Mercedes-Benz Ponton was Daimler-Benz's first totally new Mercedes-Benz series of passenger vehicles produced after WW I...
Mercedes-Benz Ponton was Daimler-Benz's first totally new Mercedes-Benz series of passenger vehicles produced after WW II. In July 1953, the cars replaced the pre-war-designed Type 170 series and were the bulk of the automaker's production through 1959, though some models lasted through 1962.

The nickname comes from the German word for "pontoon" and refers to one definition of pontoon fenders — and a postwar styling trend, subsequently called ponton styling.

The Ponton models were replaced by the "Heckflosse" or "Fintail" models. There were essentially four types of Ponton cars. Note the "D" designates a diesel engine, and the suffix "b" and/or "c" are body variants introduced after the middle of 1959.

Four-cylinder sedans
1953–1962 W120 — 180, 180a, 180b, 180c, 180D, 180Db, 180Dc
1956–1961 W121 — 190, 190b, 190d, 190Db
Four-cylinder roadsters / coupés
1955–1962 W121 — 190SL

Six-cylinder sedans
1956–1959 W105 — 219
1954–1959 W180 — 220a, 220S
1958–1960 W128 — 220SE

Six-cylinder coupés
1956–1959 W180 — 220S
1958–1960 W128 — 220SE

Six-cylinder cabriolets
1956–1959 W180 — 220S
1958–1960 W128 — 220SE
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  •   Samantha Snow reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    Living the dream in a #Mercedes on the Monte / #1955-Mercedes-Benz-220a / #1955-Mercedes-Benz-220a-W180 / #1955 / #Mercedes-Benz-220a / #Mercedes-Benz-220a-W180 / #Mercedes-Benz-W180 / #Mercedes-Benz-Ponton / #Mercedes-Benz / #Automobile-Club-de-Monaco

    As a 32 year old, I have friends who are preoccupied with the latest shiny offerings from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. But here in Northern Ireland we are steeped in a motor sport heritage that’s the envy of many in the motoring world, and when I was growing up, not too far from Dundrod, I was told of the 1955 Tourist Trophy by my grandfather, who was a spectator. Images of it captivated me as a boy, and in 2015 I finally decided to stop just thinking about historic racing and to actually do something about it.

    I bought a #1955-Mercedes-Benz-220a – chosen because it is eligible for many events in Europe – unseen from Tasmania via the internet. To my huge relief, it arrived safely and in working order! Then, having researched many historic events in order to choose one that would be suitable for a beginner, I took the not-very-sensible option of diving straight into the deep end with the Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique.

    In my naïvety I imagined driving the beautiful roads of Southern France, sipping wine, eating great food and enjoying a good night’s sleep in plush hotels. This thought did not last long, as when I spoke to anyone in motor sport they all had the same response: laughter followed by ‘Good luck!’

    The day before the start from Paisley, our car had no front end and the engine was in bits due to problems with the fuel line and electrics. That co-driver Gary Greenberg and I even made it from Belfast to Glasgow was a victory; everything else would be a bonus! The reception in Paisley was truly fantastic and the realisation hit me that I was at last fulfilling my boyhood dream of a Monte Carlo start.

    When we crossed the Channel into France, panic began to set in as I realised that this was a serious event. Column-shift selector issues in Calais meant that we had no reverse gear, and the roadbook might as well have been written in hieroglyphics.

    The Automobile-Club-de-Monaco officials kindly explained what I had done wrong by passing every Control, but we soon got the hang of it. The good night’s sleep I had hoped for was replaced by two back-to-back days of no sleep and hard driving, including during the night, when temperatures dropped below freezing and tiredness was a constant threat. Our car was pushed to the limits on the demanding roads.

    The fuel-line issue we had before the start recurred on day four, meaning we spent most of it in a supermarket car park covered in petrol. This cost us dearly and we remained at the rear of the field – which meant we had no time to stop and fix issues, because the Time Controls were closing. The stress of continually watching the clock to maintain average speeds was taxing, but eventually we reached #Monte-Carlo , where the sight of the marina made it all worthwhile.

    We had just a two-hour break before the final stage, which started at 8pm and ran until 5am: the infamous Col de Turini. We were warned that it started as dry tarmac but quickly turned to ice, snow and then tarmac again, and there had already been crashes. We came to the decision that you only live once, and went for it.

