65 years ago, Mercedes-Benz presented a most versatile vehicle in the middle of the Wirtschaftswunder, the German economic miracle, the light van L 319 and the compact minibus O 319.
perfectly met the requirements of all types of freight and passenger transport professionals. Produced until 1968, the 319 series and its countless variations has always established itself across the Rhine as the best-seller in its category. Today, the 3rd generation of Sprinter continues this success story.
Launched at the IAA in 1955: With the presentation of the L 319 and O 319 at the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) from September 22 to October 2, 1955, Daimler-Benz AG entered a new category of commercial vehicles. These vehicles were developed from A to Z as light commercial vehicles (and not derived from cars or trucks as before) by a team led by Hermann Ahrens and Eugen Stump. They fill two major gaps in the Mercedes-Benz range: light commercial vehicles with a payload of 1 to 2 tonnes and minibuses with up to 18 seats (excluding driver).
Germany in 1955: this year sees the strongest economic growth in the recent Federal Republic of Germany. The GDP increased by 12.1% and, between May 1954 and May 1955, the average hourly wage of industrial workers in West Germany rose from 1.65 to 1.76 DM, a gain of 6% . The Germans are starting to travel again and Italy is very popular. It is also the first country with which Germany has signed a recruitment agreement, to welcome large numbers of foreign workers. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer also used the Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186), henceforth nicknamed “Adenauer”.
Mercedes-Benz in 1955: 65 years ago, the brand covered all segments of the industry except motorcycles. For the first time, Daimler-Benz’s turnover exceeded one billion Deutschemarks. In New York, the same year Daimler-Benz of North America was created, which launched the 190 SL (W 121). Mercedes also shines in motorsport, Juan-Manuel Fangio being crowned Formula 1 world champion in the W 196 R. The 300 SLR (W 196 S) has won many famous races. With pilots such as Stirling Moss, Juan-Manuel Fangio, Peter Collins and Karl Kling behind the wheel, this vehicle also won the title of World Sports Car Champion.
In the secret of L 319 and O 319 : in August 1949, Managing Director Dr. Wilhelm Haspel put the "1-ton diesel heavyweight" on the agenda for a board meeting. He believed that a diesel engine from passenger cars would also be suitable for other vehicles, such as flatbed trucks, ambulances or postal vans in rural areas. Under the aegis of the head of development, Dr. Fritz Nallinger, tests with a prototype of 1.5 tonnes of payload were launched on July 19, 1951. It still featured a classic chassis with rigid axles, as well as springs. helical and telescopic shock absorbers at the front and rear. It will take another three years for engineers to finalize the vehicle, which will finally be launched at the IAA 1955 and not in the post-war first show tour of 1951, as Haspel had envisioned.
Design: Profitability is at the heart of all concerns, which is why engines, transmissions and steering are borrowed from the passenger car lineup. The decision to design an advanced cabin vehicle was made very early on. Therefore, the utility version offered a volume of 8.6 m3 for a length of only 4.80 meters. Like the rear-engined O 321 H bus, the 319 series featured a self-supporting body welded to a ladder frame. The engine, transmission, steering, rigid front axle with multi-leaf longitudinal springs, stabilizer with torsion bar and telescopic shock absorbers (inclined to the rear) were connected to the chassis frame, itself elastically screwed to the floor in four points. A banjo bridge with leaf springs and, again, tilted telescopic shocks were fitted to the rear. Coil springs supported the leaf springs with increased loads. The wheelbase was 2,850 millimeters.
More payload: since 1963, the flatbed truck was also available with a 3600 millimeter wheelbase, which subsequently resulted in double cabs or flatbed with a length of four meters. The payload then dropped from 1.75 to two tonnes due to reinforced brakes and springs. The model name also changed, the petrol version was now called L 407 and the L 405 model became the diesel version. These new names correspond to weight and power; the engine of the first four-ton utility vehicle produced 70 hp, while the engine of the other vehicle produced 50 hp. This nomenclature became standard for all Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles in the decades that followed.
