Sunday, September 14, 2014

Show Car Sunday returns with a distinguished European gentleman

In the midst of the most fully realized gentrification since Soho (Williamsburg) I came across this smart little number. Black, shiny, and classy as all get-out, this is a 1958 Mercedes Benz 220S.
Talk about a timeless design! This manages to look right at home on the modern streets even though it was built 56 years ago. The roof rack made me wince a bit, but it really just means this is remaining viable as daily transportation for someone. There's even a baby seat in the back! Good for that family.
These rides are known as Ponton, which is the German word for pontoon. This refers to the fact that the fenders are now incorporated into the body as opposed to the separate units of yesteryear. Since the look of a solid side of a car was relatively new someone decided it looked like a pontoon and the name stuck. The name of the era of cars that came after these was known as the Fintail. Mercedes nicknames have never again been so charming unfortunately.
The 220S came right after the 220A, and the two models are almost identical. The only way to distinguish between them that I know of is that band of chrome running along the side from the headlight to the rear of the front door which was missing from the 220A. Both cars had a 2.2 liter straight 6 cylinder engine, but the 220S had dual carbs, giving it a bit more juice.
I didn't look through the window due to the heavy pedestrian traffic around me but this car might be equipped with a rare-for-Mercedes mechanical flop! There was a 4-speed manual transmission available for this car that had an automatic clutch called the Hydrak. You would shift as normal, but the clutch would automatically disengage when the shifter was moved by way of a series of mechanical switches. If it sounds complicated that's because it was! Impossible to keep working and maintain, most people elected to have them removed after the first need for a repair. Incidentally the Hydrak shifter was on the column, making it a semi-auto 4-on-the-tree. 
The owner of this ride is taking advantage of a New York concession to classic car owners; if you find a matching set of license plates from the year of your cars manufacture you can register them for use. They need to be in good condition, as these from '58 certainly are.
I was trying to figure out why the small lenses under the headlights are orange on this car when they're clear on 50% of the Mercedes from this era. Perhaps the orange ones are for export models and the clear ones are for those cars purchased in Germany? I'm not sure but some expert out there can tell me hopefully.
I love these cars for their functionality and looks, but they're relatively cheap too; right now on ebay there are a couple in the $5,000-$8,000 range. When you consider that the 220S was built in the same factory and by the same workers as the 300SL Gullwings from '58 which are now going for 1.5 to 2 million apiece, these are an absolute steal! Now keep your dirty mitts off that hood ornament and go find your own.

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