers, some quite new, were poised to strike.