by James Kraus
One of the gifts under the Christmas tree awaiting me this year was a 1/43 scale 1959 Mercedes-Benz 220 SE sedan. The 220 SE was the forerunner of the current Mercedes S Class. The W111 ‘Heckflosse’ (fin tail) body was distinguished from the 4-cylinder range chiefly by its longer front end, highlighted by the signature bubble lenses covering the vertical headlamp assemblies. These units incorporated high and low beam, fog lamp, parking and turn indicator functions. They were a variant of those introduced a few years earlier on the 300 SL Roadster. Devised in-house by Karl Wilfert, they were the first post-war automotive headlamps to be other than round in shape.
This 1/43 model is special because of its rare two-tone paint scheme. The Heckflosse series were available in two different two-tone paint configurations; the more common involved the roof panel being a sprayed in the second colour. This car displays the second variant, in which the entire greenhouse was finished in the second colour. A small distinction perhaps, but one that makes a considerable difference in this instance.
The Heckflosse always struck me as a bit of an unusual design, seemingly created from two disparate schools of thought. The front two-thirds is characterized by restrained, rounded forms with a greenhouse composed largely of straight lines and right angles. In abrupt contrast, the rear third of the car features sharp-edged fins, concave surfaces, a voluptuously curvaceous rear window and C-pillars burdened with chrome-embellished air extraction vents. The C-pillars further suffer from being visually divorced from both the roof and lower body by chrome mouldings.
With the entire greenhouse finished in contrasting paint, the incongruities of the design are camouflaged to a great extent with the two colours clearly delineating the lower body and greenhouse as separate and distinct elements, and visually connecting the otherwise-orphaned C-pillar with the roof. The result is an attractive sedan that brings out the best in this vintage Friedrich Geiger-designed Mercedes – exuding character and nicely reflecting the design zeitgeist of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.