Decades before the Mercedes S-Class that we know today was fully developed, the Mercedes 220S defined the company's luxury image. It was crafted at a time when luxury was synonymous with elegance. The design of the 220S would go on to influence the making of executive cars at Mercedes Benz and other imitators for decades. The 220S epitomizes Mercedes's marriage of style and substance, taste and grandeur.
History of the Mercedes W180 and 220S
The history of the 220S begins with Mercedes's desire to expand its production in the early 1950s. They decided to design their new models with a unibody style to help with mass-production. A single unified body, hood and bumpers would be nicknamed the Ponton style after the German word for "pontoon" though Mercedes didn't use this title at the time.
In 1954, the W180 chassis was introduced with the 220a, made to be a more upscale and powerful version of the Mercedes W120 chassis. The body of the car was lengthed to fit the more powerful 6-cylinder-inline engine and give the back seat more legroom. Then in 1956, the 220S succeeded the 220a. It remained similar visually, except for the three-piece front bumper of the 220a was exchanged for a one-piece bumper. The engine was also given another upgrade, making the 220S the most powerful of the W180 based models. A much rarer coupe version of the 220S was also produced. It was eventually succeeded in 1959 by the 220SE model.
Mercedes Engineering Under the Hood
The 220S was famously upgraded to include a 6-cylinder-inline engine. This version of the Mercedes M180 engine produces 100 PS (74 kW; 99 hp) at 4800 RPM. The car was sold with a 4-speed column shift manual transmission but had an option for a Hydrak automatic clutch. It used small micro switches on the selected gear to automatically disengage the clutch while changing gears. Innovative for the time, most 220S models have been converted to use a regular manual clutch, as the Hydrak system produced high maintenance costs.
Driving a 220S
Much like the executive cars of today's Mercedes production, the 220S was all about elegant design supporting comfortable and stylish driving. The exterior of the 220S shows this perfectly in its distinctive grille, emblem and side mirrors. Rolling down the street, the 220S looks like the epitome of classic style. The interior features comfortable seating with great legroom thanks to its elongated frame. This unfortunately does not extend to the trunk of the 220S, which many drivers find small. The solid wood dashboard, classic Mercedes wheel and posh seats continue to impress today.
Mercedes 220S Ownership
Drivers tend to take safety for granted today, but the 220S was responsible for pioneering "crumple zone" design. In the past, it was assumed a car had to be rigid to be safe. Instead, the 220S is designed with space for the front and back to crumple in the event of a collision. This makes the 220S a remarkably safe classic car.
As with most classics, maintenance is always at the forefront of owners' minds. Turn to PartsGeek.com for all the parts you need to fit your 220S.