Ponton Specialties
35 photos below optimized for 800 x 600 screen resolution     619KB

contributed by MB Enthusiast`s Pages webmaster

Of course you Ponton-lovers know all the "normal" versions of these legendary Mercedes-Benz models.
But do you know the special versions, the crash testing and how these fine cars were built?
If you don't, you're on the right page. Here you get info and photos you will see nowhere else on the whole internet.
So let's begin with the Ponton specialties. There are station car, pick-up, cabrio, taxi, rally car, police car, ambulance
and - yes! - hearse.
But by extensive crash testing Mercedes-Benz did its very best to avoid the use of the hearse-ponton.
That's why we come to the crash testing first.

Ponton Crash Testing
Mercedes-Benz was the car manufacturer which first of all took great attention of the security of its vehicles and thus did
extensive crash-testing.
photo ponton8.jpg   14KB  W120 crash tested Photo from reference #5, page 8. The text says: 
"For the centennial of the Automobile the German Museum 
in Munich in 1986 crashed this twenty year old 220S to demonstrate Bela Barenyis security cell." 
Obviously the book is wrong with the age of this 220S as it was built from 1956 to 1959. Most possibly they meant that the car is thirty years old. 
Bela Barenyi was the genius of car security: He invented many things which we nowadays take as a given standard.
photo ponton49.jpg  20KB  MB crash test vehicles Photo from reference #1, page 49. The text says: 
"In the courts of the big car manufacturers (shown here Daimler-Benz) the test cars do gather which with experiments for higher driving safety outer form and inner life had to give." 
Until now around 1200 cars have been used by Mercedes-Benz for crash tests. 
I know you Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts must be very strong while watching this photo and trying not to burst into tears with all these lovely cars destroyed!
This photo must be from 1970 as the figures on the cars first denote the year and secondly the number of the crash test
for that particular year - note the car with the "69/45" on the trunk, it's a MB 600 SWB W100. The number of the year on the ponton can not be seen but as the 600 is #45 of 1969 the pontons #50 must be from 1969, too, as the highest  number from 1970 is the relatively low 7 on the SL W113.
As the numbers on the ponton are painted head up it must have been used for a roll over test (and no, I don't say anything about the W168 aka A-class now).
Very interesting that many years after the end of the production cars were tested - for comparison with then actual models?

Ponton Production at Sindelfingen Factory
Production was somehow different from today: No robots at all, the quality of the cars mainly depending on the knowledge of the workers and the accuracy they put into their work. Note how they welded the body together.
photo ponton29.jpg  29KB  W120 body manufacturing Photo left from reference #4, page 29. The text says: 
"Body manufacturing in Sindelfingen. Robots didn't 
substitute manual work." 

These skilled workers were responsible for the outstanding quality of the Pontons - and they did a really great job!

photo ponton54.jpg  23KB  W120 body before painting
photo ponton21.jpg  22KB
photo ponton13.jpg  44KB Marriage at production line
Photo on top from ref. #4, p. 54. The text says: 
"Cars from the pre-series of the 220Sb (outer left in the photo) being transported to the paint
booth on the same line as the phasing out 220S.
The photo is from summer 1959." 
Photo on bottom fr. ref. #4, p.21. The text says:
"190 bodies on their way to be painted 
(Sindelfingen factory)." Detail from original photo only.
Photo from reference #4, page 13. The text says: 
"The 180 being built. The body is set onto the chassis." 

This process is also known as "marriage". Interesting detail that the front fenders have not been added to the body yet.

photo ponton59a.jpg  23KB W120 end of production line Photo left from reference #4, page 59. The text says: 
"From end of the production line Sindelfingen 1962. 
 A 180c at the back, a 190c and a 220Sb in the foreground." 
This is only a detail from the original photo.

