Mercedes had rather elegant Steering wheels in the 1960s, before safety concerns led to a change to the padded, plastic type. These were thin style, and from an era where driving gloves were the norm rather than the exception. As was the trend at the time, there was a separate Horn Ring, and a nod to safety with a padded center.
These steering wheels were basically the same for all W108, W109, W110, W111, W112, W113, and early W114 and W115. Early cars had a Round Horn Ring, which was changed in the early 60s to a flatter top. The cars of the 50s had a different design that was similar in concept, but with no padded center and a circular horn ring.
The standard steering wheel was black (ebony) and had a black center pad with the Mercedes logo and a chrome horn ring. Up until the mid 60’s it was also possible to order an Ivory coloured steering wheel with a colour matched center pad. When ordered, the gear stick knob was also Ivory coloured. This was option code 551. This option was discontinued for the updated 1968 models (i.e. the 280s and later 300s). The picture below shows an early finnie with the Ivory Steering Wheel and the round horn ring. Note the end of the gear stick is also ivory.
The Ivory steering wheel is much more susceptible to age and heat related cracking than the black one is, and both are still available from Mercedes, although at significant cost. The Ivory wheel is very popular in more recent years and is often added to cars during restoration, especially to vehicles such as the 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet that were never available with this option. In most cases the gear knob is not changed at the same time, so the difference is quite apparent. These wheels were only ever available with the center pad in the same colour as the wheel, although I’ve seen many ‘restored’ cars have dyed it the same colour of the seats which I find rather garish. The photo below shows a 280SE 3.5 Coupe with the correct steering wheel and gear knob. The flattened top of the horn ring is contrasted with the round one above.
Another popular owner change over is to add a Nardi wheel. Personally I prefer the original wheel, but the Nardi wheel can look good on the W113 roadsters.