Mercedes-Benz W120

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Mercedes-Benz W120/W121
Mercedes 180 2 v sst.jpg
Manufacturer Daimler-Benz
Production 1953–1962
442,963 built
Assembly West Germany
Australia (W121) [1]
Body and chassis
Class Executive car
Body style 4-door sedan
Wheelbase 104.3 in (2649 mm)
Curb weight 2690 lb (1220 kg)
Predecessor Mercedes-Benz W136/W191
Successor Mercedes-Benz W110
Mercedes-Benz W120 model at a petrol station, photographed in 1961
For the 1960 model year the car received a wider grill.
Mercedes-Benz 190D

The Mercedes-Benz W120 and W121 "Ponton" cars were produced from 1953 through 1962. They were sold under the "'180" and "190" model names.

The four-cylinder 180 and 190 were the mainstay of Mercedes' lineup during this period. Together with the more luxurious and somewhat larger 220 they constituted 80% of Mercedes-Benz' production between 1953 and 1959.[2] Until 1957, the 180 used the old M136 1.8 litre engine from the Mercedes-Benz 170 Sb with 52 PS (38 kW; 51 hp). Later 180s received a downtuned version of the larger M121 engine of the 190.

The six-cylinder Ponton models were the somewhat longer W128/W180 220s-220S-220SE. The 180-190 and 220-220S 'Ponton' models looked very similar in appearance from the windshield back. From behind, one could not easily differentiate even the top of the line 220SE (E for Einspritzung, or fuel injection) from a 180, but the longer hood (and wheelbase) and chrome touches identified it as an upscale, six-cylinder model.

The 300 used a much larger frame and body, however, and was an entirely different automobile.

The 180-190 four-cylinders were widely used as German taxicabs. Only these shorter Pontons featured low-wattage parking clearance lights at front fender top rear. A simple left-right toggle above and to the left of the driver's knee selected which side would illuminate, so as not to needlessly run down the battery in winter, no small concern when restarting diesels. Heater air intakes were on both sides of the radiator grille only on the 120/121.

The form and body of the car changed little during its production run. However, in 1957, a year after the introduction of the 190 sedan, the Mercedes star atop the faux external radiator cap was made detachable: reports at the time indicated that this was either to pander to the requirements of certain export markets, notably Switzerland, or to reduce the risk of pedestrian injury in the event of an accident.[3] By 1959, the star was spring-retained on a ball base.

A roadster variant, the R121, better known as the 190SL, was produced from 1955 to 1963. The 180b and 180D both received Brazilian government approval for production there but the project came to naught, with Mercedes-Benz do Brasil instead only building commercial vehicles.[4]

At the 1959 Frankfurt Motor Show, in time for the 1960 US model year, a slightly wider grille and slimmer taillights were introduced.[5] The same wider grill was carried forward to the car's in other respects more flamboyantly styled successors, when the Pontons were replaced by the W110 "Fintail" models during 1961.


Type Chassis code Years Model Engine Number built[6]
W120 sedan W120.010 1953–1957 180 1.8 L M136 I4 52,186
1957–1959 180a 1.9 L M121 I4 27,353
1959–1961 180b 29,415
1961–1962 180c 9,280
W120.110 1953–1959 180D 1.8 L OM636 Diesel I4 116,485
1959–1961 180Db 24,676
1961–1962 180Dc 1.8 L OM621 Diesel I4 11,822
W121 sedan W121.010 1956–1959 190 1.9 L M121 I4 61,345
1959–1961 190b 1.9 L M121 I4 28,463
W121.110 1958–1959 190D 1.9 L Diesel I4 20,629
1959–1961 190Db 1.9 L OM621 Diesel I4 61,309
R121 Roadster 121.040 hardtop 1955–1961 190SL 1.9 L M121 I4 921 engine
1962–1963 928 engine
121.042 soft top 1955–1961 921 engine
1962–1963 928 engine


  1. ^ An Australian Mercedes-Benz? - Retrieved on 31 October 2012
  2. ^ Morelli-Bertier (1998-12-17). "Raisonnable passion" [Rational passion]. Rétro Hebdo (in French) (Paris, France) (89): 30. 
  3. ^ Simoneit, Ferdinand, ed. (1977). Vor 20 Jahren: Auto Motor u. Sport in Heft 23 und 24 / 1957 [20 years ago: AMS in issues 23 and 24, 1957]. Auto Motor und Sport (in German) (23) (Stuttgart: Vereinigte Motor-Verlag GmbH & Co KG). p. 6. 
  4. ^ Shapiro, Helen (Winter 1991). "Determinants of Firm Entry into the Brazilian Automobile Manufacturing Industry, 1956-1968". The Business History Review 65 (4, The Automobile Industry): 879. doi:10.2307/3117267. 
  5. ^ Mercedes-Benz Ponton Radiator Grille Shell Evolution
  6. ^ according to: Werner Oswald: Deutsche Autos 1945-1990, vol.5. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-613-02131-5, p. 32.
  • "Mercedes 180-D". Road & Track (1959 Road Test Annual): 81–83. 

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