1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton
W180 Sonderklasse Sedan

Please wait a few moments while our high-resolution photos load.

Back in the 1950s, when chrome-bedecked, tail-finned land yachts crowded America's highways, driving a Mercedes-Benz "Sonderklasse" was something special, indeed.

Mouse Over the Photos to Enlarge.

Whether it was a chauffeur-driven 300 "Adenauer" or 220S/SE Sonderklasse "Ponton" sharing garage space with a 300SL "Gullwing," these automobiles Made in Western Germany featured vault-like engineering and a build quality unequalled by anything made on this side of the pond. Along with the "Fintail" and "Pagoda" of the Sixties, they were and are affectionately known to generations of admiring enthusiasts just by their nicknames.

The 1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S presented here is a survivor from that unique postwar era. Back in its day, it displayed an unmistakable aura of success and a presence that could only be matched by a Rolls Royce. At close to $5K when new, it relegated most U.S.-made automobiles to second tier status.

Just unearthed from a garage near Santa Ynez, California, this amazing find spent all its life in Southern California. According to a log book we discovered under the passenger seat, the 220S seems to have covered a mere 74,000 miles.

Considering the fact that much of the car's pontoon-fendered exterior displays its first, factory-applied coat of black (code 40 G) paint, we are inclined to believe it!

This 220S comes with the original owner's manual, plenty of old registrations, and the aforementioned log book.

According to the hand-written notation in the manual, the last owner purchased the car almost 47 years ago, on July 5th, 1972 at 20,293 miles.

Mileage and repair history are meticulously detailed in the log book which was kept up for many years. sometime during the early 1990s, the owner stopped driving and put the car on blocks in his garage.

A stickler for stickers, the owner made good use of his DYMO plastic label maker.

Recently revived after the long hibernation, the 2,195 kubikzentimeter, 120hp (SAE) twin-carburetor, 6-cylinder SOHC motor runs like a clock. It is mated to a manual transmission featuring 4-on-the-tree shifting. Other noteworthy mechanicals includes 300SL-type front brakes with lightweight aluminum drums, coil springs all around and a 300SL-type swing-axle rear suspension.

No diapers needed - even after 61 years, the Daimler appears nice and dry underneath.

Presenting itself wearing Daimler's first all-new postwar design - introduced in 1953 and henceforth known as the "Ponton" - the 220S shown here has greatly benefitted from spending all its life in sunny Southern California. Its well-preserved coachwork remains fabulously straight, with no accident or rust damage to note.

Factory 13-inch steel wheels wear the classic M-B chrome wheel covers, are shod with excellent radial tires.

Apart from some blending along the car's flanks, the paint is still largely the original, first coat, applied at the factory, back in '58. Talk about originality!

As is to be expected, the finish shows a myriad of imperfections, however, it still sparkles in the sun with the ineffable luster of antique resin paint.

Inside, from the vanity light to the parcel shelf, a symphony of chrome, wood, wool and leather appeals to the senses.

As if hewn from a big slab of walnut wood, the 220S dash is adorned with plenty of bakelite-topped, chromed knobs. The rectangular instrument cluster features a distinctive, horizontal band speedometer on a silver-gray pinstriped background surrounded by a heavy chrome frame. Though the varnish is failing inplaces, the wood itself is in excellent shape. Apart from odometer and temp gauge, all lights and instruments are in working order, including the horn.
The huge white steering wheel - featuring a horn ring that turns 26 degrees left or right to operate the blinkers - is another period Daimler Benz trademark.

Seats have been re-upholstered in red leatherette, many decades ago. Door panels still feature the original, red leather coverings.

A few of the intricate interior details.

Spacious rear cabin.

Some dust, but no rust underneath the seat!

Classic Mercedes-Benz elegance.
Note black-on-yellow 1958 California license plates with correct tag.

Large trunk features original rubber mat, tool roll and even a German Warndreieck.
Both bumpers and all four bumper guards have just recently been re-chromed, at great expense, and they look stunningly beautiful!

There's no corrosion to be fond under the trunk mat.

Close up of trunk and spare.

Condition of car's undercarriage borders on the miraculous. The intricate unibody structure, with plenty of virtually untreated, bare metal and no undercoating or other protective measures taken by the factory, is every 1950s Mercedes glaring Achilles heel. Their susceptibility to die of the dreaded rust cancer is almost as legendary as the cars themselves.

The total absence of rust or any previous attempts to weld, replace or hide anything under layers of undercoating turns this car into a very rare and lucky find, indeed!

Wednesday, March 13, was another beautiful spring day in our hometown of San Buenaventura and we were looking forward to a leisurely test drive and photo session.

The old Lady starts at the push of a chromed button, idles smoothly, runs and drives faultlessly. The column-mounted shifter is a pleasure to use, big drum brakes work great, and the car floats along nicely with modern-day traffic. Works-advertised top speed was 99mph, but the car feels happiest between 45 and 70mph.

Once rolling in the Daimler, you enter a neat time warp. Man - or woman - and machine, taking things easy, slowing down the pace, joyfully operating a well-engineered vintage automobile, observing nature float by instead of staring at a small screen. Driving an old Mercedes as a uniquely fulfilling lifestyle . . .

Easy to drive!

Returning home, we are in love with the understated but elegant W180. It's antique but not obsolete. It's quaint but classy.

A great example of a hard-to-find, unrestored, un-rusted 1950s European luxury sedan, this wonderfully patinated Mercedes-Benz should appeal to any true aficionado. Drive it exactly as it is and maintain it well, and it will be an heirloom-quality asset for a lifetime.

We sold this Mercedes in spring of 2019 to a local customer.

Back to Californiaclassix' Hall of Fame or Home.