260 D (W 138), 1936 - 1940

260 D (W 138), 1936 - 1940

The diesel engine having already proved its worth and demonstrated its merits in commercial vehicles, it seemed an obvious step to develop a diesel-engined passenger car. In autumn 1933, the first experimental engines, 80 hp 3.8‑litre six-cylinder units, were fitted in test vehicles of the Mannheim model. However, the vibrations from the engine were too strong for the chassis, making its use in a passenger car impossible.

Thereupon, a four-cylinder diesel engine with identical cylinder dimensions and lower power density was developed. The 2.6‑litre engine with a power output of 45 hp was installed in the long-wheelbase version of the 200. At the end of a protracted testing programme, production maturity was achieved in mid-1935. In February 1936 at the Berlin Motor Show, Daimler-Benz presented the 260 D in the form of a six-seater pullman landaulet, 13 units of which had been built since July 1935. Also on show in Berlin was the Hanomag Rekord, another diesel-engined passenger car, although this did not go into series production until 1938. Consequently, the 260 D was the world's first series-produced diesel-engined passenger car.

From September 1936, the 260 D was available in a range of different body variants. In addition to the pullman landaulet, there were three other versions, which were already familiar from the long-wheelbase 200: the closed pullman saloon, the four-/five‑s eater saloon and the four-/five‑s eater Convertible B.

One year after its launch in Berlin, the 260 D, like the 230, which had since superseded the long-wheelbase 200, was brought out in an improved version. The facelifted variant was identifiable at first glance by modifications to the look of the radiator. Somewhat smaller in diameter, the headlamps were enclosed inside more spherical housings, which were attached directly to the wing on cast legs. This dispensed with the need for the chrome-plated transverse rod in front of the radiator, which was very popular with many customers. The two six-/seven‑seater model variants additionally benefited from restyled, more spacious bodies of more prestigious appearance. There was also a host of technical modifications. The front- and rear-axle track width on all models was increased. Now with a capacity of 50 instead of 45 litres, the fuel tank was no longer in the engine compartment, but at the rear of the vehicle.

In February 1938, the previous overdrive transmission was replaced by an all-synchromesh four-speed transmission with direct-drive fourth gear. At the same time, for reasons of standardisation, the 260 D, like the 230, was provided with wider rims and tyres of size 6.00‑16, or 6.50‑16 in the case of the six-/seven‑seater versions. The rear axle was fitted with double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers. An important innovation, likewise introduced in early 1938, was the electrically heated glow plug, which made it easier to start the engine from cold. Last but not least, the 1938 model year also saw the introduction of new, rugged-looking bumpers to replace the dainty design of 1936/37.

By December 1940, 1.967 units of the 260 D, known within the company as the W 138, had been built. The merits of the diesel engine - durability and economy - were now impressively demonstrated also in a passenger car. The 260 D thus laid the foundation stone for the enduring success of the diesel-engined passenger car. The fact that the first exemplars were used almost exclusively as taxis was attributable not only to the particular economy of the engine, but also to the spacious six-seater body, which had come onto the market in early 1934 with the long-wheelbase version of the 200.


  • 87F456
    The world’s first serial-production Diesel passenger car, the Mercedes-Benz 260 D (W 138) as a spacious Pullman saloon. In this picture, the luggage rack is hinged down.
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 260 D Pullman-Limousine, 1936
  • 83F203
    Mercedes-Benz 190 D Kompaktklasse-Limousine der Baureihe 201 und
Mercedes-Benz 260 D Pullman-Limousine
    Mercedes-Benz 190 D, 260 D
  • 83F206
    Mercedes-Benz 190 D Kompaktklasse-Limousine der Baureihe 201
und Mercedes-Benz 260 D Pullman-Limousine.
    Mercedes-Benz 190 D, 260 D
  • 83F220
    Mercedes-Benz Dieselgruppe von links: Typ 260 D Pullman-Limousine, Typ 170 D Limousine, Typ 190 D Kompaktlimousine.
    Dieselgruppe 190 D, 170 D, 260 D
  • 23319
    Mercedes-Benz 260 D landaulet taxi. Preproduction series car at Berlin Motor Show, 1936.
    Typ 260 D Landaulet
  • 23370
    Scene at a petrol station displaying a Mercedes-Benz 260 D (W 138) pictured for a service brochure. At the time, Diesel petrol pumps are rather rare and reserved for trucks.
    Typ 260D, W 138
  • 26418
    Mercedes-Benz 260 D W 138
45 PS, Limousine
Bauzeit: 1936 bis 1937
    Mercedes-Benz 260 D W 138
  • 28591
    Presentation of the prechamber, the combustion chamber, the in-line injection pump and the fuel line of the four-cylinder OM 138 Diesel engine, which powers the world’s first serial-production Diesel passenger car, the Mercedes-Benz 260 D (W 138).
    Typ 260 D
  • 28992
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 260 D, Taxiausführung, 1936 - 1937.
    Typ 260 D, Taxiausführung
  • 29079
    Mercedes-Benz 260 D, Droschken-Landaulet, 1937
    Mercedes-Benz 260 D
  • 1989M3858
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 260 D, 45 PS, Fahrgestell, Bauzeit: 1936 bis 1937.
    Typ 260 D, W 138
  • 23093
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 260 D, 45 PS, Fahrgestell, Bauzeit: 1936 bis 1937.
    Typ 260 D, W 138
  • U3483
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 260 D, 45 PS, Limousine, Bauzeit: 1936 bis 1937.
    Typ 260 D, W 138
  • 29080
    In 1936, the Mercedes-Benz 260 D is the first production diesel passenger car worldwide. It convinces with favourable features still typical for a diesel, even today: it is robust, reliable and long-lasting and in addition, it impresses with extraordinary fuel efficiency. It not only consumes just four litres of fuel per 100 kilometres less than its petrol equivalent; diesel fuel costs only about half as much in 1936. This is the reason why the 45 hp/33 kW diesel engine is very popular with taxi drivers. The 260 D is available in numerous body versions, also as a landaulet.
    Typ 260 D, W 138
  • U5413
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 260 D, 45 PS, Pullman-Limousine, Bauzeit: 1937 bis 1940.
    Typ 260 D, W 138
  • U75528
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 260 D, 45 PS, Pullman-Limousine, Bauzeit: 1937 bis 1940.
    Typ 260 D, W 138
  • C1828
    Mercedes-Benz Diesel-Generationen von links: 
260 D Pullman-Limousine, 170 D Limousine und 200 D der "Neuen Generation", dessen Motor im Vordergrund steht, 1971.
    Drei Diesel-Generationen, 170 D, 260 D, 200 D
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