    The hours in the hills were the most thrilling, exciting and scary of my life, but we did it and made it back over the finishing ramp. It was also our best result of the event, in terms of points. Standing in the middle of Monte Carlo, on the finishing ramp of the rally with the Automobile Club de Monaco medal in your hand, has to be one of the most special feelings you can have.

    Some people might not rate historic rallying because it doesn’t involve the sheer speed of modern rallies, but it is much more than that. It’s an endurance event where crew and car must work together over several days to make the finish. The roads are demanding, stress high, competition fierce – and the reward when you make it to the end is pure and utter joy. ‏ — at Monte Carlo, Monaco-Ville, Monaco
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  •   Stephen Latta reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    #Mercedes-Benz #Ponton. Mercedes' first monocoque was a best-seller and now makes a stylish, practical buy, says Malcolm McKay. Photography Tony Baker.

    Mercedes’ family car for the 1950s was - as you would expect - meticulously engineered. Immensely strong, its bodyshell was insulated from vibration because the engine, suspension and steering were fitted to a rubber-mounted box-section subframe, slung across the front a bit like a pontoon bridge - hence the nickname ‘Ponton’.

    Full-width styling was in vogue at the time, but the Mercedes’ imposing radiator grille made it stand out against more plebeian rivals. Though it started with a pedestrian sidevalve engine, its all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox and fully independent suspension were carried-over #Mercedes features that were still well ahead of most opponents. Separate driver and passenger heating controls with powerful through-flow ventilation and a laminated windscreen were advanced, but six-volt electrics, no passenger sunvisor and rubber floormats were not.

    More upmarket models soon appeared and, while rubber floormats continued, six-volt electrics were only fitted on the sidevalve cars. The straight-sixes were phased out before the ‘fours’ because their successor came first, but not until the #220SE had become the first mid-range car to be fitted with fuel injection, giving a massive boost in torque as well as more power.

    Saloon numbers have been decimated to the point where you now see almost as many cabriolets for sale. But find a good survivor and they are wonderfully endearing cars, feeling refined and supremely reassuring. Coupes are rare and perhaps not as well-proportioned as the delightful cabriolets, which have become enormously desirable, with prices soaring in recent years.

    While bodyshells do rust, their solidity means that problems are usually quite localised, unless the car has suffered extreme neglect such as being left in a garden or a damp garage for decades. In those circumstances, you can expect rot almost anywhere, on any car.

    Parts availability is good, with Mercedes itself still stocking most bits, and everything else can be sourced via specialists. There is no point being insular - while a few firms exist in the UK, if you want to find rare parts you have to look to Belgium, Germany, the USA and beyond. Components are not usually outrageously expensive, though chromework can be costly- especially if you need a lot of it - and wood interior trim on those that have it is also tricky.
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  •   Richard Truesdell reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Lost & Found classic choice 180D Ponton

    After German expat #Joachim-Fischer rescued this 180D Ponton from a crusher, the classic Mercedes saloon soon became a firm family favourite. Words & Images Richard Truesdell.

    In the immediate post-war era, Mercedes-Benz needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. Following World War Two, more than 75 per cent of the car manufacturer’s production facilities were nothing more than bombed out rubble. But this gave Mercedes-Benz an almost clean start as many of the facilities in and around Stuttgart were rebuilt, providing the company with state of the art engineering and production capabilities.

    The Type 170, with its pre-war, body-on-frame construction, was the mainstay of #Mercedes - Benz in the period from 1946 to 1953. But at the same time, the company’s designers and engineers were busy readying an all new, modern design for what would become the W120 and W180 saloons. Over time these threepointed stars would be affectionately known as Pontons and, in the minds of many, these elegant looking saloons saved the company.

    With their unitised bodies using a separate but fully integrated subframe, the Pontons enabled Mercedes-Benz to build a wide variety of four- (W120) and sixcylinder (W180) models, including diesels. These all new Ponton saloons had appeal as the German economic miracle gained momentum throughout the 1950s.

    It could be argued that Mercedes-Benz was somewhat late in getting the Pontons on sale, as both DW K and Borgward started production of their post-war saloons featuring modern bodies more than three years earlier. But Stuttgart’s engineers used the extra time to incorporate features that would have great long term significance, especially in terms of safety. For example, while the later Fintails were the first cars with crumple zones and rigid passenger cells, with their unitised bodies combined with the separate front subframe, the Pontons incorporated some of the Mercedes-Benz systems pioneered and patented by Béla Barényi in 1951. This is what we now call the safety cell and it forms the foundation of the passive safety system design found in almost every modern car, where the car’s structure is designed to absorb and dissipate the sometimes massive forces generated in the event of a crash.