Ponton Design Studies
In the beginning it was not clear the W120 would get a ponton-body which is proven by these studies.
photo ponton221a.jpg  13KB photo ponton222.jpg   15KB  Design study SL front-mask
Photo from reference #6, page 22. The text says: 
"This curious suggestion luckily was not gotten
round to the W120 customers".
Photo from reference #6, page 22. The text says:
"Curiosity: The Mercedes stylists did practice
with a SL-like front-mask but it was dismissed
very soon".
photo ponton224.jpg   17KB  W120 design study 1:5 scale photo ponton225a.jpg  12KB
Photo from ref. #6, page 22. The text says: 
"1:5 scale model with fenders emphasized around wheels and pulled-down bottom edges of windshield".
Note the turn signals below the headlamps.
Photo from ref. #6, page 22. The text says: 
"1:1 scale model of W120: Divided windows and fenders emphasized around wheels." 
Note with both studies esp. rear fenders partly cover wheels.

Ponton Cabrio Prototype
This is the one Ponton variant which never made it into production.
photo ponton262.jpg  15KB  W120 Cabriolet A Photo from reference #6, page 26. The text says: 
"After the cabrio - which had been forced until prototype stadium - went away from the planning the large-scale cloth-sunroof was the only alternative for fresh-air fans." 
Note the shortened wheelbase. 
As there were two variants developed this is variant A - variant B had the normal wheelbase. 
drawing ponton4621.gif  6KB  Side view Cabrio A drawing ponton4623n.gif  6KB  Top view Cabrio A
Drawing from ref. #8, page 452. The text says: 
"Type 180 cabriolet A draft 1953 (not realized)". 
This drawing shows the above photographed
cabrio with the shortened wheelbase and a rear
seat for one (!) passenger.
Drawing from reference #8, page 452. 
You can clearly see the one back seat, the passenger to sit diagonally with his legs behind the driver's seat.
drawing ponton4622.gif  5KB  Side view Cabrio B Drawing from reference #8, page 452. The text says: 
"Type 180 cabriolet B draft 1953 (not realized)." 
This variant has the normal wheelbase and four seats.

Pontons Disguised for Road Testing
For the necessary road testing on public roads the Pontons were disguised so people and especially photographers spotting them could not get the full impression.
photo ponton223.jpg  24KB  W120 disguised for road testing
Photo above from ref. #6, p. 22. The text says: 
"With the W120 the testing engineers busily
practiced in disguise and deceive". 
Photo right from ref. #6, page 23. The text says: 
"Summer testing at Grossglockner: W120
prototype with Citroen front-mask, Rudolf
photo ponton23.jpg  24KB  Disguised w Citroen front-mask


Special versions
Now that you've got an idea of the production of the Pontons and of some design studies we come to the "special versions"
which means these cars were not used for private every-day driving but for special purposes.
Ponton Station Wagons
Today its natural for Mercedes-Benz  to offer station cars ex-factory. In the Ponton era it was not and so independent
companies manufactured them although the cars were sold at the official Mercedes-Benz dealerships.
The most important body builders were the German companies Binz & Co. from the small town of Lorch, some 30 km
east of Stuttgart and Christian Miesen in the former German capitol Bonn.
photo ponton2242da.jpg  16KB  W120 station wagon Binz photo ponton2241da.jpg  15KB  W120 station wagon Miesen
Photo from ref. #7, page 224. The text says: 
"Type 180 and 180D station wagon (body by
Binz) 1954 - 1959".
Photo from reference #7, page 224. The text says: 
"Type 180 and 180D station wagon (body by Miesen) 
1954 - 1959". 
This station wagon version with the higher side windows was extremely unusual with non-ambulances.
photo ponton1651.jpg  17KB  Station wagon w/o windows Photo from reference #4, page 165. The text says: 
"Station wagon on the base of 190 Diesel, 1958. One sees these cars very seldom today". 

Judging by the other cars in the photo it was shot 1973 or later. 
Note the car has two doors only and no middle and rear 
side windows. 