First in diesel: during the first postwar years, the diesel engine was not yet used in small utility vehicles. This changed with the L / O 319. When production started in August 1956, it was initially only available with an efficient diesel engine as the L / O 319 D. Commercial vehicles used the four-cylinder OM 636. of 1.8 liters with flapper valves and 32 kW (43 hp) of the 170 D and 180 D passenger vehicle versions. The average consumption of the utility was 9.2 liters of diesel per 100 kilometers and its maximum speed was of 80 km / h. From the fall of 1961, it was replaced by the new, more modern, two-liter four-cylinder OM 621 developing 37 kW (50 hp) from the 190 D. It was the first large-scale diesel engine. scale in this displacement category with overhead camshaft. In 1965 the power was increased to 40 kW (55 hp).
The petrol version follows: in February 1957 additional versions with an overhead camshaft four-cylinder M 121 petrol engine and 48 kW (65 hp) of the 180 “Ponton” model of the passenger car range were launched. Factory data indicated a fuel consumption of 14.2 liters per 100 kilometers and a top speed of 95 km / h. From the fall of 1961, the engine output was 50 kW (68 hp), increasing to 59 kW (80 hp) from 1965. Petrol versions were popular in areas where low mileage and better performance made the difference. For example, many firefighting services have ordered this version of the L 319.
Many variations: the L 319 and O 319 could be delivered with different body styles, which is why, according to the sales brochure, there was "a vehicle available for all transport tasks in distribution, trade and industry". As a result, the small commercial vehicle, initially produced in Sindelfingen and then in Düsseldorf, was available in 1956 as a utility with hinged doors or sliding doors, as a flatbed truck with a frame or tarpaulin or as a as a delivery vehicle with open sides. In this latest version, the openings were closed with a tarpaulin, which could be configured to be used as an awning, an ideal solution for selling products in the markets. The O 319 was available for shuttle services with a capacity of 18 passengers, as a 17-seater bus and as a coach with ten seats. In terms of comfort, the brochure describes the O 319 as “equipped with pleasant upholstered seats, exemplary ventilation and heating, large windows with rounded contours and a sliding sunroof, its equipment ranges from essential elements to details of luxurious comfort. "
"Pretty, that front face!" " : You can still hear people making that comment while looking at the 319 series vehicles today. Following the strict lines of many commercial vehicles produced after the war, designers developed a new form for the advanced cab vehicles of the 1950s bearing resemblances to the brand's passenger cars. The L / O 319 and O 321 H minibuses presented in 1954 assumed a pioneering role. For decades, they have been ambassadors of the Mercedes-Benz brand in everyday situations around the world.
Positioning : the 319 Series filled the gap between competitor vehicles and the larger Mercedes-Benz L / O 3500 model. It was very successful in this context: when production ceased in 1968, the L 319 and O 319 were spearheads of the market. Originally based in Sindelfingen, the production site was moved to Düsseldorf in 1962. To this day, Düsseldorf remains the Group's main factory for commercial vehicles and manufactures all Sprinter vans for Europe, including electric versions, there. The T2 (1967 to 1996), known as the "Düsseldorf utility" (the "Düsseldorf utility"), was the direct successor to the 319. The TN utility, produced in northern Germany, made its debut not in 1977. It is often referred to as T1 to distinguish it from the larger T2 (the "Bremer Transporter" or "Bremen Utility") due to its first production site. In 1995, the Sprinter took over from the TN.
Praise from experts: in issue 20/1955, the magazine “Auto Motor und Sport” commented on the new minibus from Daimler-Benz: “Exemplary and modern in many areas, and remaining very, very traditional in others, the O 319 is almost certain to succeed. "The specialist magazine" Last-Auto und Omnibus "analyzed the O 319 in depth in its 3/1957 edition:" We can sincerely praise the merits of handling, suspension, steering, range. vision and many other elements. Overall, here we can present a vehicle that combines considerably more advantages than one would initially believe. Anyone who is passionate about gear changes will enjoy smoothly shifting gears with the O 319 D with the pleasant steering wheel control. It will also be able to reach good average speeds. As a result, we have been able to achieve average speeds of 50 to 60 km / h several times on normal roads, albeit on roads without slopes, covering distances of over 300 km. The diesel version is nowhere near as slow as we might have thought at the start. "
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