Mercedes-Benz 180, 1958
Mercedes-Benz 180, year 1958. Type W120 'Ponton'. Colour green with a moss green leather interior.
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four cylinder engine
cylinder capacity: 1767 cc.
capacity: 52 bhp. at 5750 rpm.
top speed: 150 km/h.
gearbox: 4 speed, manual
weight: 1220 kg.
The early years
Mercedes-Benz was formed in 1926 by the merger of car manufacturers Daimler and Benz. The founders of both firms, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz, were motoring pioneers who presented their first vehicles powered by internal combustion 4-stroke engines in the years 1886 - 1889.
Daimler first introduced a motorcycle and Benz a three wheeler. Shortly after they introduced proper motorcars with four wheels but still resembling horse coaches. The compact and light Daimler engine became very popular and it was incorporated in many of the early French motor cars. Panhard et Levassor acquired a licence to produce the Daimler engine. It can be said that with Daimler and Benz the successful industrial production of the automobile started. For the fast developments within the car industry however the French are responsible. For the French pioneers racing was a means to improve the breed. The early town to town races were many times won by Daimler or Benz cars or French cars using a Daimler engine. Mr. Emil Jellinek of Nice was to play an important role in the sales and development of Daimler cars. Jellinek appreciated the quality of the Daimler products and so he set up dealerships in Nice an Paris. His ideas were incorporated in the Daimler cars by Daimler and his genius assistant Karl Maybach. Perfectionist Jellinek was a real nuisance to the Daimler firm but he was their largest customer by far. Maybach and Jellinek understood each other perfectly and their synergy lead to that would be the inspiration of all manufacturers and all automobiles to follow, the Mercedes car named after Jellineks daughter. The Mercedes of 1901 featured a proper steel chassis, a front mounted four cylinder engine, a raked steering column and a proper steering wheel. The Mercedes was the car to have for the European rich and famous who assembled in Nice during the ‘Speed Week’, of course Emil Jellinek was one the moving spirits behind this yearly event and he cleverly sold a lot af cars in the process. The Mercedes cars were also very succesful in the French Grand Prix races. Lautenschlager won the 1908 edition in Dieppe with Hemery and Hanriot second and third on 150 HP Benz cars. In 1909 Hemery was the first to break the 200 km/h mark with the Lightning Benz (Blitzen Benz) at the Brooklands race course in England. In 1911 a Blitzen Benz driven by Bob Burman at Daytona Beach broke the absolute land speed record with 228,1 km/h. In 1914 Mercedes again won the French Grand prix with Lautenschlager again being the victor.
Between the wars
In 1924 Werner won the Targa Forio in Sicily, the most demanding road race before the Mille Miglia was introduced in 1927. As the firms of Daimler and Benz merged in 1926 the greatest cars they ever conceived saw the light of day: the SS, the SSK and the SSKL (the SSK is known as the 38/250 in the UK). More epic cars followed like the 500K and the 540K. These imagination-appealing motorcars are at present extremely expensive collector’s items.
From 1934 Mercedes-Benz was almost invincible Grand Prix races, only Auto Union was able to compete on the same level. These years just before World War two saw the most advanced and powerful race cars with engine capacities up to 650 bhp and top speeds in excess of 300 km/h. It was in the 1980ies that Formula one cars again could match those figures.
Before 1940 Mercedes-Benz was the first European concern to focus on industrial production just like Ford and others in the USA. The firm had built medium-sized cars, big luxury saloons, sports and racing cars, commercial cars and lorries.
Quality and excellence continued
After World War II Mercedes-Benz first took the medium sized cars into production again, such as the MB 170, as there was great need for means of transport. In the 1950s, Mercedes-Benz got into their stride: many new models came onto the market and all of them were characterized by a strong Mercedes-Benz family charisma. Mercedes-Benz was characterized by an ingenious, solid and reliable technology, a strong brand-name appeal, and restrained class with a sober but yet luxurious German air.
However, their racing past had not been forgotten, and the threat was resumed with the illustrious ‘Silberpfeilen’. From their racing experience they developed the legendary Mercedes 300 SL ‘Gull Wing’ production sports cars which, three years later, also became available as a roadster.
In 1963 Mercedes-Benz introduced a limousine to please the rich and famous: the Mercedes-Benz 600. This limousine was no less than six meters long and equipped with all imaginable luxury.
During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Mercedes-Benz unwaveringly continued to build quality cars and sports cars, and even until this day the company has built cars with the same brand quality as they did in the 1950s.
Mercedes-Benz is a brand with an unruffled history, only slightly thrown off balance by World War II. The make and the brand inspire great confidence and Mercedes-Benz as part of the Daimler Benz conglomerate is one of the most highly regarded makes of our time.
© Marc Vorgers