Overview of Mercedes-Benz Ponton 
Models and Production Data


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Historical Perspective

Photo 1. 1939 aerial photo of the Daimler-Benz Sindelfingen Works

As one of the leading industrial complexes in Germany, Daimler-Benz was a prime target for Allied bombers in World War II. In the First World War, the Mannheim-based Benz & Co. and the Stuttgart-based Daimler Motor Company (the two predecessor firms of Daimler-Benz AG) had suffered a lot of disruption but no actual physical damage; it was not so fortunate the second time around.  In September of 1944, two weeks of daylight air raids left 60 years of Daimler and Benz history in smoldering ruins.

Photo 2. Daimler-Benz buildings in ruins after the Second World War 

The main plant at Stuttgart-Unterturkheim was listed as 70% destroyed; the vast aero engine and coach-building works 13 miles away at Sindelfingen suffered 85% destruction; 80% of the truck works at Gaggenau was leveled; the original Benz und Cie site at Mannheim escaped with the least damage at 20%; the Berlin-Marienfeld works which Daimler bought in 1902 and later devoted to diesel and aero engines was totally bombed out.

Photo 3. Daimler-Benz Sindelfingen building, circa 1945

Hardly more than a skeleton of Daimler-Benz Aktiengesellschaft survived the war. The Board of Directors issued a statement in which they declared that "Daimler-Benz had ceased to exist in 1945."

Photo 4. New Daimler-Benz buildings after reconstruction — early 1950s

As early as 1946, the pieces were beginning to be put back together. Production resumed with pre-War models such as the Type 170V. Slowly, production increased and other models were offered such as the Type 170S and 170D. The 170D (diesel) was primarily intended to be used as a taxi. In 1949, there were 17,000 units produced. These small, low powered automobiles were suitable for the austere post-War environment.

Photo 5. DBAG Sindelfingen Works, circa 1955

The Sindelfingen Works – where the world famous Mercedes-Benz passenger cars were produced during the 1953-1962 Ponton era, and modern production continues to the present day.


Ponton Models Introduced in 1953

The Mercedes-Benz Ponton body style began production in 7/1953 and was introduced to the public in the autumn of that year.  It eventually replaced the Type 170 series which was a post-War production of a pre-War car. Following the Type 300 "Adenauer" limousine, this was another totally new car from Daimler-Benz at this point in history. As Germany slowly recovered from the disasters of the Second World War, more and more people could afford a car. Of course, more people were also able to afford a Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes-Benz Ponton 4 cylinder sedan
4 cylinder sedan
(W120 / W121)

Mercedes-Benz Ponton 4 cylinder roadster
4 cylinder roadster
(W121)

Mercedes-Benz Ponton 6 cylinder sedan
6 cylinder sedan
(W105 / W128 / W180)

Mercedes-Benz Ponton 6 cylinder cabriolet
6 cylinder cabriolet
(W128 / W180)

These new cars were available in different body and engine types.  First, the basic four cylinder side-valve engine version, the 180 sedan (7/1953-6/1957) replaced by the 180a sedan with an overhead valve engine with an overhead camshaft (6/1957-7/1959) joined by the 190 sedan (3/1956-8/1959).

The 190 sedan was a combination of the 180 body and a modified engine from the 190SL roadster (5/1955-2/1963) having one Solex carburetor instead of the two twin barrel carburetors which are fitted to the SL model. In outward appearance, the 190 models are distinguishable from the 180 models by having a chromium plated strip under the side windows. Both the 180 and 190 sedans were available with optional diesel engines which made them very popular as taxis.

In 1959, the 180b and 190b sedans were introduced, incorporating several modifications, including a redesigned sub-frame for the front suspension unit. The production of the "b" version of the four cylinder (gasoline and diesel) sedans lasted until 10/1962.

