Mercedes-Benz 220 a, 219, 220 S and 220 SE, W 180/105/128 (1954 to 1959)
In March 1954 Daimler-Benz introduced the new 220 model featuring a decidedly modern overall design. The six-cylinder model bore the internal designation 220a or W 180 and now also boasted a self-supporting ponton-type body structure welded firmly to the frame floor/unit.
The close kinship to the 180 model was also evident in the styling, although the slightly different proportions of the 220a gave it a certain undeniable elegance. The convertible A and C variants were introduced in September 1955 and went into production barely a year later.
But the 220a had a wheelbase that was longer by 170 mm (6.7 in), of which 70 mm (2.8 in) went to improve legroom in the rear. The remaining 100 mm (3.9 in) served to lengthen the front end, necessary to accommodate the vehicle’s six-cylinder engine. The engine hood was drawn down around either side of the radiator grille to almost level with the bumper, and the fresh-air intakes were situated behind the standard mounted fog lamps. Unlike with the car’s younger brother, however, the front turn indicator lamps were mounted in chromed housings positioned well forward on the fenders.
Improved handling characteristics
The front suspension and subframe concept were borrowed from the 180 model; the rear suspension on the other hand was a completely new design. The single-joint swing axle, which had a low pivot point and had been developed for the W 196 Formula One racing car, was now put into service for the first time in a Mercedes-Benz production passenger car. The longer control arms meant smaller track and camber changes on spring compression and thus improved handling.
The six-cylinder engine of the 220 a came from the predecessor model of the W 187 series, but with a number of modifications: Compression was increased, and thanks to a sharper camshaft and larger carburettor the unit was able to raise the power output to 85 hp (63 kW).
The brake system was improved considerably. Ribbed brake drums with “turbo cooling” were fitted to the 220 a on all four wheels and ventilation slits in the wheel rims and trims ensured an adequate supply of cool air. A brake booster was fitted as standard from September 1955.
In March 1956, two years after presentation of the 220 a, the 219 and 220 S models were introduced to the public as successors to the first six-cylinder models with ponton-type bodies.
The 220 S was considered the direct successor, however, as expressed in the car’s internal designation W 180 II. It was largely based on the predecessor model, but thanks to two compound carburettors, engine power had now been increased to 100 hp (74 kW). In addition to being mounted on bearings at the front of the subframe, the engine was given two additional points of support to the rear. From the outside, the only visible difference between the 220 S and its predecessors was the additional trim – thin chromium strips having been added to the beading on the front fenders and doors. Production of the convertible A and C variants began in July 1956; the coupe followed in October 1956.
The other six-cylinder model presented at the same time as the 220 S bore the unusual and less prestigious model designation 219. Known internally as the W 105 series, the model came about as a combination of the 190 and 220 a to a certain extent, its purpose being to win new customers as a significantly cheaper and more basically equipped six-cylinder model. The engine was taken over unmodified from the 220 a, and the running gear, body from the A-pillar rearwards and equipment all came from the 190. But as the six-cylinder engine required a longer front end, this was supplied by the 220 a. Accordingly, the wheelbase and overall length of the 219 were shorter than the 220 S but longer than the 190.