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Mercedes-Benz ESV 13: 50 Years of Safety Experience

Mercedes-Benz ESV 13: 50 Years of Safety Experience

The safety provisions in new passenger cars today are almost at an absurdly high level and can’t be compared in any way to those that existed, say, ten years ago. In this article, the spotlight is on a fifty-year-old Mercedes-Benz, which at that time was equipped with ultra-modern gadgets such as … airbags!

Autoland today looks very different than it did a decade ago. All-electric models fly in front of you on the road left and right and we no longer look at cars that are able to stay within lines on the highway, automatically maintain a distance from vehicles in front of you and independently slow down and accelerate in traffic jams. . In fact, we criticize the not always smooth way in which this happens. Ten years ago, there were no such systems, although of course cars were already moving in cupboards with padded walls compared to cars from decades earlier. In this article, we go back fifty years and come up with a progressive Mercedes-Benz test car for its time that impressed the viewer in 1972 with tacky futuristic features like flex bags.

Mercedes-Benz ESF 03

The Mercedes-Benz sedan in these photos, which was remarkably modern in design for its time, is called the ESF 13. The ESF 13 was the second Mercedes-Benz Experimental Safety Vehicle (ESV) named for the US Department of Transportation. (DOT) in a project created to improve vehicle safety features. Mercedes-Benz introduced the ESF 03 and ESF 05, among other things, and in 1972 – exactly fifty years ago this year – the Germans in Washington introduced this ESF 13.

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Mercedes-Benz ESF 05

Mercedes-Benz ESF 05

This ESF 13, introduced in 1972, shared its base with the W114, just like the ESF 05, which was a year old at the time of its introduction, although you can only see it from the side. For example, parts of the SL (R107) and W116 were combined. Its modified exterior, complete with a new type of “soft thick” fenders requested in the US since the 1970s – in this case with hydraulic dampers! – It was by no means the most noticeable thing about the car.

Mercedes-Benz ESF 13

Mercedes-Benz ESF 13

The Mercedes-Benz ESF 13 topped off with halogen anti-lock headlights with wipers, a rear wiper that moves vertically across the entire width of the rear window and even with the airbags. Both the driver and co-driver had an elastic bag in front of them and airbags for the rear passengers that were positioned in the back of the front seats. Volvo already had three-point seat belts in the Amazon at the end of the 1950s, and Mercedes-Benz had no choice but to strap those belts into the ESF 13 as well. The test vehicle had five three-point seat belts, up front with pretensioners that automatically retract the seat belts when the door is closed. Perhaps most striking is the grille you see hanging in the back of the ESF 13. Although the front seats had headrests, the rear passengers had to do without them. The safety grille in the rear took on the role of the headrest in a rather dubious way in the event of a collision. Mercedes-Benz applied soft materials to the doors and window pillars, the V6 – striking: the W114 and R107 had inline engines, had an extra crease area in front that explained the long nose and the glass in both the front and rear windows were laminated.

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Mercedes-Benz ESF 13

Mercedes-Benz ESF 13

All these features gave the W114 significantly more weight. With a length of 5.24 meters (+55 centimeters!) The ESF 13 weighed no less than 2,100 kilograms, and therefore was more than 700 kilograms heavier than the car on which it was based. ABS will eventually be standard on Mercedes-Benz’s W116 from 1978.

Mercedes-Benz ESF 13

Mercedes-Benz ESF 13

The ESF 13 was followed in 1973 by the ESF 22 (Photos 8 and 9), a car no longer based on the W114 but on the S-Class (W116). Are ESF models, then, a thing of the distant past for Mercedes-Benz? of course no. For example, in 2009 and 2019, Mercedes-Benz, respectively 2009 ESF (Picture 10) and ESF 2019 (photo 11). The first was based on the current S-Class at the time, and the second on the current GLE.

Also, Mercedes-Benz was not the only manufacturer that created the ESF / ESV models. This is how we know about Volvo VESC (and 2001 SCC) as well as brands like Nissan (Datsun) have similar test models. More on that later, of course!