A pioneer hits 60.
The Ponton republic.
Starting a family, job and career prospects, perhaps a home of one’s own, going out for the day on Sundays and taking a holiday. These were the new delights and freedoms that had opened up for much of the population by the early 1950s, following the deprivations of the post-war years. Such moments of private happiness, captured in cheerful colour photographs, are typical of the years of economic recovery as experienced in the young Federal Republic of Germany. And always there in the background: the family’s Mercedes-Benz 180, the car that would subsequently become known as the “Ponton Mercedes”. It celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
Pioneer of modern times.
The four-cylinder 180 model launched in September 1953 – internal designation W 120 – was the first Mercedes-Benz passenger car to incorporate a ponton-type body structure. Characteristic features of the “ponton” models, a design that had originated in the United States, included their fully integrated wings and rectangular outline. The outcome of this design was, most importantly, a spacious and highly versatile interior. Marking a further innovation in the history of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, the body shell was designed to be self-supporting and was welded firmly to the frame-floor structure. This made the W 120 considerably more manoeuvrable than its predecessor. The sophistication of this design has lost none of its validity, even 60 years after its introduction.
The essence of the automobile.
The “ponton” model allowed Mercedes-Benz to demonstrate its status as a pioneer. Even today, the 180 model is still considered revolutionary. It includes features that now seem remarkably prescient in terms of automotive development in the second half of the 20th century. As just one example, the new design concept was responsible for reducing both wind resistance and wind noise. From the very beginning, the 180 model represented the automotive embodiment of a lifestyle whose essential features included reliable mobility and individuality. It still very much epitomises the concept of “a car of my own” and is the proud progenitor of numerous later models.