The Mercedes-Benz 170 S was a luxury four cylinder passenger car which shared its (from 1950 1767cc) engine block with the manufacturer’s 170V.
The car appeared in May 1949 initially sharing the works number of the 170V, “W136”. It was the first Mercedes-Benz to carry in its name the suffix “S” which denoted a superior level of comfort and quality: the 170S was targeted firmly at successful business owners and company directors.
The car closely resembled the 170 V, although, leaving aside the engine, it was in several respects more directly a development from the six cylinder Mercedes-Benz 230 which the company had produced, albeit not in huge numbers, between 1938 and 1943.
The first upgrade occurred in January 1952, at which point the 170S was further distanced from the 170V, now acquiring its own works number, being formally known internally for a year and a half as the ‘’’Mercedes-Benz W191’’’.
The second set of modifications, which was accompanied by a reduction in specification and in price, was arguably more of a downgrade than an upgrade. This occurred in July 1953. By now Mercedes-Benz had introduced their own six cylinder Mercedes-Benz 220, so no longer saw a need the need to promote the four cylinder 170S as a director’s car. With the arrival of the all-new Ponton bodied Mercedes-Benz, the 170S, as the last of the previous models, became a reduced price alternative to the new model.
Mercedes-Benz 170 S (1949 – 1952)
The Mercedes-Benz 170S which appeared in May 1949 was 170 mm (6.7 in) longer, 104 mm (4.1 in) wider as well as being better equipped than the 170V. In place of the 170V’s 1697 cc four cylinder gasoline/petrol engine, it came with an enlarged four cylinder engine of 1767cc, providing maximum output of 52 PS (38 kW) in place of the cheaper car’s 38 PS (28 kW) unit. Performance was correspondingly enhanced, with a stated top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph). At this stage there was no diesel version of the 170S. The four speed all-synchromesh transmission was the same as on the 170V.
The front wheels were attached using coil springs and double wishbones with a stabiliser bar, as opposed to the simple lateral leaf-spring arrangement on the 170V.
Since the war the only version of the Mercedes-Benz 170V available to the public had come with a four door sedan/saloon body. With the 170S the manufacturer now recalled some of the wider range of bodies offered on the 170V before the war, adding a 2 seat “Cabriolet A” and a 4 seat “Cabriolet B”.
Although the 170S was promoted as a car for company directors, the soubriquet of “first S-Class Mercedes” which began to be applied to it more than twenty years later, following the launch of the manufacturer’s W116 is not one that would have been used or recognized in the 1950s.
A year after the introduction of the 170S, its 1767cc engine block was also installed in the 170V. However, both the compression ratio and the carburettor differed, so that the power advantage for the 170S was merely reduced – from a difference of 14 PS to one of 7 PS – and not eliminated.
Mercedes-Benz 170 Sb / 170DS (1952 – 1953)
In January 1952 the Mercedes-Benz 170Sb replaced the 170S model. The car now received a works number of its own, becoming known internally as the “Mercedes-Benz W191”. Both cabriolet versions had been withdrawn in November 1951, cabriolet buyers now being catered for by the cabriolet versions of the 6-cylinder 220 model. The 170Sb was therefore available only with a four door sedan/saloon body. Other changes included in the 1952 upgrade included the replacement of the floor-mounted gear lever with a then fashionable column mounted gear lever. There was now a starter button on the dashboard and the heater was improved. Under the bonnet/hood the camshaft was now driven via a chain rather than via gear cogs, while at the back the track was increased by 15 mm (0.59 in).
January 1952 also saw the launch of a diesel powered version of the 170 S, sold as the Mercedes-Benz 170 DS and carrying, like its gasoline/petrol powered sibling, the works designation „W191“. It shared the 40 PS (29 kW; OM 636 diesel power unit of the diesel powered 170V and came with the same official top speed of 105 km/h (65 mph). In 1952 diesel powered passenger cars were still very much a novelty even in Germany. The relatively lumpy engine note and reduced performance of the diesel car were at variance with the up-market image of the 170 S, but no doubt both cost conscious company directors and upmarket taxi operators appreciated the >25% improvement in fuel consumption using a fuel which, on account of the tax rates applied, was already provided at a relatively “friendly” price in Germany.
Mercedes-Benz 170 S-V / 170 S-D (1953 – 1955)
With the appearance of the new Ponton bodied Mercedes-Benz 180 in 1953, the 170S model suddenly appeared very old fashioned. The 170 V would be delisted in September 1953, and in July 1953 the manufacturer replaced the existing 170 S with the reduced specification 170 S-V. The car that resulted combined the slightly larger body from the 170 S with the less powerful 45 PS engine that had previously powered the 170 V. The vehicle provided reduced performance but at a reduced price, while salesmen steered more prosperous buyers to the new Ponton bodied 180. The diesel powered 170 S continued to be sold, now branded as the 170 S-D. The internal “W191” designation which had distinguished the previous 170Ss was removed, and the 170Ss manufactured from 1953 returned to the “W136” designation that they had shared till the end of 1951.
In September 1955 the Mercedes-Benz 170 S was withdrawn from production. There was no direct replacement. By now economic recovery was setting in strongly, and Mercedes-Benz hoped to persuade company directors to buy a six cylinder Mercedes. In its final version, more than 80% of the cars sold were diesel powered, suggesting that for the most part cost conscious taxi operators had replaced status conscious executives as 170S customers