Seventeen years in retrospect.

The Mercedes-Benz 170 V (W 136) provided more than enough material for exciting motoring-related anecdotes. All in all, there are three main chapters covering a total of seventeen years.

The chapter topics are these: pre-war best-seller; surviving the dark years; post-war reconstruction helpers. 

A generous choice: right from the start of production of the 170 V in the spring of 1936, no less than six different passenger car body versions could be ordered ex works. In addition, there was a panel van as a commercial vehicle variant. 

After the Second World War, it was platform trucks based on the 170 V that signalled the return to vehicle production.

Reconstruction workers after the war.

Let’s begin with the most recent chapter: in 1945, the Second World War had ended, Germany lay in ruins – but things were destined to get better. Stuttgart was located in the American occupation zone. As early as November 1945, the economic agency granted the then Daimler-Benz AG a production permit for urgently needed platform trucks, panel vans and ambulances. These vehicles contributed to ensuring the survival of the population. The basic vehicle was the 170 V, a tried-and-tested pre-war design. 

Commercial vehicles with cost-saving bodies.

Conditions in 1945 were difficult: materials were in short supply, buildings had been destroyed and only a few functioning machines were available. But thanks to tremendous effort, production was able to restart. In May 1946, the first vehicle – a platform truck – rolled off the production line at the Sindelfingen plant. The driver’s cab was made of hardboard panels.

 Initially, all the commercial vehicles based on the 170 V were manufactured in the first phase with these cost-saving bodies. Anyone who managed to get hold of one was extremely privileged – no matter which variant it was. And every one of the 170 Vs produced at that time also conveyed the hope of better times to come.

Sindelfingen plant: production, assembly and finishing belt for the 170 V and 170 S models in 1950.

A four-door saloon, once again.

Slowly, life was returning to normal. And that applied to Mercedes-Benz, as well. After the US occupation zone’s economic agency granted permission to produce passenger cars in the spring of 1946, production of the four-door 170 V saloon started up again in mid-1947. The 170 V still had a few years to go – its era did not finally come to an end until 1953. 

Surviving in the dark years.

In Chapter 2 we look back at an earlier time. In 1942, the Second World War had been raging for three years. In Germany, civilian users had not been able to buy cars for a long time. Production was restricted exclusively to war-related use. In November 1942, Daimler-Benz ceased passenger car production completely – and with it the 170 V.

A successful model due to its outstanding qualities: the 170 V. 

Mobility in times of austerity: the 170 V with a G 136 wood-gas generator.

Mobility thanks to the wood-gas system.

But the vehicles still existed – they were essential means of mobility and continued to be operated as well as they could. However, petrol was hard to come by. There was, however, an alternative. Production of the G 136 gas generating plant, developed for the 170 V, began in Gaggenau in 1943. Admittedly, they did not look very pretty, but the end justified the means. The engine and mechanical systems remain unchanged. But now, instead of petrol, the engine burned fuel gas derived from wood. Loaded with around 24 kilograms of charcoal, a vehicle featuring such a unit covered 100 to 130 kilometres. A brief look ahead to the time after the end of the Second World War: petrol remained scarce after the war, yet wood was available in plenty. And so the wood-gas system was once again produced from January 1946.

Pre-war best-seller.

In Chapter 3 we now look at the beginnings of the 170 V. It was 1936 when Mercedes-Benz unveiled the fundamentally new design of the W 136 model series at the International Automobile and Motorcycle Exhibition (IAMA) in Berlin from 15 February to 1 March 1936. With its smooth-running four-cylinder engine, comfortable ride and modern, flowing lines, among other features, the state-of-the-art 170 V clearly left its predecessor, the 170 (W 15), standing. Customers immediately recognised the many benefits and took advantage of the opportunity: the 170 V enjoyed considerable popularity.

A contributing factor in the car’s success was the wide range of variants on offer. Right from the outset, Mercedes-Benz offered a choice of six bodies for the 170 V: a saloon with two or four doors, cabriolet saloon, two-door open-top touring car (succeeded in 1938 by the four-door version), Cabriolet B and two-seater roadster. In May 1936 the ample model range was supplemented by the sporty and elegant Cabriolet A. In addition, there was a panel van as a commercial vehicle variant.

A model of success: the 170 V was praised by the trade press as the most balanced design of international car construction in the light-vehicle category.

Compact van: in addition to the six passenger car versions, there was also a panel van.

No pre-war passenger car was built more often.

The sum total of its qualities meant the 170 V was a real success story. Up to November 1942, no less than 91,048 of the model were built. This made it the star brand’s most successful passenger car up to that date. In the immediate post-war period up to 1953, a further 49,367 of the model were built and, if the 170 D and 170 Db diesel-powered models are included, that total was 83,190.

A completely new and equally successful era then dawned when the “Ponton” saloons were unveiled.