- A new landmark among premium cars, also available in a special-protection version
- Superb handling in spite of its conservative chassis design
- Available with and without supercharging
‘With this model Germany’s automotive manufacturing industry regained its place at the forefront of the special segment, which had actually always been Germany’s domain right from the beginnings of automotive engineering – coupled with the name Mercedes-Benz. One can safely assume that it is precisely those circles which always consider that only the very latest in excellence are just about sufficient for their requirements will focus their interest on this model.’ That was the conclusion drawn by the editor of the renowned ‘Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung’ (AAZ) in 1930 about the ‘Grand Mercedes’ unveiled at the Paris Motor Show. This was the official name of the Mercedes-Benz Model 770.
Around the end of the 1920s, the time was ripe for Mercedes-Benz to set a new landmark in the premium car segment. The Model 630 was no longer in keeping with the times, and Daimler-Benz was in danger of losing its standing in the top car class in view of the Maybach 12 model with a V12 engine (7-litre displacement, 150 hp/110 kW) which was brought out at the end of 1929 by its competitor Maybach, and the Zeppelin 8 model presented at the Paris Show a year later (8-litre displacement, 200 hp/147 kW). However, because of the brand’s reputation and also its recent in-house experience, Daimler-Benz was very careful when it came to new technical features. In 1932, the specialist publication ‘Motor und Sport’ reported on this matter on the occasion of the ‘Grand Mercedes’ test:
‘In contrast to the American view, which is in favour of the V-engine of the 12- or 16-cylinder type as far as representatives of this price category are concerned, they have remained remarkably sober in giving the Super Mercedes an eight-cylinder in-line engine. With a vehicle whose fundamental tendency is towards exclusivity to such a great extent they thought that any excursion into uncharted waters would be fatal. That is how the new design from Daimler-Benz came to be a happy avowal of traditional links.’
It is true that from a technical point of view, the ‘Grand Mercedes’ – known internally as W 07 – did not constitute a great leap forward into the realm of new technologies. There was certainly much expectation amongst the general public surrounding the Mercedes-Benz 170 (W 15) which came out a year later in 1931, with its advanced chassis including independent suspension. But despite its conservative chassis design with front and rear rigid axles, the new top model surprised people with its clear handling as a result of skilful suspension tuning. ‘Motor und Sport’ proves revealing here, too:
‘The Grand Mercedes is certainly a fast car. With its saloon body it achieves a speed of 150 km/h (93 mph). This kind of output is seen as racing-driver speed in many circles.
We know of vehicles, even more recent ones, in which it would be reckless to drive at over 70 km/h (43 mph), whereas there is no such limit where the Grand Mercedes is concerned. In contrast to some statements made by the competition which have come to light, the conduct of the Grand Mercedes at all speeds is beyond reproach. Whilst the car’s springing is not as sensitive as it is amongst the American competitors, the Grand Mercedes enables a sure driving style that secures cohesion with the road. We do not know of any vehicle that would allow such safe driving with heavy bodies at the breathtaking speed of 120 km/h (75 mph). And this is probably where the ultimate sense and the ultimate justification for the existence of this vehicle model are to be found. In spite of its orthodox fundamental philosophy, the Grand Mercedes presents itself as the worthy conclusion of Daimler-Benz production and as the final enhancement of automotive comfort achievable with today’s means.’
The criticism of large cars’ handling was indeed an issue back then; on another occasion the testers found fault with the handling of the Cadillac V16 and Maybach 12, which were direct competitors of the ‘Grand Mercedes’: ‘The rather unpleasant lateral swaying of the body would be dealt with by strengthening the slightly soft springs and by tightening the shock absorbers and would then probably cease; however the question remains whether the springing would be sufficient on poor rural roads – which predominate on long journeys – to retain the high average. As is the case with the new twelve-cylinder Maybach, it is very apparent here that future work must concentrate on improving the handling.’
The ‘Grand Mercedes’ was the last very conservatively characterised new design from the still young Mercedes-Benz brand, which came about in 1926 as a result of the merger of the companies Benz & Cie. and DMG. The expectations that had manifested themselves in society with regard to an exclusive car from this brand turned out to be an advantage for it, its place in automotive society having been carved out by the predecessor models.