A sliding fabric sunroof (made by Webasto) was available as a factory option on all four and six cylinder sedan models. A far less common option was the steel sunroof (also made by Webasto) available on both four and six cylinder sedans and coupés.[1]

The more valuable Pontons were the six cylinder cars. Included are the 220a (6/1954-4/1956) replaced by the 219 (3/1956-7/1959) joined by the 220S (3/1956-8/1959), and 220SE (10/1958-8/1959).  Even more luxury was available in Ponton shape.  Both the 220S and 220SE were available as a coupé or cabriolet.

There were also three sports cars produced by Daimler-Benz at this time. The six cylinder, two-seater 300SL "Gullwing" coupé (8/1954-5/1957), the four cylinder, two-seater 190SL coupé-roadster (5/1955-2/1963), and the six cylinder, two-seater 300SL roadster (8/1957-2/1963). 

The chassis of the 190SL roadster was of unitary construction like that of the sedans, coupés and cabriolets while the 300SL (both the "Gullwing" and later, the roadster) had a unique light-weight tubular "space frame" on which the body panels were supported. The outward appearance of all the SL (Sports Leicht) roadsters was similar and they remain very popular today. 


Sindelfingen Sends its Best


Photo 6. Sindelfingen parking lot with new Pontons awaiting delivery

Sindelfingen is a city of some 60,000 residents (2006) located 13 miles southwest of Stuttgart, the main headquarters today of Daimler AG. It was the home of scarcely 23,000 inhabitants when the Mercedes-Benz Ponton sedans, coupés, cabriolets and roadsters were being produced and assembled there by Daimler-Benz, A.G. from 1953-1962. The Sindelfingen factory itself employed some 19,000 people during that time.

Photo 7. Mercedes-Benz Type (W121 II) 190SL roadster-cabriolet

The interior of the post-War buildings at Sindelfingen enabled the entire staff to make a fresh start in more ways than one. This photo, dating from March 1955, shows one of the first Type 190SL roadster-cabriolets being scrutinized by members of the design management team.

The body styling for the Mercedes-Benz Pontons was accomplished by Karl Wilfert and his team with his "head-designer", Friedrich Geiger.


Photo 8. Development of sedan bodies, and Daimler-Benz organization chart

Here are two scans. On the first, you can see Karl Wilfert (left), and Friedrich Geiger (far right). The other is part of a Daimer-Benz organization chart on which you find both names, and can see where Friedrich Geiger was positioned. "Entwicklung PKW Aufbauten" means Development of Sedan Bodies. "Stilistik" means Styling. Friedrich Geiger also was responsible for the design of all 300SL series. [10]

Photo 9. Ponton sedans being assembled at Sindelfingen

The major work of the Daimler-Benz Sindelfingen factory was the development and production of four and six cylinder sedans in large series.

Photo 10. Type 180 Ponton sedan at a diagnostic testing station

Several hundred of these cars left the factory daily and demonstrated throughout the world – exported to 136 countries – the Sindelfinger's quality workmanship. Light-duty truck cabs were also built at the facility, while engines were built and tested in Untertuerkheim.

Photo 11. Mercedes-Benz Ponton sedans in production at Sindelfingen

At Daimler-Benz, developments in engineering, manufacturing and economics dictated when new parts and sub-assemblies were fitted to models in any given range, including the 1953-1962 Ponton passenger vehicles. Unlike the American method of introducing all changes at the beginning of a model year, Mercedes-Benz vehicles retained the same body shape for a longer period, while continuous minor technical improvements were made throughout the lifespan of the model.

Fortunately, accurate records were kept indicating which parts were installed on each car and engine. Still, it may be a challenge for the owner and agents (both authorized, and after-market) to obtain the correct part for any given vehicle.

Typically, there were cut-off points, meaning the illustrated parts catalogs indicate a certain part number was used up to a particular chassis number, at which point, the next part number started being used. It is for this reason that the Mercedes-Benz Ponton owner needs to reference their chassis and engine numbers when ordering replacement parts for their Ponton. For details, see the Chassis and Engine Number page.

