Mercedes-Benz Ponton Radios



The radio sets originally supplied with the Mercedes-Benz Pontons are, like the cars themselves, of another age. The vacuum tubes need to warm up before the sound begins radiating from the speaker. They are prone to needing repeated adjustments, yet the audio quality is warm and inviting. There is something about sitting in a Ponton at night with the radio on, and hearing the barely audible buzz from the power supply that makes one believe if they were to tune the dial to the right frequency, they would hear voices and music from the past. - Jeff Miller / April 5, 2002

Manufacturers / Technology

Becker and Telefunken were approved suppliers of Mercedes-Benz radios, and the Becker "Mexico" was the top of the line for the Ponton passenger cars of the 1953-1962 period (Service Manual Model 190 / Job No. 82-20). In addition to the radios made by Becker and Telefunken, the factory also approved the subsequent dealership installation of radios made by Blaupunkt and Philips. Even though these other fine German radio manufacturers offered special installation kits, the Mercedes-Benz price lists usually came only with the footnote that "other makes of radio (in addition to Becker and Telefunken) can only be retrofitted at sales and service outlets or authorized agents." It is interesting to note that the radio was typically the most expensive option on the car. In Europe, the FM radio band was 87.5 MHz - 100 MHz up until the mid 1960s when it was expanded to 108 MHz. I have been led to understand that the French police were using the frequencies above 100 MHz until the mid 1960s, thus preventing Germany and other European countries from including those frequencies in their public FM broadcast spectrum. Increasing the FM frequency range to 108 MHz on the early radios is possible, but the lower frequencies will be lost. These were heavy vacuum tube radios which had equally massive power supplies mounted separately under the dash. Also available was a Becker "Reims" adapter for short-wave reception which was attached to the lower portion of the radio under the speaker cabinet. In Europe, parts of Asia and North Africa the long-wave band (150-280 KHz) is used for broadcasting. Radio sets from this part of the world have the LW (long-wave, LF) and the BC (AM or MW) band and the short-wave band in use. The long-wave band is very interesting because long distance reception during the day and DX (very long distance at night) is possible. In America and Australia the long-wave broadcast band was not in widespread use so the car radios built for export did not include it. All of these radios can be used on 6V or 12V by changing the frequency modulator (also known as: "chopper", "buzzer", or "vibrator") and some jumpers on the old G type transformer and by a switch in the later transistor powered supplies. The "vibrator" converts the low (12V) DC car battery voltage to "pulsating DC" which can then drive the primary of a step-up transformer to provide high AC voltage which is then rectified to provide high voltage DC to supply the B+ for the valves (vacuum tubes) which require higher voltage than the car battery could otherwise provide. Around 1958 as technology advanced, the heavy power supplies were first replaced by smaller solid-state transistorized units. In the early 1960s the electronic parts got small enough that the power supply was being included with the tuner and amplifier as a self-contained unit. By 1962 tubes finally disappeared from automobile radio design altogether.

Originality

The faceplates on these radios are of different heights and the styling can vary slightly between models with some having a different curve radius at the corners. The fragile Bakelite speaker cabinets used in the sedans with the Blaupunkt and Becker radios are also different from each other. The convertibles and coupés used a wooden speaker cabinet. The barrels of the early radio knobs were metal with a set screw to lock them in place on the shafts of the on/off switch and the tuning dial. The knurled thumbwheel portion of the knob was chromed and finished with a brown Bakelite cap. After 1959, certain radios had black rubberized tuning knobs to match the rest of the dashboard layout. These subtle differences can offer challenges to the Ponton owner who wants to fill the gaping hole in the dashboard with the correct period radio seen at a swap meet or an on-line auction. The vehicle's data card lists option codes for original factory installed equipment and can help determine the specific radio that came with the car when it was delivered new.

Sales / Service / Repair / Schematics

Service and repair is generally not a problem because the vacuum tubes and other electrical components such as resistors, capacitors (condensers) are still available. However; certain parts such as switches must be obtained from donor radios. For more information regarding parts availability and repair see the Links page.

Sams Photofact Sets (schematics and layout photos) are available for some Blaupunkt and Becker models. See caveat about buying photo-copies of schematics on-line versus making photocopies at your local Public Library.