    The Ponton’s exterior design, crafted under the direction of Friedrich Geiger and Karl Wilfert, was clean and modern, in contrast to the earlier 170s with their floating wheelarches, characteristic of pre-war designs. In the case of the Pontons, the wheelarches were completely integrated into the body.


    When the W120 was presented in August 1953, the end of World War Two was less than a decade in its rear view mirror. But this didn’t stop Mercedes-Benz from mapping an aggressive export strategy worldwide, including Great Britain and the United States. Although sales ramped up slowly, growth was steady and the diesel models were a small but important part of the model drive. Mercedes’ marketers touted the low operating costs of the range’s diesels, then as today promoting their exemplary fuel economy. In the case of the 180D pictured here, the official figure was a mighty impressive 44.8mpg.

    The W120 180s offered a 20 per cent roomier passenger compartment combined with substantially enhanced visibility over the 170s they replaced. And although they were similar dimensionally, the boot could hold 75 per cent more luggage and the climate controls were greatly improved and could be adjusted separately for driver and passenger. In the Mercedes-Benz line up of the 1950s, the fourcylinder W120/121 Pontons, like the example you see here, could be considered the #E-Class saloons of their day, while the 170mm longer, six-cylinder W180/105/128s were predecessors to today’s S-Classes.

    To begin with, the W120 was fitted with two engines, both carried over from the 170s. The M136 four-cylinder petrol engine produced 51bhp at 4,000rpm, while the OM636 diesel engine produced 39bhp at 3,200rpm (42bhp at 3,500rpm from September 1955, as in the car pictured). Coupled with 74lb ft torque, the OM636 could power the 180D to a top speed of 68mph. All models were mated to a four-speed, all synchromesh, manual transmission, with a column mounted shifter, allowing the 180 Ponton to seat five adults comfortably, possibly six at a pinch.

    The rest of the Type 180 was thoroughly modern with coil springs fitted front and rear. From September 1955, the rear set up comprised a low placed, single-joint swing-axle (previously just a swing-axle). The steering employed a recirculating ball system and was equipped with a steering shock absorber, while the Ponton’s brakes were drums at all four corners with hydraulic assistance.

    If Mercedes-Benz needed to pin its post-war recovery on just one model, especially in overseas markets, the 180 was up to the task. While the star studded 300SL and the luxurious 300 Adenauer grabbed the headlines, the 180, and to a lesser degree the 220, re-established Mercedes-Benz in the minds of car buyers throughout the world with its virtues of engineering excellence combined with a simple elegance that has stood the test of time.


    Which brings us to this car and its owner, Joachim Fischer, a lean manufacturing expert hailing from sunny California, for whom these virtues hold a special appeal. Originally from Germany where Pontons were a common sight during his childhood, his Ponton, a 1958 180D (one of 114,046 built), is a story of reclamation and restoration. Purchased in 2003, his 180D is a driver quality, self restoration that has now covered more than 119,000 miles.

    “My wife Petra and I got lost on a roadtrip to San Francisco,” recalls Fischer. “While looking for the best way to get back onto Highway 101, we drove past a junkyard and the Ponton was sitting in front of it with a ‘for sale’ sign in the window. I think they felt sorry for it and didn’t want to crush it. I turned around and bought it for $2,200 on the spot, despite the fact I had no intention of buying a car at all.

    “I probably overpaid but it doesn’t really matter,” he continues. “The car was not running, was missing many parts and was in very poor condition overall. Its windows were cracked, the seats were torn, rubber parts were missing and the chrome parts that remained had been painted silver. I got the car towed the 400 miles back to Orange County the next day and started a two-year restoration.”

    The forlorn 180D needed almost everything, including new rubber seals, tyres and brakes. The windscreen was replaced along with all the silver painted chrome trim. Fischer’s 180D was treated to a fresh coat of blue paint, replacing its well worn and faded two-tone brown scheme (this car left the Sindelfingen factory in 1958 with grey paint).


    On the inside it received new cloth upholstery on the seats and door panels, along with new headlining. Mechanically, Fischer got the engine running after cleaning the fuel tank. However, although he loves driving his classic Mercedes, over the 10 years he’s owned it and since the completion of its restoration, this 180D has only covered a little over 3,000 miles.

