"Ponton Mercedes", four-cylinder models (W 120, W 121), 1959 - 1962
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When the new six-cylinder models in the 111 series were launched in August 1959, modernised versions of the four-cylinder 180, 180 D, 190 and 190 D models were also brought out. Technically, all four models were largely unchanged, although the turbo-cooled brake drums and wider brake shoes of the 190 were now also fitted to the front wheels of the 180 and the two diesel models. The engine output of the two petrol models was increased by raising the compression to 68 hp on the 180 and 80 hp on the 190.
In terms of style, the updated models with the in-house codes 180 b, 180 Db, 190 b and 190 Db were modernised at the front and rear. The bonnet became flatter, and the wider and lower radiator grill was copied from the new six-cylinder models. The bumpers were made slightly bulkier; unlike their predecessors the front bumpers no longer had guards. The tail lights were also updated and were now fitted with integral reflectors like those on the coupés and convertibles. Other facelifts involved the interior fittings with the aim of improving passive safety. Like the new six-cylinder models, the 180, 180 D, 190 and 190 D models were also given a padded dashboard with retracting controls, some of which were recessed, and a steering wheel with a padded centre section. Characteristic exterior features that differentiated the 190 b and 190 Db from their 180 counterparts were the all-round chrome strips running below the windows and the chrome-plated rain runnels.
In August 1961, the 190 c and 190 Dc, two completely redesigned four-cylinder models with tail-fin body shells, were launched to succeed the 190 b and 190 Db. However, this did not mark the end of the 'ponton model' era. The 180 and 180 D were still being produced – more or less as discontinued models – but they underwent several more modifications and were given the in-house model codes 180 c and 180 Dc. The only changes to the 180 c compared with its predecessor were minor modifications to the camshaft and valve timing gear, while the 180 Dc was fitted with a completely new engine. It had the 190 Dc's 2.0-litre engine but only generated 48 hp because the engine speed was limited to 3800 rpm. Although that was 7 hp less than the 190 Dc, it was still 5 hp more than the 1.8-litre engine in the 180 Db. Both models were produced until October 1962.
Like their predecessors, the 120 and 121 series ponton models were not only available as saloons, they could also be supplied as chassis with partial body shells that body manufacturers in Germany and abroad converted into ambulances or crew buses or mounted with other special body shells. The ambulance bodies produced by German firms Binz in Lorch and Miesen in Bonn were the most prevalent and best known. From May 1955, the 180 and 180 D models were first offered as chassis for ambulances; in September the versions for crew buses and hearses were added to the sales range and, finally, a chassis with a two-door partial body shell for vehicles such as hearses and pick-up trucks became available in November. During the period that they were produced, these chassis versions benefited from the same facelifts and additions to the model range as the accompanying saloons. As a result, all of the many four-cylinder ponton models were also offered as chassis for special bodies.
The end of production of the 180 c and 180 Dc models in October 1962 marked the end of the nine-year 'ponton' era at Daimler-Benz. During this period, a total of 442,963 units of the 180-190 D models had been built, 437,310 of which were saloons and 5,653 were chassis with partial body shells. From a technical perspective, all other Mercedes-Benz saloons built since then have had a ponton-style body shell, but in current terminology, the term 'ponton Mercedes' is reserved exclusively for the original generation of this model.