Sam's Photofact Sets for Becker and Blaupunkt Radios

Sams Photofact Set 602 Folder 5: Becker Model "Mexico TG"
Sams Photofact Set 594 folder 5: Becker Model "Monte Carlo TG"
Sams Photofact Set 598 Folder 5: Becker Model "Monte Carlo M"

Sams Photofact Auto Radio Manual Series AR8 has service data for 48 radios produced in 1957-1958 including:

Becker:
"Europa MU" (Universal) pages 17-28
"Europa MUK" (Universal) pages 17-28

Blaupunkt:
"Frankfurt" (Universal) pages 29-36
"Hamburg" (Universal) pages 37-44
"Koln" (Universal) pages 45-54

Sams Photofact Auto Radio Series AR20, August 1963 contains Becker "Europa TG/MU" on page 17-24.



Sam's Photofact Sets and Rider Technical Manuals are Available at the Public Library
Before you pay top price (eBay, on-line vendors, etc.) for photocopies of Sam's Photofact Sets, or Rider Technical Manuals, check your Public Library first. Many libraries still have these documents readily available and will let you make copies for a nominal fee. A photocopy of a typical twelve-page Sam's Photofact Set will cost about $1.50 at your Public Library.

In the days of "point-click-pay" it is easy, and quite possible to over-pay for low quality, multiple-generation photocopies. It may not be obvious what the quality is like until you receive the package. Remember, the documents can be copied cheaply, quickly and accurately by yourself at the library.

Note that some websites have generously provided free on-line .pdf file schematics, but they have occasionally been found to be labeled incorrectly. This only becomes obvious when the schematics are used to create "shopping lists" for new components, or when the circuit troubleshooting begins. If the component values found in the radio are nowhere near the values shown in the .pdf files, then some investigation work needs to be done. Again, take a trip to your local Public Library and look up the Sam's Photofact Set or Rider Technical Manual for your radio, if available. These companies did not make technical documents for each and every radio ever produced.

The librarian will be happy to show you where they store the Sam's Photofact Sets or other technical data sets. By making the copies yourself, you verify the schematics are correct for your radio, and ensure the quality of the photocopy is high. Take the money you save and put it towards the radio restoration!
If you have schematic data for additional Mercedes-Benz Ponton radios, please contact the editor.



Gallery of Ponton Radios


Becker Mexico AM/FM
mb_radio_becker_mexico_180b.jpg (18667 bytes)

owner: Ramzi Saba
Ramzi wrote...
"This is the Becker Mexico AM/FM automatic signal searching radio installed in my 1961 180b Ponton sedan. One of the switches next to the search bar adjusts the sensitivity of the search, which means it can stop on all stations (more sensitive), or only the ones with strong signals (less sensitive). The other switch is to adjust the bass and treble. It will increase the treble and decrease the bass and vice-versa. This radio was in a Type 180 sedan that was brought to Lebanon in the late 1960s as a parts car. I bought it from an old guy who had kept it for around 30 years. It was not working, but it has been repaired. Note that the tuning knobs are the later rubberized style.

See video of Becker Mexico signal seeking mechanism on Links page

Update / November 11, 2014: Ramzi's Becker Mexico developed a problem. All was working fine except that the "wonder bar" did not detect any stations. It kept going to the right, then rewinding, then back to the right, and never stopped until the radio was turned off.

Senen Racki wrote...
"The Becker Mexico signal seeker works by loading a spring by way of actuating a strong electromagnet at the push of the "wonder bar." That energy is then released slowly via a clockwork mechanism that moves a series of rods through a set of inductors, thereby changing the tuning. When a strong signal is detected, an electromagnet is de-energized and releases a locking arm onto a paddle wheel to stop the clock mechanism."

"Since the radio seems to work normally otherwise, the signal strength isn't in question, so the parts to look at are the electromagnet, locking arm, paddle wheel, and associated circuitry. The photo clearly shows these parts. If all else fails, contact Becker Autosound. They will surely have a solution for you."

Becker "Europa"

The wood cabinet is from a Type 220S cabriolet. owner: unknown

Blaupunkt "Stuttgart"

Bakelite cabinet and knobs as found in the four-cylinder models. owner: unknown


 

Blaupunkt "Frankfurt"

Blaupunkt Werke GmbH (Germany)
Serial Number: K150607


   

 


1957 Mercedes-Benz Type 190 Ponton sedan
owner: Jeff Miller

EL84 schematic

Restoration Details

Push-buttons labeled: U U M M L

U (Ultra Kurz Welle = UKW = FM) 87-100 MHz
M (Mittel Welle = MW = AM) 550-1500 kHz
L (Lange Welle = LW = Long Wave) 150-290 kHz