    That might not sound a lot, but it gets driven almost every week to local events in Orange County. This includes regular appearances at the well known Cars and Coffee show in nearby Irvine. There it fits right in with the more than 30 classic Mercedes models that congregate on any given Saturday morning. He also drives it to Cook’s Corner, a well known biker bar in Trabuco Canyon, one of the locations where we photographed the car – it was amazing how much attention the blue Ponton attracted among all the Harleys! And it is a tribute to the car’s design that outside the iconic, sharply modernistic headquarters of sunglasses maker Oakley in nearby Foothill Ranch, where we also photographed it, the Ponton still had a strong, elegant appeal.

    Fischer has two sons and this diesel Ponton plays an important part in their lives. “They just love playing in the car pretending to go somewhere,” he says. “My older son, Paul, is in a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy and sitting in the Mercedes-Benz is just the greatest thing for him. I taught him how to drive the ‘four-on-the- tree’ while sitting on my lap and that is his weekly highlight.”

    While this #1958 180D is Fischer’s first Mercedes-Benz and first restoration project, he has since restored an Airstream travel trailer and has called upon his well honed skills as a cabinet maker to build a wooden boat. And he certainly has got the Mercedes bug, now being an active participant in the International Ponton Owners Group on Yahoo.


    When asked to sum up his Mercedes’ best attribute Fischer had this to say. “The car always starts and runs, no questions asked. The diesel’s torque from only 43 horsepower [42bhp] is just amazing. But compared to a modern car, it’s like stepping back in time. You have to work it. Steering takes a lot of effort and braking requires anticipation.”

    It seems that Fischer has found a great sense of balance with his Ponton. It is restored to a level that makes it a great example of its kind, but not so much that he’s afraid to drive it on a regular basis. And, of course, it’s a classic Mercedes-Benz that his entire family enjoys. What could be better than that?

    It always starts and runs, but you have to work it – steering takes a lot of effort and braking requires anticipation.

    We were lost and drove past a junkyard – the Ponton was there with a ‘for sale’ sign in the window.

    In the minds of many, these cars saved the company in the post-war period.

    JUST THE FACTS #Mercedes-Benz-180D-W120 / #Mercedes-Benz-W120 / #Mercedes-Benz-180D / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-OM636 / #Mercedes-Benz-Ponton / #Ponton

    Engine #OM636 1,767cc 4-cyl
    Power 42bhp @ 3,500rpm
    Torque 74lb ft @ 2,000rpm
    Transmission 4-speed manual, RWD
    Weight 1,200kg
    0-62mph 39.0sec
    Top speed 68mph
    Fuel consumption 44.8mpg
    Years produced 1954 / 1959


    Pontons helped revive Mercedes’ postwar fortunes, setting the standards of engineering excellence for the models that would follow Figures for a 1958 180D as pictured; fuel consumption determined at ¾ of top speed (not more than 110km/h, 68mph) plus 10 per cent.

    The windscreen washer fluid reservoir shows its 55 years.
    The speedo and gauges are remarkably small.
    It took Joachim Fischer two years to restore this Ponton.
    The OM636, normally aspirated, four-stroke diesel.
    A very industrial look for the diesel injection pump.
    Becker Europa II with bass and treble adjustment.
    Retrofitted seat belts feature on the rear bench.
    A modernist setting, but the car holds its own.
    First grey, then brown, Fischer chose a deep blue.
    A column shifter for the four-speed manual gearbox.
    The chrome had been painted silver, so needed replacing.
    The strong patina adds to this well used car’s character.
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  •   Richard Truesdell reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Car Feature. Two classic Mercedes-Benzes that have stayed in the family. Mercedes Family Album. A son honors his parents’ memories with the restoration of Mom’s #1959 #Mercedes-Benz-220S-Coupe and Dad’s #1963 #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Roadster . Words and photography By Jeff Koch / #Mercedes-Benz #Mercedes-Benz-W198 #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Roadster-W198 #Mercedes-Benz-300SL

    Mrs. Bertha “Tiny” (Linsenmeyer) Lutfy of Phoenix, Arizona, was doing all right in the ’50s. Her family owned a number of properties around downtown Phoenix, including near the intersection of 16th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, home of the nation’s first Circle K convenience store. (When the Texas-based Kay Foods wanted to expand into Arizona, and couldn’t use that name in Arizona because there was already a business with that name, it was her brother — the company’s local attorney — who suggested a name change to Circle K.) Beyond that, Tiny was a world-class champion trap-and-skeet shooter, from the days when pigeons were not made of clay, and travelled extensively throughout the States, Mexico and Europe on the marksmanship-competition circuit. Later, she would pursue oil painting with the same vigor and enthusiasm.

