Mercedes-Benz recommenced private-car production in 1948, revamping their pre-war Type 170, which had been introduced as long ago as 1931. By 1951 Mercedes appeared to sweep away the austerity of those early post-war years and two new models appeared which made no attempt to be economy models. The cars, which were first shown at Frankfurt, were the 220 and 300.

The 220 was based on a strengthened 170S cruciform chassis with wider track, powered by a new 2.2-liter, six-cylinder engine developing 80 bhp at 4,600 rpm. Although it now had faired-in headlights and more room, the first 220 retained the dignified but dated pre-war body styling of the 170. But in its performance and behavior it established the character of other Mercedes to follow: its smooth, short-stroke, high-revving engine with a chain-driven overhead camshaft gave a good specific output at the expense of relatively modest torque at low engine revs. The ability to sustain high cruising speeds without risk of mechanical failure or premature wear stemmed not only from high-quality engineering and manufacturing but also from very careful attention to cooling and

lubrication. The 220's suspension was similar to that of the 170S, the coil and wishbone front end invariably being described in contemporary reports as a direct development of that on the pre-war Grand Prix cars.

The car pictured here has been the subject of a thorough restoration and is presented in excellent condition. All paintwork and chrome fitments are without blemish and the work carried out seems to have been to a high standard. With an attractive color scheme for coachwork and top, this Mercedes offers comfortable and practical four-seat, all-weather touring.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1951 Mercedes-Benz 220 A
Years Produced:1951-1953
Number Produced:978
Original List Price:$4,490
SCM Valuation:$35,000-$45,000
Tune Up Cost:$250
Distributor Caps:$30
Chassis Number Location:On embossed plate on firewall
Engine Number Location:On left rear, upper corner of block
Club Info:Mercedes-Benz Club of America, 1235 Pierce St., Lakewood, CO 80214
Alternatives:1953 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible, Aston Martin DB2 Drophead; Bentley Mark VI Drophead; BMW 503 Cabriolet

This Mercedes sold for $53,130, far above its pre-auction estimate of $33,000, at the Christie’s Nine Elms sale in London, November 30, 1998. While there was clearly some emotion in this outcome, this stylish Cabriolet, in the unusual colors of dark green with a tan top and light brown leather interior, reached a price reflective of the extensive restoration.

There are two 220 Cabriolets of the period: The more valuable 220 Cabriolet A, a two-seater with a jump seat in the back and a single side window; and the 220 Cabriolet B, a four-passenger car with rear side windows. Just under 1,000 of each style of 220 Cabs were built.

The 220s were offered as affordable alternatives to the bigger, heavier and twice-as-expensive 300. Power from the overhead-cam straight six is a modest 80 horsepower, based on a 6.5:1 compression ratio appropriate for fuels of the era. The 0-to-60 time of about 20 seconds put this in the VW Beetle league, but this is a car meant for elegant touring, not sports car performance.

The Cabriolet A is built on a metal frame, but the body uses wood for its subframe. The door frames, forward door posts to the windshield base, door sills and rear cowl are framed in oak. Watch for sagging doors to detect problems hidden inside the door structure. Bad wood can be replaced, but much of the car has to be taken apart first.

Mechanically the cars are robust, but original cast-iron heads are prone to cracking. With the abundance of 220 engines, good used parts are not generally a problem.

Fitted luggage is a particularly desirable

option, as the spare tire sits flat on the trunk floor. A special shelf above the spare provides room for both these luggage cases and straps to secure them while traveling at speed through your favorite Alpine passes.

This car represents a way to own a handsome vehicle fully representative of a significant transition era for Mercedes-Benz, as it began to build affordable but competent open cruisers. While the price paid was high, there will always be a following for correct restorations on these limited-production open cars.-Jim Schrager

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