Valve (Tube) Line-up

Type
Description
Reference
EF89 (6DA6) RF voltage amplifier http://www.r-type.org/exhib/aaa0270.htm
EF89 (6DA6) RF voltage amplifier http://www.r-type.org/exhib/aaa0270.htm
ECC85 (6AQ8) dual-triode for the front end stages of FM radio receivers
Note: located on bottom of chassis
http://www.r-type.org/exhib/aaa0241.htm
ECH81 (6AJ8) local oscillator http://www.r-type.org/exhib/aaa0036.htm
EABC80 (6AK8) AM/FM detector stage http://www.r-type.org/exhib/aaa0405.htm
Radio has a separate power supply with "buzzer" (a.k.a. "vibrator", or "chopper") to convert 12 volt D.C. to pulsing D.C. (like A.C.)
EL84 (6BQ5) audio amplifier
Note: Located in power supply
http://www.r-type.org/exhib/aaa0028.htm

Blaupunkt "Frankfurt"
mb_radio_Blaupunkt_Frankfurt1.jpg (49450 bytes)

Note the later style plastic knobs. This radio was from an early 1960s Type 180b or 180c sedan

 


Blaupunkt Autoradio "Export Super 92220" layout diagram
(circa 1960)

Courtesy: Gary Kuster / October 22, 2010

 

Telefunken radio in a Mercedes-Benz Ponton (Type 180/190 or 219). Note the speaker grille in the Bakelite surround, directly below the radio. There appears to be a second speaker mounted under the dash. In fact, this configuration has no speaker behind the Bakelite grille. The only speaker is part of the power supply, which is the unit mounted under the dash.

 

Telefunken radio from a 1957 Type 190 sedan (European specification).

Telefunken is the abbreviation or trade name of the large German wireless (radio) concern, the full name of which is Gesellschaft für drahtlose Telegraphie m.b.H. The name is composed of the words "Funken," which is the German plural of "Funk", a spark, and "Tele," which has the same meaning as the English, namely "afar" (from the Greek tele).

The speaker grille below this radio is empty. The only speaker in this configuration is part of the power supply, mounted below the dash.

Note

Gary Kuster writes, "My 1957 Mercedes-Benz Type 219 Ponton sedan (chassis number 105.010-75-02519) has a Telefunken radio with an under-dash speaker and power supply, as shown in the photos on this page. The Bakelite grill beneath the radio is empty. The only speaker is located in the power supply unit, which is mounted below the dash. I am currently restoring this car, and am certain this aspect was untouched."

Gary Kuster
Vancouver, Canada
May 2, 2009
1956 Mercedes-Benz Type 219 parts car
1957 Mercedes-Benz Type 219 project car

Note the speaker under the dash.

 

Becker "Grand Prix"
with wood cabinet
mb_radio_Becker_Grand_Prix_220S_cabrio.jpg (31894 bytes)
1958 Type 220S cabriolet
owner: Graham van Heerden

Becker "Europa TR"
mb_radio_Becker_Europa_TR_190SL.jpg (23411 bytes)
1958 Type 190SL
owner: Graham van Heerden

Becker Le Mans Radio and Becker Reims Short-wave Adaptor

mb_radio_Becker_LeMans5.jpg (29611 bytes) mb_radio_Becker_LeMans3.jpg (18614 bytes) mb_radio_Becker_LeMans1.jpg (20200 bytes) 
mb_radio_Becker_LeMans4.jpg (16467 bytes)
mb_radio_Becker_LeMans2.jpg (21728 bytes)

Becker "Le Mans" radio, power supply, and Becker "Reims" short-wave adapter.
Read more about the Reims short-wave adapter elsewhere on this page.


Becker Le Mans and Reims Schematics

Becker Le Mans with Reims short-wave adaptor in dash

Photo (in dash) and schematics uploaded December 22, 2013

 

Becker "Mexico TR"
with wood cabinet
mb_radio_becker_mexico_1957_220S_cabrio.jpg (54970 bytes)
1957 Type 220S cabriolet

Blaupunkt (AM band only)
with Bakelite cabinet

1960 Type 190b sedan
owner: Salvador Delgado González
Guadalajara, Jalisco, México

 

Blaupunkt radio
with Bakelite cabinet
mb_radio_Blaupunkt_190b.jpg (31839 bytes)
1959 Type 190b sedan
owner: Graham van Heerden
Blaupunkt radio
with Bakelite cabinet
mb_radio_Blaupunkt_219.jpg (24219 bytes)
1959 Type 219 sedan
owner: Graham van Heerden
Blaupunkt radio
with wood cabinet
mb_radio_Blaupunkt_220S_coupe.jpg (31195 bytes)
1958 Type 220S coupé
owner: Graham van Heerden

Mercedes-Benz Pontons without a radio had a cover for the opening in the dashboard with a model designator badge.

