Resumption of production at Mercedes-Benz in 1945

After World War 2, it took some time before normality returned to Germany. The Allied victorious powers ensured order, but also ruled with an iron hand in places. Companies had to apply for permits to resume production processes. In addition, there was little material available, which resulted in strict allocations. Although the war ended as early as May 1945, it took until November before the then Daimler-Benz AG in Stuttgart received a production permit from the economic authority of the US occupying power. For the time being, this included only flatbed trucks, panel vans and ambulances.

The Mercedes-Benz 170 V of the series internally known as W136, which was introduced in 1936, served as the basis. After all preparations had been made to move production from the bomb-damaged buildings in Neckartal to Sindelfingen, the first post-war vehicle left production in May 1946. Meanwhile, the drive components continued to be produced in Untertürkheim and were subsequently brought to Sindelfingen. Initially, these were four-cylinder engines with 28 kW/38 hp from 1.7 liters displacement. For the ambulance version, the rear axle ratio of the sedan and the wheel sizes were adopted. Box and flatbed cars received stiffeners on the x-shaped frame made of oval tubes. This increased the unladen weight by 40 kilograms. In addition, a shorter rear axle ratio reduced the topspeed from 108 to 80 kph (from 67 to 49 mph). Next to the classic gasoline drive, Mercedes-Benz also offered again the wood gas generator developed in 1943. This enabled a range of up to 130 kilometers (80 miles) to be achieved from 24 kilograms of charcoal.

In the further course of 1946, 213 vehicles were produced, including 31 ambulances. The company management also succeeded in extending the production permit to passenger cars and police patrol cars. However, the first four-door sedan wasn’t produced until mid-1947. Its price was set by the state at 6,200 Reichsmark (RM). Only those people who could prove the necessity of a vehicle were given one anyway. Therefore, many 170 V cars changed hands on the black market at prices between 100,000 and 120,000 RM. By 1947, 581 passenger cars and 464 delivery vans had already been built. After the currency reform in 1948, the new price for the sedan was 8,180 DM. At the same time, the number of units rose to 4,500 passenger cars and 616 commercial vehicles in 1948, which Mercedes-Benz topped again the following year with 12,719 sedans, while sales of vans plummeted to 382 units. The reason for this was the competition’s more modern models.

Exports hardly possible at first

Initially, the vehicles were very spartanly equipped. Even chrome details had to be avoided. Only the headlights soon turned out larger than at the beginning of production. It was simply a matter of the basic satisfaction of transport needs. Due to a lack of materials, Mercedes-Benz delivered the commercial vehicles without tires. The customers had to find them elsewhere. The driver’s cab of the flatbed, box and ambulance vehicles came from the Hägele company. For the police version, a hood construction with bows was used above the platform with two opposite benches. From 1948 on, the vehicles were given ivory-colored instruments as before the war instead of black ones. Although Daimler-Benz AG had received numerous orders from abroad at the export fair in Hanover in 1946, import bans on German articles meant that in many cases these couldn’t be delivered. In May 1949, the new 170 D, the first diesel passenger car in the history of the brand, and the somewhat larger 170 S, derived from the 170 V, were both presented at the same trade fair. They ended the production period of the original W136 and its commercial vehicle derivatives.

Images: Mercedes-Benz