The W180-generation Mercedes-Benz models represent a pivotal chapter in the history of the brand in the 20th century. The model that preceded it, the W187-series, featured styling typical of the post-war era – separate fenders, running boards, lines which can trace their genesis right back to the early days of the motor-car. But with the W180 model, a new era of styling was entered: nicknamed ‘Ponton’ for its unibody profile, the body lines were all of a piece, something which has carried through to the automobiles of today. (‘Ponton’ is the German word for ‘pontoon’, the nickname referencing the manner in which the line running from the headlights down to the tail end of the car resembles the pontoons of a seaplane.)
Naturally this sea-change in approach wasn’t just about the styling. Mercedes’ new ‘Ponton’ was engineered to offer superior crash protection compared to its predecessors and contemporaries and, offered as a range of sedans, coupes and cabriolets, the W180s were supremely well specced. The 220S, launched in early 1956, featured a twin-carb version of the 2.2-litre straight-six, good for around 100bhp, and the four-speed column-shift transmission had the option of a Hydrak automatic clutch. With a relatively low kerb weight of under 1,400kg, the 220S was able to waft with impressive eagerness up to its top-end of 99mph, and its double-wishbone front suspension ensured that it was keenly nimble too. But most of all, much like the endless variants of E-Class and S-Class that followed it, the 220S is a sumptuously cosseting thing to drive. And given their rarity these days, particularly in the UK, a 220S will always be a talking point.
It seems fitting that our shoot took place in 35-degree heat and blazing sunshine, as this car once called the arid wilds of Australia home. The current Essex-based owner was looking specifically for a 220S back in 2017, and the fact that the perfect example was situated on the opposite side of the globe was no barrier – it was the right car for him, so he had it shipped over.
What’s known about the car’s former life down under is a little hazy, but what we do know is that it enjoyed a fabulous restoration down there; the condition today is pretty much as-bought. No stone has been left unturned in the pursuit of making this 220S absolutely perfect, and it shows in every detail from the shiny new bolts throughout to the faultless fit-and-finish of the carpets and upholstery. This is, dare we say, the closest you can come to buying a brand new 1958 Mercedes.
During the last three years of ownership, it’s enjoyed very gentle use in the UK. The owner has driven it on the London-to-Brighton run (hence the plaque on the grille) and various other club events, but the fact that it’s always been insured for sub-1,000-miles-per-year speaks for itself.
This is a car which, having been beautifully restored, has essentially been trapped in amber.
So why sell? Well, much as he’s loved owning this flawless Ponton, the owner has now bought his dream car – a 190 SL roadster – which will be taking its place in the garage.
There’s something particularly special about seeing the original manuals with a car of this age. At 62 years old, this 220S is maturing serenely, and its manuals – all in excellent condition – wear the gentle patina of ages that’d make them seem just at home in an antiquarian bookshop as in the glovebox of this Mercedes-Benz. Also among the books is a modern reproduction of the original owner’s manual, as well as a certificate from its participation in a rally in Australia in 2011. A photocopy of a magazine advert from 2010 shows the car fresh from restoration (the owner estimates that the resto must have happened around 2008/09), ‘almost pristine’, and on sale at $18,000 at that time. In addition, the seller can supply photographic records of the underside of the car during restoration, which is totally straight and rust-free.
Also present are invoices for work carried out in the current owner’s tenure; an invoice from June of this year amounts to almost £5,000, detailing extensive works to the fuelling system, brakes, and a minor body repair to the nearside of the vehicle.
The Mercedes is right-hand-drive and in UK spec, with gauges in miles and mph rather than kilometres and kph, and it’s fitted with a Tracker. It’s evident that the restoration has been carried out by true craftsmen, as the quality of the work is impeccable. All of the leather trim is sumptuously soft and beautifully stitched, with perfect complementing trim in the door cards. All of the wood trim is similarly flawless – we can’t say whether this is original or has been re-veneered or replaced, but the dash and door cappings are all in superb condition. The windows wind up and down as they should, all of the original ashtrays are in place, and all of the chrome switchgear has either been restored or replaced. The only minor blot on the copybook is that the driver’s door currently cannot be opened from the outside as the mechanism requires repair – it closes securely and can be opened from inside, but the owner points out that the lock barrel is turning and would require reaffixing.
Everything in the boot is as-new – there’s not a hint of moisture or corrosion under the carpets, it all looks pristine under there, and everything is solid and correctly trimmed. The spare wheel is in place and has a good tyre fitted. The car also comes with a box of spares, including a spare set of wooden interior trims (not that they’re needed right now!) and assorted other parts.
The Royal Blue paint has magnificent reflective properties, such is the quality of the finish, and its keen ability to reflect its surroundings also neatly demonstrates how perfectly straight each and every panel is. Everything is completely rot-free, and all the panels are superbly aligned with faultless gaps. The chrome trim is all present and correct, with almost no patination or pitting – the only thing missing is the pair of small reflectors at the base of the rear bumper over-riders. There are a couple of endearing links back to the car’s past in Australia – a ‘buckle for safety’ windscreen sticker from 2011, and a gloriously weathered grille badge from the Mercedes-Benz Club Australia.
All of the wheels are wearing the correct trims and fitted with excellent and barely-used tyres. The window rubbers are showing slight signs of perishing at the corners around the front and rear screens, but this is more an aesthetic quibble than a point of concern. As befits the car’s up-and-at-’em grand touring nature, a pair of modern spotlights from Australian aftermarket brand X-Ray Vision have been fitted to the front.
The 220s is running in completely factory-standard spec, and every element of the mechanicals is tip-top. Having enjoyed only very gentle miles since its thorough rebuild and restoration, the straight-six engine is reportedly running very sweetly (we were unable to fire it up during our shoot, owing to a flat battery – the owner will be sorting this), and the gearbox is said to be in good working order too.
The car very recently received a large amount of mechanical work to get everything operating as it should, simply to iron out the faults inherent in a car not being used very much: this included a full brake system replacement, carburettor rebuild, reconditioning and cleansing of the petrol tank, adjustment of valve clearances, stripping and cleaning of the distributor, and lubrication of the gear linkage. The owner was planning to use it for another London-to-Brighton run this year, before such things were cancelled, so the car has been maintained and prepared with this sort of use in mind; over the last three years, he has spent around £8,000 on this manner of maintenance.
It’s no secret that Mercedes-Benz is a highly sought-after marque in the classic sphere in 2020; values of 1970s/’80s SLs are climbing rapidly, and earlier 190 SLs are enjoying similar appeal to their gullwinged brethren. And the 220S? This is an entirely different proposition to those sporty alternatives; the Ponton models represent a fascinating period in the brand’s history, not just in terms of radical design changes but also in their impeccable engineering. To drive a car such as this on modern roads, it’s almost unbelievable to consider that it’s approaching a pensionable age – so much of the experience feels so smooth, so fuss-free.
And if this sort of model has started to blip on your purchasing radar, you’d be pretty unlikely to find an example on the UK market today that’s quite as good as this one. The restoration that’s been carried out is simply wonderful – the exterior is perfect and just as a Ponton should be, the interior finish is approaching Rolls-Royce levels of quality, and the mechanicals have all been looked after in a no-expense-spared manner to keep everything sweet. This is a car which is very hard to find fault with, and it’s equally ready for sporadic club runs or regular and enthusiastic use. And given the rarity of the model, wouldn’t it be a fine feeling to know you have a car that very few other people have? Being offered with a tailor made, breathable, 3 layer car cover as well, this really is the connoisseur’s choice.
Important: Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing.
As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sales of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the sellers discretion.
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