After World War II, Mercedes-Benz wanted to re-establish its position in the automotive hierarchy, to create a car that, in the words of the board chairman at the time, Wilhelm Haspel, “gold-plates the name Mercedes-Benz again.”

The brand’s place in the German market had been devastated by a long pause in vehicle development while it produced munitions for the Nazis, and by Allied bombing of its factories. Its place in the European market had been corroded by this wartime collusion, including its widespread use of conscripted labor from concentration camps. And it barely had a presence in North America.

It persevered through the late 1940s, like many global automakers, with slightly updated versions of prewar designs, in its case the 170, a rather unremarkable coupe with a small four-cylinder engine.

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