1957 Mercedes-Benz 220S Cabriolet

In the years immediately following World War II, German manufacturers faced sizeable challenges in getting back into production. Not only had their factories been razed, but their reputations had been severely damaged in markets outside Germany. But Mercedes-Benz was never one to back down from a challenge, and quickly resumed production of the pre-war styled 170, which they continued to develop into the early 1950’s. The 170 was soon joined by the 220A, a car that also had a great reputation for reliability but still carried a stigma of being derived from a pre-war design. So for 1953, the fresh and new W120 debuted, now based on a unibody platform. Its larger sibling, the W180/1 appeared in 1954, also on a similar, fully modern unitary platform and offered with a wide variety of engines. Known to the public as the 220A, the W180/1 was given the nickname “Ponton,” in reference to its pontoon-like fenders. The 220A was a remarkably strong and dependable car and became the most popular taxi in Europe, which was seen as a great compliment to its integrity and durability.

As the 1950’s wore on, Mercedes-Benz’s momentum continued to grow and for 1955, the 220A was superseded by the 220S (W180/2). The two cars looked very similar, but numerous detail changes had been made to the styling as well as the mechanical specification and equipment. The 220S was a far more luxurious car, one that carried on the Mercedes tradition of exceptional luxury cars of impeccable quality, regardless of price range. In 1956, the 220S sedan was joined by a two-door coupe and a range-topping cabriolet. The refreshed models were powered by a 2.2 liter inline six, delivering 99 or 105 horsepower, depending on specification. The Ponton Mercedes are prized by enthusiasts for their quality, style and fine road manners.

Presented here is a 1957 220S Cabriolet finished in two tone black and silver. It is a complete, largely solid and very original car that has been treated to a somewhat recent respray. The paint quality is good – executed to a hobbyist-driver standard. The chrome trim is in fair condition; careworn but straight and complete. The leather interior is original but somewhat tired, and could benefit from at least a careful freshening to make it a more enjoyable car for regular use. It is important to differentiate this from a project car, as this example is still quite usable as it sits. Alternately, it would make a very good basis for a straightforward restoration. These cars can be costly to restore if they are incomplete, but this example is very complete – down to the original radio and all of the bright work.

It runs and drives quite well and it is very usable as-is. Some moderate corrosion is evident on the undercarriage, but it remains structurally sound. This example features the very rare Hydrak semi-automatic clutch system. Very few cars were equipped with this option and many of them were replaced with traditional clutches when faced by unprepared mechanics. Thankfully, this example has survived intact and it works well. A mere 3,429 Coupes and Cabriolets were built, versus 55,000 sedans, making this a rare and desirable 1950’s Mercedes Benz that is very deserving of the care of an enthusiast to preserve and use it as is, or embark on a careful restoration.

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