Wood cover with
model designator badge

Type 220S sedan
owner: Thierry Savidan / Laos

Bakelite cover with
model designator badge

1955 Type 180 sedan
(right hand drive) / South Africa
owner: Graham van Heerden

 


Radio blank for a Mercedes-Benz Type 220S Ponton sedan

 


Radio blank with "220S" installed in dashboard



Becker Europa II stereo installed in a 1958 220S cabriolet.
The radio dates from the 1960s, but the knobs are correct for a Ponton.


Bakelite radio blank from a 1954 Type 180D right hand drive pickup

 

Wood cover with
model designator badge

1955 Type 220a
(right hand drive)
owner: Lindsay Miller / Australia

Wood cover with
model designator badge

1959 220S sedan
owner: unknown



Ponton Radio Models

Brand Model Bands Features Price (USD) Ponton Models
Becker Brescia AM signal search tuning "Wonderbar" $160 all
Becker Europa AM/FM/LW push-button tuning $130 all
Becker Europa TG AM/FM/LW push-button tuning
self-contained
solid-state
  all
Becker Grand Prix AM/FM/LW solid-state amplifier / push-button (or) signal search tuning "Wonderbar"   all
Becker Grand Prix TG AM/FM/LW signal search tuning "Wonderbar"
and push-button tuning
  all
Becker Le Mans AM/LW signal search tuning "Wonderbar" $165 all
Becker Mexico AM/FM signal search tuning "Wonderbar" $173 all
Becker Mexico IG AM/FM solid-state   all
Becker Mexico TG AM/FM signal search tuning "Wonderbar"
solid-state
  all
Becker Monte Carlo AM/LW     all
Becker Monte Carlo TG AM/LW self-contained solid-state   all
Blaupunkt Frankfurt AM/FM/LW 5 push-button tuning   all
Blaupunkt Köln AM/FM/LW 3 ridged push-button (or) 
"Selectomat" signal search tuning
  all
Blaupunkt Stuttgart AM/FM/LW 5 push-button tuning   all
Reims adapter SW 7 push-button tuning
Allowed radios to pick up short-wave bands
  all
Telefunken II S 61 Selector     $158 all




Selected European Automobile Radios (Becker, Blaupunkt, Emud, Philips)
Radio-Phono Fernseh Katalog 1960-61 (Radio-Phono Television Catalog 1960-1961)


Original catalog prices are in DM (Deutsche Marks)
The currency exchange rate was approximately 4 DM to 1 USD in 1960


Becker "Reims" Short-Wave Radio Adapter

Original narrative by Ramzi Saba / Beirut, Lebanon
Photos courtesy: Chris Macha / California

The Becker "Reims" short-wave adapter enabled the Mercedes-Benz Ponton-era radios to receive short-wave bands. The number of tuning push-buttons and their band designations ("16" = 16 meter band, for example) varied from model to model.

Becker Reims (models I-IV) KW-Adapter (short-wave adapter). Radio-Phono Fernseh Katalog 1960-61 (radio-phono television catalog 1960-1961). Original catalog prices are in DM (Deutsche Marks).

The Reims unit has the role of converting the AM ("MW" or "Mittel Welle") radio band into pre-selected SW frequency ranges. My particular Reims unit (which is not shown in these photos) has the following push buttons: 0, T1, T2, 49, 31, 25, 19. When the zero button is pushed, the Reims converter is inactive, and one will be able to tune any station on the AM band. When any other button is pushed, the Reims converts the AM band into SW. Then, fine tuning on the SW bands is done by changing the AM dial knob. This way, one can find SW stations on different meter bands. The different push buttons on the Reims correspond to different SW bands. Fine tuning allows reception of all SW stations which were broadcast on designated waves, for example the Deutsche Welle was on the 49 meter band, and the BBC could be found on the 19 meter band. I do not know what the T1 and T2 buttons mean. I was wondering if they must be pushed together with other buttons. I tried that, but got no results.

The Reims is connected to the radio via the coaxial wire of the antenna. It is connected between the radio and the antenna. It is powered by the radio's power supply. Looking at the power supply, one can see a place to connect the Reims to it. When connected to the power supply, one insures that the Reims will be turned off once the radio is switched off.

I connected the Becker Europa radio to the Reims short-wave converter, and was able to tune into some distant SW stations. I believe it was a great invention for that time, because the listener can shift from one band to the other just by changing the circuitry, thus picking up a different range of signals through the same antenna.

