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    Mercedes Ponton Review (1953 – 1962)

    Overall Summary

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    The Ponton is the name for the first Mercedes-Benz series of cars (after the Adenauer) produced after WW2. The name includes several very different models and it marks a styling era rather than a particular car. The nickname derives from the German word “pontoon”, which denotes a styling trend of bodywork encompassing the wheels, rather than leaving lots of room for fenders.

    The Ponton models, ranging from 1953 to 1962, included several different platforms: W120/W121, W105, W128 and W180.

    The W120 was an executive car in the form of a four-door sedan, initially powered by a 1.8 l I4 engine. The W121 was very similar, but powered by a 1.9 l. The W120 had several diesel-powered versions. These cars were vastly popular at their time and, together with another one from the pontoon lineup, they accounted for about 80% of Mercedes-Benz production in the 1950s.

    The W105, on the other hand was a four-door luxury sedan powered by a more powerful 2.2 l I6 engine. It was available on the market in 1956 and it was very similar to the W120 in terms of design, but it was a more upmarket car in every way – it had a bigger engine, more space, longer wheelbase and it cost more. The W105 lasted for three years, last one leaving the production line in 1959.

    The W180 was a luxury car that came in three shapes – four-door sedan and two-door coupe and convertible. It was also powered by a 2.2 l I6 and its production ran from 1954 to 1959. The W180 also came in two generations. The 220a (W180 I) was a lengthened luxury car whose engine produced 85 hp. It was popular, with more than 25,000 sold until 1956. However, the revised 220S (W180 II) was far more successful. Adding another carburetor upped the power to 100 hp, while still saving the luxury and well-accepted design aided by a new bumper and several strips. The car had a four-speed manual, but there was an optional Hydrak automated clutch. However, this is very rare today, since even many of the cars that were bought with it were converted to regular clutch, since maintenance of the Hydrak was incredibly expensive. In 1956 convertible and coupe came, having the same power and engine as the W180 II.

    The W128 was the youngest of the Pontons. It appeared in 1958 and it was a luxury executive car in the form of a four-door sedan, or two-door coupe and convertible. It was powered by a 2.2 l I6 engine with mechanical fuel injection which gave it 115 hp.

    Driving & Performance

    The W120/W121 had the power ratings that ranged from 52 hp to 80 hp for petrol engines, while the diesels went from 43 hp to 50 hp. None of them were particularly fast, the fastest reaching 91 mph, but driving them provided a nice driving sensation.

    All the other cars had 2.2 l I6 engines which developed between 85 hp and 120 hp. Once again not very fast by today’s standards but these larger cars were magnificent to drive on the highway. They were very well engineered, they provided the driver with confidence and they were incredibly comfortable, serving as predecessors for today’s top class Mercedes-Benz cars.

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    Equipment & Comfort

    The W120/W121 was a lower class car, compared to the others and this is evident on the inside. The car is smaller, but stylishly designed. The classic steering wheel with a chrome middle ring stands in front of the Adenauer-styled, but more toned down instrument cluster. Even the clock is in the central position. The seats are big and soft, lacking any side support, which is completely normal for a car with such modest power even today.

    The W105, W128 and W180, on the other hand, were significantly more upmarket. They usually featured leather seats and upholstery and high quality wood for the dashboard. They also had a radio and a well sized glove compartment in front of the passenger. The instrument cluster was linear, rather than circular, resembling some other cars from the era, rather than other Mercedes-Benz models.

    The plushing up was especially evident with convertible and coupe models. Apart from plethora of leather on almost every interior surface, you could also get matching luggage. Every one of these cars was glowing with luxury and elegance and only an extreme machine such as the Adenauer could surpass these cars in the 1950s.

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    Running Costs

    Again, the W120 is the cheapest when it comes to maintenance. Most parts cost up to $100, while bigger things like shock absorbers go for about double as much. Transmission parts can be more expensive, several of them costing more than $500, while the drive shaft with sync cone costs about $1,300.

    Parts for other Ponton models are usually a bit higher, but they are all heavy duty and made to endure far worse pressures. Restoring a Ponton from scratch can be expensive, but it is also well worth it. On the other hand, finding a good one will make you and your bank account equally happy.

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    History & Development

    W120’s history starts in 1953 in the form of an executive car with a 1.8 l I4 engine. This car had a 180 moniker. Even though the W121 appeared in 1956, the W120 was sold along with it all the way up to 1962. The W121, on the other hand, had a 1.9 l engine, whose detuned version was also used for the W120 from 1957. This car also had several diesel engines which were particularly interesting for taxi drivers. At the end of their production run, 442,963 of them were built.

    The W180 came next one year after the first W120 rolled off the production line. It was a bigger car with a 2.2 l I6 engine. The first model was dubbed 220a and its powerplant produced 85 hp. It had more legroom than the W120 and it was generally more prestigious. 220a was produced in 25,937 units and it was replaced by the 220S in 1956. On the outside it was very similar to the previous model, but its engine now produced 100 hp, fed by two carburetors. Aside from the standard manual transmission, there was also one with an automatic clutch which was extremely expensive to service, so many of the cars were bought without them and many of the ones that had them were later converted to conventional clutches, so these are extremely rare today.

    W180 also had coupe and convertible versions, which first saw the light of day in 1956. The 220S was vastly popular and 55,279 saloons and 3,429 two-door convertibles and coupes were made.

    The W105 was a short-lived luxury car which lasted from 1956 to 1959. It was also powered by the familiar 2.2 l I6 and dubbed 219. 27,845 of them were produced.

    The youngest of the Ponton family was the luxurious W128. It came in 1958 and lasted until 1960 in the shapes of a sedan, coupe and convertible. It had a direct fuel injection system which upped the power. A total of 3,916 were built, 1,974 of which were sedans, 830 coupes and 1,112 convertibles.

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    Facts & Figures

    LayoutFR
    Body
    four-door saloon
    two-door coupe and convertible
    Engines
    1.8 l I4
    1.9 l I4
    1.8 diesel I4
    1.9 diesel I4
    2.2 l I6
    Mercedes Ponton years of production
    1953 – 1962
    1953 – 1962 W120/W121
    1954 – 1959 W180
    1956 – 1959 W105
    1958 – 1960 W128
    Mercedes Ponton production numbers
    W120/W121 442,963
    W180 84,645
    W105 27,845
    W128 3,916
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