Photo 12. Festive acknowledgement of the 100,000th Type 180 Ponton sedan

In a 1960 DBAG publication about the Sindelfingen factory it was reported that it took approximately 1,500 minutes to build a passenger vehicle.[2] This was from the time the first sheet steel molding was pressed, to the moment when the car rolled from the finishing hall into the sales department.

Along with the Type 300 "Adenauer" limousine, the 190SL and 300SL touring sports cars were also manufactured in series production although in considerably fewer numbers. They were also "finished" on the assembly line but as distinguished from the large series, a great deal more hand work went in to them.[3]


Mercedes-Benz Ponton Production Data [4]

Model

Engine

Engine Prefix

Body Style

Chassis Code

Dates

Production

180 4-cylinder gasoline M 136.925 sedan W120 I
W120.010
W120.011 *
7/53-6/57 52,186
180a 4-cylinder gasoline M 121.923 sedan W120 II
W120.010
W120.011 *
6/57-7/59 27,353
180b 4-cylinder gasoline M 121.923 sedan W120 III
W120.010
W120.011 *
7/59-8/61 29,415
180c 4-cylinder gasoline M 121.927 sedan W120 IV
W120.010
W120.011 *
6/61-10/62 9,280
180D 4-cylinder diesel OM 636.930 sedan W120 I
W120.110
W120.111 *
2/54-7/59 116,485
180Db 4-cylinder diesel OM 636.930 sedan W120 II
W120.110
W120.111 *
7/59-8/61 24,676
180Dc 4-cylinder diesel OM 621.914 sedan W120 III
W120.110
W120.111 *
6/61-10/62 11,822
190 4-cylinder gasoline M 121.920 sedan W121 I
W121.010
W121.011 *
3/56-8/59 61,345
190b 4-cylinder gasoline M 121.920 sedan W121 III
W121.010
W121.011 *
6/59-8/61 28,463
190D 4-cylinder diesel OM 621.910 sedan W121 I
W121.110
W121.111 *
8/58-7/59 20,629
190Db 4-cylinder diesel OM 621.910 sedan W121 III
W121.110
W121.111 *
6/59-9/61 61,309
190SL 4-cylinder gasoline M 121.921
M 121.928 [6]
coupé W121 II
W121.040
4/55-12/62 [8] 25,881
roadster W121 II
W121.042
219 6-cylinder gasoline M 180.921 [7] sedan W105
W105.010
W105.011 *
3/56-7/59 27,845
220a 6-cylinder gasoline M 180.921 sedan W180 I
W180.010
W180.011 *
6/54-4/56 25,937
220S 6-cylinder gasoline M 180.924 sedan W180 II
W180.010
W180.011 *
3/56-8/59 55,279
coupé W180 II
W180.037
4/56-9/59 [5] 1,251
cabriolet W180 II
W180.030
4/56-9/59 [5] 2,178
220SE 6-cylinder gasoline
(fuel-injected)
M 127.980 [11] sedan W128
W128.010
W128.011 *
10/58-8/59 1,974 [9]
M 127.983 [12] coupé W128
W128.037
7/58-11/60 [5] 830 [9]
M 127.983 [12] cabriolet W128
W128.030
7/58-11/60 [5] 1,112 [9]
Notes
  • * Equipped with a Webasto sliding sunroof. The material was referred to as "Covertex" (vinyl).
  • There are rare instances of Ponton coupés and sedans (extremely rare) fitted with steel sunroofs, made by Webasto.
  • A Ponton coupé with a steel sunroof does not have a unique chassis code prefix. For example, a Type 220S Ponton coupé with a steel sunroof has a chassis code prefix of W180.037, which is the same as a coupé with a solid roof.
  • As of March 11, 2007 the editor is seeking verification on the existence (or not) of a unique chassis number prefix for Ponton sedans fitted with steel sunroofs.

