Eugene Emmer / email@example.com / Wilmington, North Carolina
My very first Mercedes-Benz was a beautiful black 1954 Type 220a Ponton sedan, which I purchased in Germany in 1957. The car had been chauffeur driven, belonging to a vineyard owner. I found it at a private car dealer who worked out of his house, but I do not remember how I located him in the first place. Since I had been driving a rusted out 1948 Chevrolet, this was an incredible upgrade for me and it was the nicest car I had ever owned up to then.
The car had a 4-speed shift on the column and a bench seat up front with cloth upholstery, and was just like new. I drove the car frequently and fast on the Autobahn and found that the only car that could pass me was a Porsche or one of the big "baroque angel" BMW sedans.
Most impressive to me was the massive all-wood dash with the complete set of instruments. I also remember being fascinated by the numerous colored lights on the dash at night: green for turn signals, red for generator, blue for high beam, white for choke. It was quite an upgrade from that old, crude Chevy.
At that time, not that long after World War II, Mercedes-Benz vehicles were still rather rare on the roads, and cars in general were still a special possession for the average person. I had noticed that in the salvage yards, I never saw a Mercedes body. In fact, I found out why one day when the hub caps were stolen off my car right in front of the Ramstein Officer's Club.
When I went to the dealer to buy a replacement set, I was refused because I did not have the original set to turn in, like a core charge. No amount of pleading would get the parts man to sell me a new set of caps, outright. That is when I realized that Mercedes kept their cars and parts out of the junk yards by making you turn in an old part before you could get a new one. Finally, by arguing with the parts manager, I was able to make them understand that the hubcaps had been stolen and I did not have a set to turn in.
Unfortunately, the love affair with the car came to an end one day when I hit an extremely bad pot hole and broke the differential. Replacement gears were not available. I was forced to buy, as a complete unit, the whole rear axle and drive shaft combined. After this horrific expense, I realized that, with my upcoming marriage, I did not need that kind of money drain and sold it for a brand new VW Beetle instead. The Type 220a Ponton sedan however, was my first introduction to the world of Mercedes-Benz and I have been a loyal fan ever since then, over 45 years later.
March 1, 2003
Editor's Note: To see a Type 220a (W180) Ponton sedan, visit the Photo Gallery
Editor's Note: The Mercedes-Benz Type W187 220 was made between 7/51-5/54. Body styles included 4 door sedans, a cabriolet A (convertible coupé, 2 passenger), a cabriolet B (convertible coupé, 5 passenger), and a coupé. They had an overhead cam 6 cylinder engine, 80bhp, and a top speed of 90 mph. Total production for the 220 sedan was 16,154. All other body styles amounted to 2,360 units produced. This model should not be confused with the Type W180 220a Ponton sedan of the 3/54-4/56 period.
An example of a Type W187 220 (convertible coupé, 2 passenger) cabriolet A
Eugene writes, "Although I have owned many Mercedes-Benz automobiles, my all time favorite was my 1954 220 cabriolet A, which I purchased, during my 1968-1971 tour of military duty. I was stationed with the Army in Heidelberg, Germany and saw an advertisement for this car in the paper. When I called the owner, he volunteered to come over to my apartment and when he arrived, I knew immediately, I wanted the car. I took a test drive and although the oil pressure was near zero, I agreed to purchase the car for $1,000, knowing that I had an expensive engine repair ahead of me.
After the paperwork was taken care of, I proceeded to check the car over more thoroughly and found that the only problem with the oil pressure was that it was way down on oil level. Apparently the student, who had owned the car, did not bother to worry about things like that. What I did have, however, was a beautiful black car, with original paint and perfect original leather, which drove wonderfully. It was the most striking car I had ever owned and a tremendous attention getter. Over the course of the next three years, I frequently found notes under the wipers asking if the car was for sale.
The car proved to be very dependable and I drove it all over Europe. I do not remember the miles on it, but it was about 70,000 I think. The car went to Luxembourg, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and all over Germany. I never pushed it on the Autobahn, but kept a steady 50-60 mph in the right lane. I got passed all the time, but I always got to my destination.
Mechanically, the car gave me a few problems, but they were all easily fixed by independent garages or the Mercedes-Benz dealer. The most interesting service was the time I took it to a nearby dealer for an "E" service which was pretty thorough and nothing like an American dealer would do. They did not ask me what I wanted done. They just fixed everything, including obscure bulbs I would not ever have bothered with. When I got the car back, after one month, it was perfect in all respects. One day I stopped in the garage to observe the progress being made. Inside, two apprentices were working on the brakes under the close scrutiny of the "Meister" mechanic. The bill, even for the 1970s was incredibly cheap and I think they really took pride in working on an old-timer like that.
In those days, the MB star on the radiator was for real (actually part of the radiator cap), and a favorite collector item, especially by American military kids. To cope with that, I had a flat cap with no star, which I installed every time I left the car anywhere in the evening. Thus, I never had my star stolen.
Just before I came home from Germany, in a fit of stupidity, I decided to sell the car in order to pay off the last payment in my house in the USA. I advertised it for a long time for $2,000 and got no response. Finally, one evening I got a call from an American who stated he was in Germany looking for just such a car. He came to my house and astounded my wife and I by looking like a true hippie of the 1970s. He and his girl friend had long, long hair, floor length leather coats and looked grubby besides. But when it came time to pay for the car, he took out a roll of US dollars big enough to choke a horse.
The car was eventually picked up by a car hauler and taken to the port for shipment back to the United States. Specifically, it was going to Sausalito, California. I still wonder where it is now. Unfortunately, I do not have the serial number so I could not track its home now. But if anyone knows of a 1954 220 cabriolet A, all black with tan leather seats, it may be the same one."
By coincidence, I also owned a 1954 W180 220a Ponton sedan, but that was during my first tour in Germany in 1957-1960, whereas the "220 cabriolet A" was owned during the 1968-1971 tour. The Ponton sedan was another story. I bought it in like new condition, it having been the chauffeur driven car of a vineyard owner. The only car that could pass me on the Autobahn was the Porsche 356 series, whereas in the 220 cabriolet A, everything passed me. I sold the 220a Ponton for a brand new VW Beetle when I got married over there.
December 18, 2002
- Mercedes-Benz the First Hundred Years / © 1986 Richard Langworth / ISBN: 0-517-38199-0
Created: December 18, 2002 / Updated: February 12, 2007