    On one of her many European trips, she bought a used 1957 Mercedes 219 sedan from a friend to take her from event to event across the continent; eventually, they made their way home to Phoenix and the car was sold. But it made enough of an impression that when it came time to order a new model, Tiny had made up her mind: she was going to buy a new Mercedes.

    “In those days,” recalls Philip Lutfy, 75, Tiny’s eldest son and keeper of the pair of vintage Mercedes-Benzes seen on these pages, “the car companies promoted European delivery — you’d save some money on buying the car new through a local dealer. A European-delivery 220 S like Mom’s was something like $5,800 with overseas delivery in 1959, while it was $7,000 through the local dealer. They’d help arrange for your flight over and everything. What’s more, when she brought it back to the States, it returned as a used car, so the import duty was less than it was buying a new one.”

    The “Ponton” series of Mercedes-Benz sedans, launched in 1953, were the marque’s first completely new postwar cars. They used a fully unitized body and chassis, and four-wheel independent suspension — nothing that Opel hadn’t done in the ’30s, but all of which was high-tech stuff compared to the domestic U.S. luxury cars of the time. Theories about the “Ponton” name vary — some say that it comes from the fender lines stamped into the sheetmetal to give a faux-pontoon-fendered-look, while others suggest that the U-shaped subframe mounted to the unit-body in three places and resembled a pontoon bridge. (Either way, it’s better than some names: In Costa Rica this generation is known as Chanchito, or “little pig,” and in Mexico it’s known as Bolitas, or “little balls.”)

    The coupe version of the Mercedes 220, the #Mercedes-Benz-W180 / #Mercedes-Benz-220S-W180 , was short-lived, launched in late 1956 as a 1957 model and lasting just three years. The roof incorporated a wide B-pillar and wrap-around rear window glass, for a jaunty, contemporary look not completely out of place with the big Studebaker coupes it shared a stateside showroom with. It was, Philip admits, the last of the postwar Mercedes that lacked the full array of comfort and convenience options that have come to define the marque today: no automatic transmission (save for the fussy Hydrak system), no power steering, no disc brakes filtered down from the Gullwing Mercedes’s race experience. A total of 3,429 220 S coupes and cabriolets were built through the end of 1959, against more than 55,000 fourdoor sedans, making either of the two-door variants rare and desirable today.

    You can’t deny that Tiny had taste. She wanted a full-zoot 220 S — convertible, fuel injection, the works — but one by one, these ideas were shot down by Dr. Louis P. Lutfy, Tiny’s then-husband and Philip’s dad. “She really wanted a convertible, but Dad said, ‘No, you don’t want a ragtop,’” Philip recalled. “Then she looked into the Webasto sunroof option, which is really rare today, and Dad said no to that too, because he thought the sunroof would leak. So she went to the dealer to order her car; she was intrigued by the fuel injection, and inquired about it. And the salesman advised against it: He said no, fuel injection is brand-new this year; they still have to work the bugs out.” And the result was a bog-standard Light Blue 1959 Mercedes 220 S coupe, with optional Becker Mexico radio, whitewall tires, and precious little else. And off Tiny went, back to Europe to shoot pigeons and to pick up her brandnew American-spec Mercedes coupe.

    “At one point, she sent the car back to Phoenix to have air conditioning put in, then had it shipped back to Europe.” Philip recalls that, “When we were on vacation in Europe, I drove it mostly to sharpen up my driving skills. I was very lucky. We’d be over there — my brother, my sister, my mother and I — and we’d drive to some little town early in the morning to get fresh bread, then get to another town to get some wine, and by noon we’d stop on the highway and have a picnic. There were roadside tables for this — all you’d do was get out a tablecloth and spread out. We always had packaged food in the car, with different specialties from different countries.” Good times. By the early ’60s, the 220 S was back in Phoenix to stay, although Philip’s parents had split.