As my father told me, short-wave was mainly used in Europe and a bit in the Middle East. But in the 1960s, the AM band (sometimes designated, "MW" or "BC") was the most popular. My 1961 Type 180b Ponton sedan came with the Reims adapter. I believe that was a rare option for a car destined to be used in Lebanon. This justifies the story told to me that my car was purchased from Gargour (Mercedes-Benz agent in Beirut, still in business today) by the US embassy in Lebanon in 1962. I never believed that, but now I think he might have had a point because maybe the US embassy employees would use SW more than ordinary people. Note: When the radio is tuned to the FM, ("LW") the Reims plays absolutely no role.

Becker Reims short-wave adapter and cable to the power supply under the speaker cabinet of a Mercedes-Benz Ponton cabriolet. Also note the unusual floor mounted shift lever.

The unit was mounted below the speaker cabinet in front of the power supply. In the regions where they were intended to be used, both the power supply and radio tuner have a socket for the Reims short-wave adapter plugs.


Period Speaker Grill Cloth

This replacement radio speaker cloth can be obtained from Heritage Woodworks. A swatch this size is enough for one radio and costs $5.00 (April, 2003). See the Links page for their website.


Hirschmann Automobile Antennae (1960-1961)

Hirschmann Automobile Antennae (Radio-Phono Fernseh Katalog 1960-61) (radio-phono television catalog 1960-1961). Original catalog prices are in DM (Deutsche Marks).


Period "Red Tip" (Kofa 200) Hirschmann Antenna

Original "red dot" Hirschmann antenna (model "Kofa 200") for 1950s and 1960s German vehicles. Hirschmann was the OEM supplier for Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Porsche (Type 356). These are still available, but expensive. In September, 2003, an on-line auction vendor in Germany set the bidding to begin at $175 USD.

April 30, 2004: Walter Odemer, Co. (Burbank, California), who specializes in Becker, Blaupunkt and other vintage radio repair and sales, sells the Hirschmann red tip antennas (including the motorized version). The SL Auto Haus also sells them. Hint: It really pays to shop and compare prices. See the Links page for contact information. Catalog illustration: Radio-Phono Fernseh Katalog 1960-61. Original catalog prices are in DM (Deutsche Marks).


Becker and Blaupunkt Radio Schematics

Master List of Becker and Blaupunkt Radio Schematics and Ephemera

These individual .jpg files were combined into logical groups and saved as .pdf files, and then zipped. Click the links on the right to download the zip files.

mb_radio_Becker1.zip (11.2 Mb)
mb_radio_Becker2.zip (14.9 Mb)
mb_radio_Becker3.zip (10.7 Mb)
mb_radio_Becker4.zip (15.8 Mb)
mb_radio_Becker5.zip (14.8 Mb)
mb_radio_Becker6.zip (11.2 Mb)
mb_radio_Becker7.zip (10.0 Mb)
mb_radio_Blaupunkt1.zip (12.9 Mb)
mb_radio_Blaupunkt2.zip (15.6 Mb)


References / Acknowledgements

  • Original Factory Accessory Price List / Courtesy: Thomas Mika
  • An Introduction to 1950s & 1960s Radios / Wilford Wilkes / November-December 1993 / The Star
  • Vacuum Tube Becker Radios / Jim Mahaffey / March-April 2000 / The Star
  • July, 2004: Ramzi Saba provided much of the narrative regarding the Reims SW adapter
  • July, 2004: Chris Macha provided close-up photographs of the Reims SW adapter
  • Additional recognition goes to Thomas Mika, Ramzi Saba, Thierry Savidan and Graham van Heerden
  • Mercedes-Benz Classic magazine (Issue: "1-2004") / Regarding the subsequent dealer installation of radio models made by manufacturers other than Becker
  • Radio-Phono Fernseh Katalog 1960-61 / Courtesy: Eager Brothers Music (Bob Havalack) / August 23, 2007
  • Sams Photofact data / Courtesy: Phil Langlois / April 19, 2008
  • Gary Kuster / Vancouver / April 21, 2009 / Telefunken speaker and power supply configuration / May 2, 2009
  • Radio schematics (.jpg format) courtesy: Roland Wilhelm / Barrie, Ontario, Canada / February 8, 2012 / The .jpg files were converted to .pdf and zipped by anonymous / February 9, 2012
  • Becker Autoradio Service sign from Ray's Auto Stereo Shop in Sacramento, California courtesy: Matais Bombal / April 25, 2012

Created: April 5, 2002 / Jeff Miller
© www.mbzponton.org

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