In the great era between curb feelers and parking sensors, someone at Mercedes-Benz apparently had an epiphany. Presumably, this happened while they were repairing a power antenna mask that broke in a car wash just minutes after they had backed into a parked BMW. Someone in Stuttgart was having a bad day, perhaps.
The idea was simple enough: Two tiny antennas were deployed from the rearmost corners of the trunk lid when the car was put into reverse. The tiny antennas only extended a couple of inches, but that was enough for a cognizant driver to look back and see exactly where the end of their brand new Mercedes-Benz was.
Mercedes debuted the feature on its w140 generation S-Class in 1990, the most über S-Class of all S-Classes ever built. By the time the car was facelifted a few years later, Mercedes was installing little radar sensors into the big 4-door’s back bumpers (such as on this exceptionally clean 1997 S600). The little antennas are therefore only a footnote in the annals of automotive history. Even Mercedes-Benz had to dig well into its archives in Germany to provide us with the photo above of one of the antennas in action.
The short-lived feature is positively adorable in the event that you happen across an early-1990s S-Class backing out of a parking spot. They don’t go high enough to hang a flag on, though I imagine a creative 500SEL owner might be able to rig up an antenna with a longer mast.
That S-Class earned a deserved reputation for being arguably the most over-engineered car ever made, though the Volkswagen Phaeton could challenge its title. The S-Class was so advanced that it even had a power-adjustable interior rearview mirror, because reaching up is so gauche.
These now-vintage S-Classes have become difficult to find, but clean, low-mileage examples do pop up periodically. The S-Class was a cherished possession for many — or at least one member of a fleet of fine cars. Here’s a nice V8-powered 1995 S500, or you can find your own on Autotrader.
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