The Mercedes 170 S (1949-1955)
Today in 2012, very few people have an idea what a Mercedes 170 S. is. Most of them have never seen one. If asked, they might consider it as part of the modern A-Class series and when faced with the fact that a 1.7L engine car with a top speed of 105 km / h (65 mph) was once regarded as the latest in German luxury engineering. , they have understandable difficulty believing that.
So, let’s dive into the history of Mercedes after the war a little bit and take a look at what made this strange car so special. In the late 1940s, when this car was launched in Germany, the times were very different. And not only in Germany. It was a similar situation throughout Europe. Human resources were available in abundance, but there was a severe shortage of raw materials, machinery and tools and, above all, money. Therefore, most car manufacturers in Europe tried to launch cars that were either already available before WWII or that were slightly improved to make them look, at least from the outside, somewhat more modern. Technically, they were all just copies of what was already available ten years earlier.
The first Mercedes after the war was no different. Launched in 1947, the first “new” Mercedes was called the 170 V. It was a direct copy of what Daimler-Benz had already introduced in 1936. By the late 1940s, people had gotten a bit tired of the cars of prewar and wanted something different. . But since money was still tight, Daimler-Benz used a body that was slightly larger than the 170V, but also very similar to cars released before the war.
The engine was upgraded from 38 hp to 52 hp and the car was released as the Mercedes 170 S, “S” which stands for “super”. Prices started in 1949 at 10,100.- DM ($ 2,400.- at the current exchange rate). It meant that very few could afford the car. For the first time in Mercedes history: a four-cylinder car for the rich and famous. In the United States, with that amount of money you bought an eight-cylinder Packard. None of the 170V or S cars would have found a buyer in North America. But if Daimler-Benz had tried to sell the Mercedes 170 S to potential American customers, there would still have been no dealership to take on the task. That came only a few years later.
But in Germany at least, the car played its role surprisingly well. One of the reasons was, of course, that the competition had nothing better to offer. General Motors subsidiary Opel had the prestigious and well-received six-cylinder Kapit, which was priced close to the same level. But that was the end, no other manufacturer, at least in Germany, had a car that could rival the four-cylinder Mercedes 170 S. In typical Mercedes tradition, its build quality, its road manners and its image were second to none and those Three Factors were the very foundation on which Daimler-Benz slowly began to rebuild its road to recovery.
The icing on the cake (pictured) was the introduction of two stylish convertibles, the two-seater Cabriolet A and the four-seater Cabriolet B. Both convertible interiors were trimmed more elaborately than the sedan. In typical Mercedes fashion, they were also priced to make them the most expensive German cars money could buy. Although very few could afford them, and even if Daimler-Benz probably wouldn’t be able to make money off these hand-built beauties, image-wise they were unbeatable.
When production of the Mercedes 170 S was finally stopped in 1955, the car with its 1930s-style fenders looked like an antique pelican compared to more modern Ponton limousines, and very few still wanted to buy the car. But together with its predecessor, the 170 V, this car was in Mercedes history a fundamental first step in the company’s subsequent dominance in the luxury car market.