Mercedes-Benz-Blog TRIVIA: The great Mercedes-Benz Coupés - PART III


Stuttgart, Germany, Jul 31, 2006

1956: debut of the “Pontoon” Coupés

By the mid-1950s the "post-war years" were well and truly over. The tentative economic resurgence in Germany had developed into a boom which has gone down in history as the "economic miracle". During the four years from 1952, car ownership more than doubled to 40 per 1000 inhabitants. Unemployment was non-existent, and under these positive circumstances even the politicians were prepared to take risks. An "All-Germany team" took part in the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia for the first time. This political initiative was reversed some time later, but it showed that opportunities must be exploited if progress is to be achieved. When the first transatlantic telephone cable went into service in 1956, anybody could call New York or San Francisco from the comfort of home. This was the start of the global revolution in telecommunications. Communication also means movement, and movement also means the motor vehicle.

When Mercedes-Benz presented the 220 S Coupé in the W 180 series in 1956, the more nostalgically inclined – and they existed even then – complained that the new Coupé lacked the sweeping wings of its predecessor. With its two doors, flowing roofline and prominent, curved rear window, the 220 S Coupé once again showed powerful and elegant contours. Large bumpers and fog lamps characterised the front end. The most striking feature was the three-fold division of the passenger cell, front end and rear end into a characteristic form which quickly led to the nickname "Pontoon Mercedes" – a term which has gone down in automotive history. The 220 S Coupé was the first coupé by Mercedes-Benz to possess a self-supporting body which was welded to the frame floor.

The characteristic "Pontoon" Mercedes models in this series were first introduced with a 74 kW/100 hp engine, including the Coupés. Shortly afterwards the engine output was increased to 78 kW/106 hp. An improved front wheel location made for better ride comfort, as did the single-joint swing axle with its low pivot point. On request, and at an extra cost of 450 Marks, an automatic, hydraulic clutch named "Hydrak" became available from 1957. The interior appointments were also luxurious, including polished exotic wood trim, leather upholstery and an auxiliary fan for the heating and ventilation system. The motoring press described the Coupé as a combination of "modern technology and purposeful elegance". Responding to customer wishes for increased performance, Mercedes-Benz offered a petrol injection system in the 220 SE (W 128 series) at a price of 1900 Marks from September 1958, and this increased the output to 85 kW/115 hp.

Like the 300 S Coupé of 1952, the "Pontoon" Coupés of the W 180 and W 128 model series demonstrated that imaginative design, trailblazing technology and driving pleasure were not mutually exclusive, but were in fact expected by the customers. Only 2081 units of the 220 S and 220 SE Coupés were produced, however they can sometimes still be seen on the roads – for example during rallies by the Mercedes-Benz veterans’ clubs. The "Pontoon" Coupés are likewise highly sought-after collectors’ items.

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