    It’s fair to say that the Lutfys were pleased enough with the 220 S that they became a Mercedes family for a while thereafter. “We got a four-door 190 sedan in 1960, for my sister, Nan, and me to take to Phoenix College. We drove it for years.” Which led fairly directly to Dad’s purchase of one of the last Mercedes 300 SLs ever built. “Dad saw that we got good service out of the 190 in college, got a burr in his saddle, and decided that he wanted a new 300 SL. He was kind of a flashy guy, he was divorced, and he wanted something sporty to be seen in.” This was in 1963, when Mercedes-Benz was trying to get rid of the last of the old 300 SLs in favor of the new-and-improved 230 SL, just recently launched in Geneva.

    It was this generation of Mercedes SL that changed the marque’s stateside image over the course of its life. With the carmaker known for its line of sedans (much like Tiny’s 220 S) that were considered by many to be solid and stolid in equal measure, famed sports-car distributor Max Hoffman told the Mercedes bosses that a production version of the company’s successful racing W194 coupe would go down a treat with well-heeled Americans. Mercedes gambled and produced them, and Hoffman, as usual, was right: More than three-quarters of Mercedes’s three-year, 1,400-unit SL Gullwing production came to the States. The W198 generation 300 SL’s name came from its three liters of displacement from its straight-six, and the term Sport Leicht (Sport Light), referring to its liberal use of aluminum body panels. Its blend of high technology (first-ever production fuel-injected engine) and dramatic style (those doors!) spruced up the corporate image quickly. The roadster replaced the coupe in 1957; it kept the coupe’s high technology, and most of its style (including the wheel-arch “eyebrows” that helped direct airflow over the body), while increasing its livability, thanks to the conventionally opening doors. A total of 1,858 300 SL roadsters were built through 1963, though not all of these were the same: The last 209, starting in March 1963, received a light-alloy block and fourwheel- disc brakes.

    As hard a time as Louis gave Tiny about her choices on the 220 S a few years earlier, the karmic wheel of destiny rolled around to trouble the now-single Louis’s decision-making process. “He wanted European delivery,” Philip recalled, “so he went to Phoenix Motor Cars, the local Mercedes-Benz dealer here, and they said no to European delivery on the 300 SL — they were promoting the new car, the 230 SL. Dad wanted a 300 SL, though, and the dealer was discounting them to move them out of inventory; the sticker was more than $12,000, and they discounted the price to an even $10,000.” Yeah, wrap your head around that: The last remaining SLs were considered bookkeeping albatrosses, and Mercedes-Benz’s U.S. operations had to resort to drastic discounts to get these all-time classics out of inventory. Cue dropped jaws.

    When Dr. Lutfy and Phoenix Motor Cars called Mercedes-Benz Sales Inc., in Montvale, New Jersey, there were just three 300 SLs left: silver, red and white. They were the last three new SLs in the country. “Well, Dad liked silver because it was the Mercedes colour — the Silver Arrows racers, and all that. So the dealer called Montvale, and they’d sold the silver one. Next choice was red. By the time the dealer called back, the red one was gone, too. So the only one that was left was white with the red interior.” And here it stands today. It’s not the highest-serial-number SL by any means (it’s about 100 units shy), but it could well be the last one sold by Mercedes-Benz in these United States. “Others were sold here later,” Phil recalls, “but they were most likely sold by brokers who bought ’em in Europe and brought them here.”

    As it happened, Dr. Lutfy’s late decisionmaking was fortuitous: wouldn’t you know it that he received one of those last 209 alloy-blocked, four-wheel-disc-brake shod machines. (And at a discount, no less.) In the already rarefied air of 300 SLs, this makes this particular roadster one of the more desirable examples extant. “It was just a fluke that Dad would get one of these,” Philip says.

    It was also something of a fluke that Philip ended up with it. “Eventually, Dad got tired of the SL; the battery was frequently dead, so he hooked up a tricklecharger. The wide sill was a pain to get over, too. He bought other cars and drove them, mostly American cars, for a couple of years. I remember he had a Dual-Ghia for about a year. He wanted to get rid of the SL in the ’70s, but no one was interested in it.” Could it be that the 300 SL was, at one time, just a used car? An old Mercedes? Something seen in the mid-’70s as we look upon a 2003-model Mercedes- Benz today? No one (beyond Philip) was interested in a one-owner Mercedes 300 SL? How could this be?

    Well… “Tom Barrett, of Barrett-Jackson, offered him $3,000 for it. I was off in Europe at med school at the time, and my mother told my dad that he would make me upset if he sold it. They had split up, but they still talked, and she put her foot down. They brought it to the house, parked it under the carport behind another car, and Mom took away the keys” — lest it disappear in the middle of the night in exchange for some quick cash. Once Louis died, Philip became the rightful owner.