Ponton Ambulances
The ambulances were special variants of the station wagons.
photo ponton4541.jpg  16KB  W120 Ambulance Miesen photo ponton4542.jpg   16KB  W120 ambulance Binz
Photo from ref. #8, page 454. The text says: 
"Type 180, 180D, 190, 190D ambulance body
by Binz 1954 - 1962 (also available as station
Car has the higher side windows. 
Author Oswald is wrong: The car in fact was
built by Miesen as can be seen by the little
badge down on the A-pillar on the front fender.
Photo from reference #8, page 454. The text says: 
"Type 180, 180D, 190, 190D ambulance body by Miesen 1954 - 1962 (also available as station wagons)". 
Car has the normal side windows. 
As Oswald mixed-up things this car in fact is built by Binz.
photo ponton1652f.jpg  14KB  Ambulance high windows
Photos from reference #4, page 165. 
Ambulance car built by Miesen. 
Note the storage of the spare tire and the normal
front door windows and the higher side
windows in the middle and rear.
photo ponton1653.jpg  21KB  W120 Ambu spare tire location

Ponton Pick-up
photo ponton261.jpg  12KB  W120 pick-up Photo from reference #6, page 26. The text says: 
" The platform-version changed the 180 into a good-natured-reliable workhorse". 
This version is more than extremely rare. 
I have heard that especially in South Africa some do exist.

Ponton Hearse
photo pic ponton167.jpg  17KB  W120 hearse Photo from reference #4, page 167. The text says: 
"190 hearse from 1957, bodywork by Binz." 

As can be seen by the writing on the driver's door the car was owned by an undertaker in the German city of Giessen.

Ponton Police Cars
The police 190b had a top speed of below 135 km/h (83 mph) and the 220S of below 160 km/h (99 mph). But in the Beetle-era, when a 1958 beetle had a top speed of 112 km/h (69 mph) this was sufficient.
photo ponton105.jpg  18KB  W120 180b German police car Trier Photo from reference #2, page 105. The text says: "Radio patrol car Mercedes-Benz 180 b 4 cylinder 1,9 litre 68 hp 1959-1961 of the motorized police in (the German town of) Trier ." 

Due to their price tag MB`s as police cars were relatively rare, common that days were VW Beetles: The text besides a VW Beetle on page 81 in this book says that in 1972 the police had some 8.200 VW`s. 

photo ponton61.jpg  14KB  220S Civil German police car Photo from reference #5, page 61. The text says: 
"Interceptor. A martial-armed highway patrol car of the 220S type from Stuttgart Police." 
Note the lamp-like case on the front top of the right fender. 
In the pre-videotape era it housed an additional tach. When the police followed traffic offenders both cameras mounted in the top middle of the windscreen were released simultaneously, the left one photographing the offense and the right one the outside tach for court-proof documentation of the speed..

Ponton Taxis
Ponton taxis were on duty around the world. They greatly contributed to the Mercedes image at a time when most people not only in Germany couldn't afford a private car at all.
photo ponton161.jpg  12KB  W120 Austrian/Swiss Taxi Photo from reference #3, page 161. The text says: "Two-colored taxi from the Mercedes-Benz 180 D type here still in the version with no vent windows in the front doors as it came onto the market from April 1958.
The photographed car with the bag bridge on the rear was used as taxi in Austria."
Interesting to have added a thing like a bag bridge (German word is "Kofferbruecke") to the not that small trunk...
pic ponton36.jpg Row of Austrian/Swiss Taxis 26KB Photo from reference #4, page 36. The text says: 
"A fleet of 180D of a Basel taxi company". 

Interesting the same cars as from the above photo now declared to be used in Switzerland... 

The writing "Klein-Taxi" on the front door either means 
small taxi (which I think) or denotes the last name of the owner of the taxi company. 

photo ponton326.jpg  23KB  W120 Egyptian Taxi with driver
photo ponton337.jpg  17KB  W120 Egyptyan Taxi with camel
Photo above from reference #3, page 337. The text says:
"In the scorching heat, too, here at the pyramids of Gizeh in Egypt, taxis with the star on the hood did their job." The photo from the year 1958 shows a Mercedes-Benz of the 180 type.
Photo left from reference #3, page 326. The text says: 
"In Egypt, too, taxi companies knew to appreciate the tenancy and reliability of the Mercedes-Benz type 180 as a taxi" - the photo with the proud cab driver is from 1958.
The colours for taxis in Egypt were stipulated by the authorities as other photos of Egyptian taxis from other manufacturers show the same colour combination.
photo ponton162.jpg  18KB  W120 German Taxi Photo from reference #3, page 162. The text says: 
"Mercedes-Benz 190D, photographed in the version with wide radiator and without bumper guards (produced from 1959 to 1961) - one of the most solid taxi cabs of its time". 
Indeed it was. 
In Germany - like in Egypt - the colour of the taxis was stipulated: Until the early 1970`s it was black, the Mercedes-Benz colour code is 040. 
As can be seen from the license plate this photo has been shot in Mercedes' hometown of Stuttgart and the car has the big cloth-sunroof which was rare with taxis..

