Buyers Guide – 1947-1955 170V, 170S and 170D (W136/W191)

Richard Simonds

Luxury Reborn

The 170V, 170S and 170D sedans and convertibles (W136/W191)
The first postwar automobiles built by Daimler-Benz
Revived the company’s reputation for quality and luxury
Article Richard Simonds
Images Daimler Archives

First released in 1936, the 170V (V indicating a front-mounted engine) on the W136 chassis was technically one of the most advanced cars of its day. These vehicles had an oval tube X-frame chassis, and 4-cylinder (three main-bearing crankshafts) L-head engines for both gasoline or diesel fuel. 
In other respects, they were typical. The freestanding headlights were mounted on the fenders, there were running boards, and they had rear-hinged (“suicide”) front doors. By 1942, when Daimler-Benz ceased producing passenger cars, nearly 90,000 W136 chassis vehicles had been built – attesting to their popularity in Europe.

With the destruction of World War II, by April 1945, Daimler-Benz AG directors announced “the company had, for all practical purposes, ceased to exist.” Fortunately, the Daimler factories were all in the Allied Occupation Zone. The first major job was to clear the rubble from the bombed factories and Daimler initially was allowed to maintain vehicles, including large trucks, for U.S. military use.

In 1946, permission was granted for Daimler to manufacture utilitarian vehicles based on the W136 chassis (delivery trucks, ambulances, police cars). By mid-1947, the 170V was reborn, with passenger cars coming into general production and was upgraded to the 170S in 1949. In January 1952, the more luxurious gasoline-powered 170Sb and diesel-powered 170DS sedans were introduced by mounting the larger body from the prewar 230 sedan on the new W191 chassis. The W191s had the shift lever on the steering column, improved heating, a hypoid gear differential, a 4-inch-wider rear track and a starting knob on the dashboard. These cars were replaced in August 1953 by the new ponton sedans built on the W120 chassis.

Despite never having an official importer, there are 170-series vehicles in the United States that were shipped here by armed service personnel and tourists. Thus, there are enough cars to show up at MBCA events and at classic-car auctions. Finding one won’t be easy, but it won’t be impossible. Finding a really good example of this vintage will certainly be more of a challenge.

Mercedes-Benz 170S sedan, Cabriolet A and Cabriolet B, 1949-1952. The Cabriolet A seated two passengers, the Cabriolet B held four. Well-built, refined and graceful, these models helped re-establish the company as a respected maker of high-quality vehicles appealing to newly prosperous Europeans.

Reasons to buy a W136/

* Styling that is timeless and classic prewar
* Exceptionally durable engines for the era
* Acceleration adequate for contemporary driving in the city
* Cruising and top speeds of around 65-75 mph are the same for the engines used in the 170 range
* Independent rear suspension made for a comfortable ride
* They are very solid compared with vehicles from other manufacturers at the time

Reasons not to buy a W136/W191

* Steel panels over wooden frame on the W136 can be expensive to repair (see The Star July-August 2015, “Sleeping Beauty,” pp. 38-43 for one owner’s experience); on the W191, the body was alleel except the Cabriolet A, which had a coach-built body
* Rust can exist in all cars of this era, particularly in the lower body (trunk, floor, chassis frame)
* Front suspension can wear if the central lubrication system was not used regularly and the grease has hardened (pressing the lube button was prescribed every 100 miles; it often wasn’t)
* The limited top speed limits highway driving
* Weak lighting front and rear makes night driving challenging
* Because these models were not officially imported to the United States, parts are difficult to find
* A vehicle that has not been well maintained can still look good, but become a money pit. Advice: “Buy the best car you can afford” and “Don’t let your desire to have one override your willingness to perform due diligence”

Workhorse 170S 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder engine, developing 52 horsepower and 82.5 pound-feet of torque, built 1949-1952.


* The wooden frame underlying the car’s steel body panels can be subject to dry rot
* Check the vehicle for body rust; paying extra attention to the floor pan, trunk area and box-beam frame rails       
* Check the doors carefully for proper alignment with their striker plates and for sagging when opened. The rear-hinged doors can droop if the wooden frame has deteriorated, leading to a very expensive restoration process
* Electrical wiring is cloth covered; frayed covering can lead to shorts and needs immediate attention
* Starters and generators are rebuildable, a plus
* Solex carburetors are subject to warping and air leaks that affect idle and driving performance
* Sedans – particularly the most basic police-car version – are quite spartan and may easily cost far more to restore than their value; thus, commit to a restoration because of your passion, not your pocketbook

Official luxury: This 170S Cabriolet B – stopped near an open Brandenburg Gate – was the ceremonial car of Ernst Reuter, West Berlin’s heroic first mayor (1948-1953) during the Berlin Airlift and Cold War era.