    Each car had been in the family for more than a quarter-century at this point, so moving them on to new homes seemed foolhardy somehow. And each of them remained straight and unblemished. “There was never any rust damage or accidents,” Philip tells us. “Dad was very particular about his car. He’d take it to the car wash once a week” — you can almost hear Philip wincing at the memory — “and the washers would climb on it and scuff up the sills under the door.”

    Philip made the decision to invest in a complete top-to-bottom restoration of the 300 SL in the mid-1980s. “I got it for free and spent something like $100,000 restoring it then, which was way more money than what it was worth, but I thought, so what, it’s Dad’s car.” Pricing guides put an alloy-block, disc-brake SL with a factory hardtop somewhere in the $1.6 million range — probably more at a well-advertised auction. Balancing that good fortune, perhaps, is the $52,000 top-end book average value of his mom’s 220 S — a car that certainly cost more than its current value to restore, even in the early 1990s when Phil brought his mom’s example back to its current splendor. (A convertible, like Tiny wanted, is valued at two and a half times the coupe today.)

    Since their restoration, they have been driven little as Philip’s Mercedes collection extended into the double-digits — a series of Pontons, a gaggle of Pagoda-roof SLs, and other ’50s and ’60s Mercedes delights make the bulk of his car collection today. It’s fair to say that these two are the cause for Philip’s particular brand of three-pointed- star enthusiasm. So they’ve sat, Tiny and Louis’s cars, their odometers showing original miles.

    But you’d never know by looking at them that these restorations have now been around longer than the cars’ original materials: Both appear new, patina-free, and have particularly supple leather, considering they’ve been sitting in the desert for nigh on three decades now. “I had them in un-air-conditioned rental storage units for a while, but I kept buckets of water in the cars; the moisture stayed in the car, and the leather has remained in good condition.” It’s remarkable to note that the replacement leather has been in these cars as long as — if not longer than — the original factory-born hides were.

    Tiny was 96 years old when she died in 2013, and even though she’d gone through a number of other European coupes in her long life, from Jaguar to Rolls-Royce, she always had a soft spot for her old 220 S. “She really liked cars, and took good care of them,” son Philip remembers. “She loved that 220 S, because it brought back so many fond memories — of her traveling in Europe from one shoot to the other, her shotgun in the back; for outings and picnics; and occasionally for extended vacation trips when we were over there. I know she really appreciated me taking it all apart and making it better than what it was.” My mother told my dad that he would make me upset if he sold it. They brought it to the house, parked it under the carport behind another car, and Mom took away the keys.

    The 300 SL doesn’t seem much sportier than the 220S from this angle, though the wraparound buckets, lower-slung seating and floor shift all suggest otherwise once you’re inside. Hard to believe that this SL was sold at a discount in order to get it off the books.

    Engine SOHC inline-six
    Displacement 2,996 cc
    Horsepower 222 @ 5,800 RPM
    Torque 202-lb.ft. @ 4,600 RPM
    Fuel system Mechanical direct fuel injection, #Bosch injection pump
    Gearbox Four-speed manual, floor shift
    Suspension Front, double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar; rear, low-pivot swing axle, transverse compensating spring, coil springs
    Steering Recirculating ball
    Brakes Four-wheel disc, hydraulic power assist
    Wheelbase 94.5 inches
    Length 179.9 inches
    Width 70.5 inches
    Height 51.2 inches
    Shipping weight 3,130 pounds
    0-62 MPH 7.2 seconds
    Top speed 137 MPH

    1959 MERCEDES-BENZ 220 S
    Engine SOHC inline-six
    Displacement 2,195 cc
    Horsepower 105 @ 5,200 RPM
    Torque 126.5-lb.ft. @ 3,500 RPM
    Fuel system Dual two-barrel #Solex carburetors
    Gearbox Four-speed manual, column shift
    Suspension Front, double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar; rear, swing axle, radius arms, coil springs Steering Recirculating ball
    Brakes Four-wheel drum, power assist
    Wheelbase 111 inches
    Length 187 inches
    Width 69 inches
    Height 61 inches
    Shipping weight 3,110 pounds
    0-62 MPH 17 seconds
    Top speed 99 MPH

    The 220 S cabin is elegant and orderly. Air conditioning was dealer-installed after purchase. Engine is the standard carbureted 2.2-liter inline-six, good for 105 horsepower. Inside and out, it’s sized like the compact Studebaker Lark it sold next to in U.S. showrooms.
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  • The #Mercedes-Benz 220S - here in coupe form - was introduced in 1956 #W180
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  • #1960 #Mercedes-Benz 220 SE #Cabriolet W128 needs TLC, but has impeccable provenance: It's had the same owner since new. 14 months of adventure, 43 years of storage. This was bought new in Denmark in 1960 by a law-school graduate from Oregon, USA. More than 50 years later the car is up for sale by the original owner via Gooding and Company’s Scottsdale auction on January 17-18.

