THE FRUITS OF EXPERIENCE OUTSTANDINGLY GOOD SUSPENSION AND SUSTAINED SPEEDS ARE FEATURES OF THE 2.3-LITRE
THE 2.3 LITRE MERCEDES-BENZ
IT was in 1885 that Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz, within a few months of one another, invented the first petrol engine and the first practical
motor vehicle. The firms originating from these two pioneers eventually amalgamated, and it is now well known that the makers of the famous MercedesBenz car are known in their own country, Germany, as the Daimler-Benz A.G. Actually the union did not take place till 1920, but long before that, ever since the dawn of automobile history, the name Mercedes-Benz had become famous through its consistent successes in motorracing.
Though so many famous firms have dropped out of the sport, and others have taken their places, the ” Mere.,” as it is familiarly known in Great Britain, always has a special place in the hearts of enthusiasts, as the only firm which, right from the beginning, has lent its wholehearted support to motor-racing.
With this history behind it, one expects great things of any Mercedes, and one is not disappointed. Many people in England, however, associate the name Mercedes-Benz only with speed, and expect almost every car bearing the famous name to be capable of 100 m.p.h. Although the big supercharged 5.4-litre and the Grosser Mercedes will certainly exceed this speed, it is not in this way alone that the makers have applied the lessons of racing.
Since the well-beloved ” SSK ” was dropped, and superseded by first the 5-litre and now the 5.4-litre Mercedes, the policy of the firm for its ordinary production cars has been to concentrate on the qualities that make a good touring car, as opposed to a sports machine. Good suspension, road-holding, and cornering, and ability to sustain high speeds for an indefinite length of time have been studied, rather than ultimate maximum speed. One of the smaller Mercedes models is the subject of this test, the six-cylinder 2.8-litre car. This model is a develop ment of the earlier 2-litre car, and now has a greatly improved performance, while losing nothing of its comfort as a touring machine. All four wheels are independently sprung, at the front by two transverse leaf springs, and at the
rear by coil springs. All-independent suspension has been a feature of Mercedes cars for some time, but a new development on the majority of the 1938 models is an all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox.
Formerly an overdrive gearbox was fitted, but the new gear change appeals both to those who like changing gear for its own sake—and there are many among sporting enthusiasts—and to those who are content to make a silent gear change when necessary. The change is extremely simple and rapid on the 2.3-litre car at all speeds. whether in traffic or on the open road. About 20 m.p.h. is possible on first gear, 30 m.p.h. on second gear, and about 50 m.p.h. on third gear.
The top gear performance is extremely flexible, with an axle ratio of 4.7 to 1, but, unlike many ” top gear cars,” it is still possible to improve performance by a judicious change down even at quite high speeds. On the road a maximum speed of just over 75 m.p.h. was attained, on the level and with a crosswind blowing. This takes into account correction of the speedometer reading, which was somewhat fast. On the track at Brooklands, a timed speed of 72.58 m.p.h. over a quarter mile was registered.
It might be argued that these speeds are not particularly high for a 2.3-litre car, and, judged by standards of highrevving sports-cars, this is indeed the case. However, it is possible to maintain over 70 m.p.h. on the road almost indefinitely, wherever traffic conditions permit. One may almost omit the qualifying clause “wherever road conditions permit,” for rough surfaces and corners appear to make very little difference. This is certainly not the case with some of the above-mentioned high-revving sports-cars.
On a fast ran, starting from cold from the suburbs of London, forty-four miles were covered in the first hour, and in the next fifty-one minutes fifty-one miles were actually covered. It may be mentioned that it was raining at intervals during this run, and that there was a blustering wind—at the side, not behind the car. One does not wish to start one of those fierce controversies about average speeds, but, since the above times can be guaranteed, one ventures to suggest that a car capable of a 60 m.p.h. average, in any conditions, is not to be despised. A run of this nature becomes especially remarkable when one considers the maximum speed of the car, and that the distance was not covered in so short a time by means of bursts of 80 or 90 m.p.h., to make up for time lost in the ‘Various towns through which the route led, and in which
all limits were observed. Though the road was a fast one, it was not by any means straight. However, the average became possible owing to the cornering ability of the 2.3-litre Mercedes, with its independent suspension, which enabled one to take bends at the cruising speed without effort. The Mercedes suspension is indeed worthy of especial note, as forming one of the principal features of the car. On cars with soft, flexible springing, one does not feel the bumps, but often such a car is not steady on a rough or indifferent road, owing to pitching or rolling, Cars with bard suspension, on the other hand, hold the road well, but administer shocks to the passengers. On the Mercedes one has a form of suspension Which appears to combine the advantages of both types. There is certainly no rolling, however fast a corner is taken, for, like a sportscar, it would skid under provocation before
it rolled. Yet it is still more certain that even on rough country lanes, no bumps are felt. Racing has taught the manufacturers that cars must hold the road, and that
the driver must not be fatigued by a long spell at the wheel. The application of these two principles to the touring cars has made it possible for them, despite a large and somewhat heavy body, to equal the performance of many more highly tuned sports machines.
Even enthusiasts are sometimes tired, and at such times they would welcome the smoothness and silence of the Mercedes. indeed, when one has travelled in a number of these cars, one comes to associate a kind of soft thudding noise, caused by the wind, with fast travel, the exhaust being inaudible. There is not, moreover, that rushing wind noise which in many saloon cars makes conversation difficult at high speeds.
One hears much nowadays of draughtless ventilation, and the 1938 Mercedes models have a new system to exclude draughts with the windows slightly open. This consists of a glass rim, projecting to a depth of one or two inches, all round the window frames. This rim remains permanently in position, and if the window is opened slightly, so as just to clear the rim, plenty of fresh air enters without a draught being caused, even With a cross-wind ‘blowing straight at the window. Only the long wheelbase model is now marketed, with a wheelbase of 10 ft., and a weight of approximately 28i cwt. It is thus quite a big car for its engine size, and the acceleration figures which it put up are quite creditable. On the road second and third gears are very pleasant, giving a feeling of
life to the whole car. The brakes are hydraulically operated, and are smooth and powerful. Two details which may be mentioned are the way in which the petrol pump is carefully insulated, from the heat of the engine by a special packing (to prevent gasing of the fuel), and the connection of a lever on the oil filter to the clutch
pedal. Every time that the latter is moved, the filter is automatically cleaned.
The jacking system, too, may be noted. There is .a permanent attachment beneath the centre of the miming board, on each side of the car, into which a quick-action jack is fitted, and lifts both wheels together on that side. A rounded luggage boot, merged in the lines of the tail, is capable of holding several large suitcases. Fitted trunks are available if desired, and are supplied as standard on the drophead cabriolet model. Although cloth upholstery is popular in Germany, it has never found favour, for some reason, in England, and the Mercedes models for the English market now have leather upholstery. The price of the 2.3-litre (or Type 230) saloon is