Table 1. Mercedes-Benz Ponton Production Data


Annual Mercedes-Benz Ponton Production Data by Model [13]

Produktion 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 Total
180 4362 20,306 17,704 8,464 1,350             52,186 1)
180a         4,656 15,967 6,730         27353 2)
180b             7,314 14,384 7,717     29,415 3)
180c                 4,980 4,300   9,280 4)
180D 11 15,532 20,345 21,013 22,910 26,693 9,981         116,485 5)
180Db             8,076 11,151 5,449     24,676 6)
180Dc                 4,822 7,000   11,822 7)
190       16,001 22,578 15,791 6,975         61,345 8)
190b             6,613 12,986 8,864     28,463 9)
190D           5,469 15,160         20,629 10)
190Db             13,709 29,116 18,484     61,309 11)
190SL     1,727 4,032 3,332 2,722 3,949 3,977 3,792 2,246 104 25,881
220a   4,178 19,348 2,411               25,937
219       5,474 8,505 9,296 4,570         22,845 12)
220S       10,525 15,459 20,181 9,114         55,279 13)
220S coupé
u. cabriolet
      297 1,066 1,280 786         3,429 14)
220SE           201 1,773         1,974
220SE coupé
u. cabriolet
          114 628 1,200       1,942 15)
1) einschl. 279 Fahrgestelle
2) einschl. 198 Fahrgestelle
3) einschl. 382 Fahrgestelle
4) einschl. 183 Fahrgestelle
5) einschl. 2,439 Fahrgestelle
6) einschl. 400 Fahrgestelle
7) einschl. 222 Fahrgestelle
8) einschl. 354 Fahrgestelle
9) einschl. 349 Fahrgestelle
10) einschl. 136 Fahrgestelle
11) einschl. 711 Fahrgestelle
12) einschl. 3 Fahrgestelle
13) einschl. 11 Fahrgestelle
14) Cabriolet 2,178, Coupé 1,251 Wagen
15) Cabriolet 1,112, Coupé 830 Wagen

Translations

  • u. = und = and
  • einschl. = einschließlich = including
  • Fahrgestelle = unfinished body, i.e. sent to independent, specialized coach builders (Binz, Miesen, Pollmann, etc.)
  • Wagen = car
Source: Mercedes-Benz Personenwagen 1886-1986 / Werner Oswald / ISBN-13: 9783613011335 / ISBN-10: 3613011336

Table 2. Annual Mercedes-Benz Ponton Production Data

Footnotes / References (I)

[1] Examples of four and six cylinder Ponton models fitted with the optional Webasto steel sunroof
1956 Type 190 sedan with a Webasto steel sunroof (Haifa, Israel)
Type 220S with Webasto steel sunroof (Beirut, Lebanon)
1957 Type 190 Ponton sedan with Webasto steel sunroof (Rancho Cucamonga, California)
1959 220S sedan with Webasto steel sunroof (chassis number 180.010-10-9502328) (Norway)

[2] DBAG factory publication: "Scheinwerfer" / © 1960. The time to build the four and six cylinder sedans is stated correctly at 1,500 minutes. That is equivalent to 25 hours, or roughly three (eight-hour) work days. There are a couple of things to note here. The context of the "1,500 minute" figure was that of someone on a guided tour of the Sindelfingen factory forcing the tour guide (an engineer) to answer the question "How long does it take to build a car?" Of course, there is the design phase, external suppliers of raw materials, development, testing, and more that need to be considered. These really make the 1,500 minute figure misleading. So, I think the tour guide was saying, "Once all the raw materials are in place at the factory, and all of the workers are present and perform flawlessly, and all the machines are working properly, and it is a sunny, 22º C (72º F) summer day, and the design and development phase is factored out, then you may use the figure as a rough idea of how long it takes to build a four or six cylinder sedan."

Remember that there are exceptions to these numbers, and they merely serve as a general reference.  For example: Let us say a certain 220S Ponton cabriolet takes five months from the time the original data plates or paperwork declare it was created until the time it was ready to be delivered. There are circumstances that could logically explain why this might happen. Perhaps, the customer changed their mind on some of the optional equipment such as interior leather color, radio, roof color, body color. The factory would not look with favor on that decision, particularly if the customer waited until near the time of delivery to make it.  This would put a potentially long delay on getting the car delivered in the original agreed period of time because the new request would need to be worked into the factory schedule and actually implemented on the car.