    Gooding’s Jannelle Grigsby takes up the story. The lady bought the car in Copenhagen and drove it all over Europe on a 14-month adventure before importing it into the US. Thereafter it was driven in the Pacific north-west and used on a honeymoon trip through Canada. During the later Sixties the car, nicknamed Charlie, was repainted in British Racing Green.

    ‘Shortly after its registration was renewed in 1971 the car was placed into storage and has not been run since. Nonetheless it remained in the garage of the family home in Bend, Oregon until the owner moved out of the state in the mid-Nineties, when it went with her.’

    The 220SE #W128 was top of the range of Merce#W128first unitary-construction #Ponton models. The 180 and 190 fam#Pontone the more commonly seen four-cylinder examples, launched in #1953 , while the 220 was the overh#1953amshaft six-cylinder version introduced a year later. The fuel-injected SE appeared in 1958 and ceased production in 1959, making this car one of the last made.

    The convertible and coupe had a shorter wheelbase than the saloons, and their opulent interiors, build quality and restrained good looks all help to make them the most sought-after of all the Ponton models.

    This car was to be a no-reserve sale, with an estimate of $60,000-$80,000 (£36,500-£49,000). This is nearly a Condition 1 price for the model, though some way below the $203,500 achieved by Gooding for a concours example in #2013 . However, the continued appeal of an unspoiled, original car remains high, even if considerable expense is to follow.

    The whole car looks to be completely original and unspoiled. Beneath the bootlid the jack and toolkit are still in place.
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  • On the road #Mercedes-Benz-Ponton

    Pontons offer a comfortable ride with sophisticated suspension for their time, a solid feel and one of the nicest column shifts you will find: as slick as a good floor change. By modern standards, sidevalve and diesel cars are sluggish, really suitable only for those who enjoy a relaxed life-style. If you prefer to have more poke, go for an overhead-cam petrol ‘four’, or any of the ‘sixes’ - all of which are quite capable of mixing it with today’s traffic. Late injected straight-sixes give the strongest performance, saloons being lighter than coupes, with cabriolets the heaviest of all.

    Check for evidence of regular maintenance and beware a leaky engine - oil or water - or one that breathes heavily when hot. Except for the diesels, the overhead-cam units have an alloy head that corrodes if inhibitor has not been used in the coolant, and can crack. Check carefully for signs of oil and water mixing, and of overheating.

    Sidevalve four-cylinder cars have six-volt electrics. If you plan to drive at night, an upgrade to 12 volts is desirable and even cars equipped as such from new often have an alternator conversion. Alarge number of grease points need regular attention on suspension and steering: if it’s done, the parts will last for ever, but they will wear if not. Kingpins, steering idler, rear driveshafts and wheel bearings are usually the first to go.

    When you are buying components, be sure you get the right ones because the huge range meant many variations. For example, Pontons came with four different wheelbases: four-cylinder cars were shortest, then the coupe/cabriolet, the 219 and, finally, the 220 was the longest.

    Cabriolet #Mercedes-Benz-W128 is the most desirable #Ponton , and the trim level improved over the car's production run.
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  • Owner's view Alan Cross

    Mercedes-Benz Club register captain Cross already had a #Pagoda when he fell for a #Ponton cabriolet:

    "It’s an elegant, smart car - very different from anything else on the road. I bought my silver left-hand-drive example in 2007 from Silver Arrows #Mercedes-Benz . It’s a 220SE, but had been converted to 220S #W128 specification in the days when people were scared of fuel injection. It runs beautifully and has been to Germany many times.

    "We've tidied the paintwork, changed the wheel bearings, converted it to an alternator and went to Holland to have EZ power steering fitted. It's a fabulous drive, and if it breaks down we can usually fix it. Wherever you stop, people want to talk about it. Parts availability is great if you know where to go: we buy lots at Essen!'
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