Ponton Rally Cars
Pontons really could have been faaaaaaast and even with the diesel engine they were used for rallies!
photo ponton68.jpg  16KB  W120 219 Rallye car Photo from reference #4, page 68. The text says: 
"The 219 of the team Fritschy/Ellis at the East African Safari Rally 1958." This photo is a detail only of the original. 
The first name denotes the driver, the second name the co-driver. The Kenyan Fritschy/Ellis won the hardest rally of the world, the East African Safari, twice - 1959 and 1960. 
The predecessor of this rally, the East African Coronation Rally, which went over 5300 kilometres of unsurfaced roads through Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, was won in 1958 by Manussis on another 219.
photo ponton34a.jpg  21KB  W120 190 Diesel rally car Photo from reference #4, page 34. The text says: 
"Algiers Cape Rally 1959. Winner Karl Kling at the start on the wheel of a 190D." 

Yes, its a DIESEL! I bet its the slowest rally car the famous Karl Kling ever drove. The OM 636 (OM = Oilmotor, thus running on diesel) is a very legendary engine which was not only used for the Pontons but for the Unimog, the 319-series mini truck and mini bus as well as stationary and ship engine. It remained in production until 1969 - eight years after the Ponton production ended.

References (all in German language):
1) Auto by Muench and Pugmeister published by Carl Habel Verlag, Darmstadt, Germany 1973, no ISBN
2) Die Kraftfahrzeuge der Polizei und des Bundesgrenzschutzes (The cars of the police and the Federal Border Guard)
    written by Werner Oswald published by Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany, 1st edition 1974, ISBN 3-87943-332-1
3) Taxi - Das mobilste Gewerbe der Welt (Taxi - The most mobile trade of the world) written by Ulrich Kubisch published
    by Museum fuer Verkehr und Technik Berlin and Nikolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, Berlin, Germany 1993,
    ISBN 3-87584-489-0
4) Mercedes-Benz Automobile Band 4 Vom 190SL zum 300SEL (MB Automobiles Volume 4 From 190SL to 300SEL)
    written by Heribert Hofner published by BLV Verlagsgesellschaft Muenchen Wien Zuerich, Munich, Germany 1981,
    ISBN 3-405-12604-5
5) Die S-Klasse von Mercedes Benz - Von der Kultur des Fahrens (The S-Class from MB - From the culture of driving)
    written by Heribert Hofner published by Bleicher Verlag, Gerlingen, Germany 1993. Reprinted by Bechtermuenz Verlag,
    Augsburg, Germany 1997, ISBN 3-86047-589-4
6) Motor Klassik 10/1993 monthly classic car magazine published by Vereinigte Motor-Verlage GmbH, Stuttgart, Germany
7) Deutsche Autos 1945-1975 (German cars 1945-1975) written by Werner Oswald published by Motorbuch Verlag,
    Stuttgart, Germany, 10th edition 1985, ISBN 3-87943-391-7
8) Mercedes-Benz Personenwagen 1886-1986 (MB passenger cars 1886-1986) written by Werner Oswald published by
    Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany, 1st edition 1984, ISBN 3-87943-976-1
Text  and background image design by MBEP webmaster

Well folks, that's the end of our little tour of the Ponton specialties. Hope you had a pleasant time, but now its time to go back to where you came from:

                .       Return to Ray Ilich`s Ponton Web Page

Now run by Jeff Miller.........

                                  .......   ............      Return to MB Enthusiast's Pages

Last revised technically: June 7th 2001.


©1998-2001 by MBEP webmaster   This is a private, non-commercial home page.  For detailed disclaimer click here 1