[3] According to Hartwig Mueller (Mercedes-Benz salesman from 1956 to 1964 trained in Stuttgart-Untertuerkheim, Main-Administration-Center) the Sindelfingen factory also produced the 220S and 220SE coupés and cabriolets, as well as the Type 300 "Adenauer" limousines. However; these models were not mentioned directly in the documentation used to create this web page.

[4] Mercedes-Benz Automobile 4 / Vom 170V zum 300SL / © 1981 Heribert Hofner / ISBN: 3-405-12604-5 / Referenced for all models (except the 220S/220SE coupé & cabriolet) production dates and numbers. 

[5] Mercedes-Benz 1886-1986 vol. II / © 1986 Edita S.A. / Printed in Italy / ISBN: 2-88001-194-9 / Referenced pp. 254 & 256 for Type 220S/220SE coupé & cabriolet production dates and numbers / Courtesy: Gerhard Pieterson (South Africa).

[6] The 121.928 engine (Type M 121 B IX) was used on the 190SL from chassis 022122 until the end (8/1961-1962).

[7] Service Manual Models 180 to 220SE (SM-1201-000). In the table on page 00-1/7, we find that the 220a has a chassis type 180.01, engine model M 180.II (180.921). The same table recites that the Type 219 sedan has a chassis type of 105.01 and engine model M 180.II (180.921). That is, this manual states that the 219 and 220a have a different chassis but the same engine. See also pictures and text at pages 01-4/4 to 01-4/5, which show both sides of a 180.921 (single carburetor) and 180.924 engine and recite that the 180.921 went into the 220a and 219 and that the 180.924 went into the 220S.

[8] Mercedes-Benz 190SL, 1955-1963 - Restoration and Ownership / © 2003 Bruce Adams and The International 190SL Group USA / ISBN: 0-9729420-0-9.  On February 13, 2005, I asked Bruce Adams and Ed Bertrand (via email) why there are differences in various published end-dates for the production of the 190SL. Their reply was, "The end of assembly is not the same as the end of production. After the 190SL is assembled, it must undergo testing, final inspection, detailing, and preparation for shipping to its port of destination, either in the country or for export. So the last 104 190SL roadsters (25778 thru 25881) were assembled in late 1962 and released by the factory in early 1963." In fact, according to a factory photograph, the last 190SL (25881) was released on February 8, 1963 along with the last 300SL roadster (3258).

[9] The W128 220SE (fuel injected) series cars were numbered sequentially regardless of body style. For instance, we know that a W128.037 220SE Ponton coupé has a serial number of 1083, and there are two W128.010 220SE Ponton sedans with serial numbers 1082 and 1084. 


Table 3. Type W128 Serial Numbers

As such, there should never be a 220SE Ponton with a serial number higher than the total number of individual W128 body styles produced. That would be 1,974 sedans, 830 coupés, and 1,112 cabriolets or a total of 3,916 W128 series cars. In other words, no W128 serial number will be higher than 3916. 

[10] Courtesy: Hartwig Mueller / January 17, 2008

[11] 127.980 (engine M127.I) up to chassis 002429. Data from Spare Parts List, Edition B, Printed in March 1960. Courtesy: Thomas Winberg / February 8, 2009

Table 4. Spare Parts List, Edition B (showing 220SE engine numbers)

[12] The 127.983 prefix is not used for cars earlier than VIN number 002430. i.e. 127.983 (engine M127.IV) was used from chassis 002430. The 127.983 engine has the same cold start solenoids as the Mercedes-Benz Fintail series. Data from Spare Parts List, Edition B, Printed in March 1960. Courtesy: Thomas Winberg / February 8, 2009

[13] Mercedes-Benz Personenwagen 1886-1986 / Werner Oswald / ISBN-13: 9783613011335 / ISBN-10: 3613011336


Acknowledgements / References (II)


Created: January 5, 2002 / Jeff Miller
Revision 28 / July 21, 2014
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