Resumption of production: W 136 and 191 series (1946 to 1955)
- Commercial vehicles, urgently needed in the direct aftermath of the Second World War, were quickly followed by saloons
- State-of-the-art with all-steel body
- First new passenger car design follows in 1949
Under difficult conditions, reconstruction of the Daimler-Benz Untertürkheim plant began in the aftermath of the Second World War. In addition to the destruction caused by the war itself, these pioneering days were marked by a lack of skilled workers, materials and energy. Under such circumstances it was impossible even to consider the development of new models. So when automobile production resumed in 1946 the Stuttgart brand fell back on the 170 V (W 136), a vehicle it had built from 1936 to 1942. The 170 V was also the first direct forerunner of today’s E-Class.
But instead of elegant saloons of the upper mid-range category, the first vehicles to come off the assembly line were delivery vehicles – pickups and panel vans – along with ambulances and police patrol cars. These commercial vehicles were urgently needed for Germany’s reconstruction effort.
The new edition of the 170 V was internally designated the 136 I to distinguish the post-war model from its predecessor. In May 1946 the first vehicle – a pickup truck – left final assembly. It was powered by a 28 kW (38 hp) 1.7-litre four-cylinder engine.
In June the first panel van followed, and in September and October Mercedes-Benz introduced an ambulance and a police patrol car based on the 170 V. The bodies of these model variants were still relatively simple constructions owing to difficult production circumstances during the post-war period. In total, the first year of production saw assembly of 214 vehicles; by 1947 this figure had risen to 1,045.
1947: Return of the saloon
July of the same year saw production of the 170 V Saloon commence again. In contrast to the pre-war model introduced in 1936, the new automobile was given an all-steel body. This, too, was a reason why Mercedes-Benz offered only a four-door saloon, whereas before the war the 170 V was available in seven body variants.
The resumption of passenger car production definitely marks the beginning of the more recent history of the upper mid-range series at Mercedes-Benz. The 170 V set an important trend that extended beyond its own market segment, because initially it was to remain the basis of the first post-war Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, including the 170 D and the 170 S (both dating from 1949) and its variants.
In its own class the 170 was not actually superseded by the 120 series with its three-box body construction until 1953. In the prestige car segment, on the other hand, the 300 model (W 186 II) made its debut in 1951, along with the Mercedes-Benz 220 (W 187) luxury saloon. The last 170 was built in 1955. The different versions of the delivery vehicle also profited from the start of production of the saloon in 1947. They now came with a modified cab, the structure and equipment of which met saloon standards. At the turn of the year 1949, the design engineers also adapted the ambulance concept to meet raised demands. The ambulance was given a more spacious, modernised body, which was built in Bochum by the Lueg company.
1949: First newly developed passenger cars after the war
At the Technical Export Fair in Hanover in May 1949, Daimler-Benz introduced the first Mercedes-Benz car models featuring new post-war designs: the diesel model 170 D and the prestigious 170 S Saloon derived from the 170 V. To a large extent the 170 D corresponded to the 170 V, but it had a 1.7-litre diesel engine, which the Stuttgart engineers developed from the petrol engine of the 170 V. The prechamber engine developed 28 kW (38 hp), like the petrol engine.
The 170 D was the first Mercedes-Benz diesel car of the post-war period. It was the carefully thought-out successor to the 260 D of 1936 (W 138) and, as heir to this diesel pioneer, laid the cornerstone for the ongoing success of this drive system variant in Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. Compared with its petrol-powered twin, the 170 D consumed appreciably less fuel – yet had almost identical performance. It provided the platform on which was built the good reputation of the company’s diesel cars, renowned for their longevity and economy. In addition, in the 170 D’s early production years the ready supply of diesel oil made this model an attractive proposition, whereas even five years after the war petrol was sometimes still hard to find.
The 170 S introduced at the same time as the 170 D was the new top model of the Mercedes-Benz car range. Technically it was based on the 170, but in styling and concept it made design references to the pre-war 230 model (W 153). With its spacious body, additional comfort, and technical enhancements – which ranged from a more powerful engine to improved front axle – the 170 S was the top-of-the-line model at Mercedes-Benz. In addition to the saloon, Stuttgart offered a two-seater Cabriolet A and a four-seater Cabriolet B.