Buying tips

* Buy the cleanest, best-maintained, most complete vehicle available; although 150,600 were built, few basic transportation sedans are well cared for and fewer have survived this long in good condition. The 2,433 Cabriolets are most likely to be in fair condition, but with limited availability
* The 170Sb/170DS had the larger body of the prewar 230 sedan; thus, these models have a bit more interior room
Mercedes-Benz model nomenclature changed quite a bit as Daimler figured out what it was going to produce and what to name it; be knowledgeable about your potential purchase and what it actually is – models overlapped in production
* The 220 sedans (Pontons with unit-body construction) replaced the 170 sedans and are both larger and equipped with more  modern convenience features. A Ponton/170 comparison should likely form a part of your buying decision
* Personally drive the car if possible; or else have a knowledgeable friend or mechanic drive it to determine its operating condition, not just how it looks in photographs on the Internet
* A formal inspection may well be worth the money because restoration costs can exceed its long-term value

Graceful rear aspect of a 170DS, 1952-1953, displays its 1930s styling origins.


The attention-getting 170 models are a much less common sight at car shows and club meets in the United States than other, more typical postwar Mercedes-Benz classic vehicles. The W136 and W191 are straightforward and robust, yet evocative machines capable of transporting owners back to an earlier era. The simple beauty, classic detailing and decisive historic role played by the 170 range in the rebirth of today’s Daimler-Benz as the world’s leading manufacturer of luxury cars makes the model series worthy of consideration by the Mercedes-Benz enthusiast interested in enjoying the classic-car hobby.

Dashing young couple in a 170S Cabriolet A drive up a mountain road in the Alps, circa 1951. While not a true sports car, the 170S Cabriolet A was considered a very glamorous and sporty vehicle.

Technical Specifications: 1947-1955 W136 and W191 170 Series                               

Model Years   1947–1950    
Engine 1.7L I-4 L-head
HP [SAE]        38   
Torque [lb-ft]  72.4
Transmission  4-M   
Rear Axle   4.125:1   
0-62 mph      36 sec
Top Speed      67   
MPG [US]  21

170Va & 170Vb                           
Model Years  1950–1953    
Engine 1.8L I-4 L-head
HP [SAE]       45  
Torque [lb-ft] 79.6  
Transmission 4-M  
Rear Axle 4.125:1    
0-62 mph 36 sec      
Top Speed   72  
MPG [US]    23.5

170S & 170Sb     
Model Years  1949–1952 
Engine 1.8L I-4 L-head
HP [SAE]       52
Torque [lb-ft]  82.5
Transmission 4-M
Rear Axle       4.375:1 & 4.44:1
0-62 mph      32 sec 
Top Speed  76
MPG [US] 19.5

170D, 170Da & 170Db                                                          5
Model Years 1949–1953
Engine 1.7L I-4 L-head
HP [SAE]   38–40   
Torque [lb-ft]  70.9–74.5
Transmission 4-M
Rear Axle    4.125:1 
   0-62 mph  50–58 sec      
Top Speed         62–65
MPG [US] 27.75–32

Model Years  1953–1955 
Engine 1.8L I-4 L-head
HP [SAE]      45 
Torque [lb-ft]  79. 6 
Transmission 4-M   
Rear Axle      4.125:1   
 0-62 mph     39 sec  
Top Speed   71     
MPG [US]   20.4

1946    June     170V utility vehicles production starts
1947    May    170V production expanded to include sedans
1949    May    170D, 170S sedan, Cabriolet A & B production starts:
                        Cab A: 2-door, 2-passenger; Cab B: 2-door, 4-passenger
1950    May    170V, 170D production ends
            May    170Va (larger engine), 170Da production starts
1952    January           170Sb, 170DS (W191) production starts:
            February         170S Cabriolet A, Cabriolet B production ends
            February         170S sedan, 170S Series IV convertible  production ends
            April   170Va, 170Da production ends. 170Db production starts                May    170Vb production starts. 170D production ends
1953    July     170S-V production starts:
                        170V engine, 170SB chassis, 170V front axle, 170S body
            July     170S-D production starts:
                        1170SB chassis, 170V front axle,170S body
            August            170Sb, 170DS production ends
            September       170Vb production ends
            October           170Db production ends
1955    February         170S-V production ends
            September       170S-D production ends
 Year               Models                                     Number Built
1947–1953      170V, 170Va & 170Vb Sedan       49,547         
1949–1953      170D Sedan                                 33,823
1949–1952      170S Sedan                                 28,708
1949–1951      170S Cabriolet A                              830
1949–1951      170S Cabriolet B                           1,603
1952–1953      170Sb Sedan                                 8,094        
1952–1953      170DS Sedan                               12,985
1953–1955      170S-V Sedan                                3,122
1953–1955      170S-D Sedan                              11,887
                       TOTAL                                         150,599
Value Guide
                        Model Years        Low         Medium       High
170V Sedan     1947–1950      $9,800        $25,900    $36,200
170S Cab A     1949–1952      $24,000       $53,000    $74,000
170S Cab B     1949–1952      $21,000       $46,600    $64,900
170D Sedan     1949–1953      $10,200       $24,900    $31,600
170S-D Sedan 1953–1955        $9,900       $23,500    $30,200
170S-V Sedan  1953–1955      $10,400       $24,700    $32,400
If a model is not listed, there was no record of sales from which to report prices