In 1977 Mercedes-Benz introduced a new van/truck (a.k.a. transporter), called T1 internally. Other designations were series TN and Bremen Transporter, since the vehicle was built in a factory near Bremen, Germany. The T1 was a durable vehicle, available as a minibus or fitted with a cargo box body or flat cargo bed. A double cab version was offered in the latter two configurations. Three wheel bases were available, with gross weight ratings ranging from 2.55 to 4.6 tonnes. Mercedes-Benz-built gasoline or diesel engines were available as powerplant options for the rear-wheel drive chassis. The T1 van was also used as a campervan conversion, being somewhat larger than the Volkswagen Transporter. Its closest European competitors were the Volkswagen LT and the Ford Transit. In 1995, after 18 years of production, the TN/T1 van series was discontinued, succeeded by the T1N "Sprinter".
The TN van model series included 207 D, 208, 307 D and 308. They debuted in April 1977. The original line was composed of two engines and four weight classes, as follows:
- 207 D, 208 - gross weight 2,550 kg (5,622 lb) or 2,800 kg (6,173 lb)
- 307 D, 308 - gross weight 3,200 kg (7,055 lb) or 3,500 kg (7,716 lb)
- 207 D, 307 D - four-cylinder Diesel engine with 2404 cc and 65 hp (48 kW) engine OM 616, same engine as in Mercedes-Benz 240D
- 208, 308 - four-cylinder petrol engine with 2307 cc and 85 hp (63 kW) engine M 115, same engine as in Mercedes-Benz 230, but detuned to 85 hp (63 kW).
Market share was almost 90% for the Diesel engine and a little more than 10% for the petrol engine. While the petrol engine was mainly used for ambulances which needed the extra power, commercial buyers preferred the Diesel engine for its lower fuel consumption. The body styles were panel van, window van, pickup and pickup with double cab. Power outputs for the 4-cylinder engines were quite low, a result of the underpowered/over engineered style of engine design, which made for a leisurely driving experience, however the upshot of this was an engine that could potentially outlive the body of the van, so unstressed were they. Low gearing also meant that the vans were capable pullers, able to make best use of the power available whilst returning surprisingly good fuel economy for the large size of vehicle.
In September 1981 the 407 D and 409 D were added with a gross weight of 4,600 kg (10,141 lb). The 409 D had a bigger and more powerful Diesel engine with five cylinders, 3005 cc and 88 hp (65 kW), It was the OM 617 engine which was also used in the Mercedes-Benz 300D passenger car. Other revisions throughout the vans production were minor, the OM616 engine having a modified cylinder head which lowered the capacity from 2404 cc to 2399 cc, but producing slightly more power (72 bhp) and then later on to 2304 cc, producing 78 bhp (58 kW) and the van thus redesignated as 208D, 308D and 408D. The 5-cylinder variant was also changed from 3005 cc to 2898 cc, again producing slightly more power and the models re-designated 210D, 310D and 410D.
A technically improved TN van was relaunched in March 1989 as the Mercedes-Benz T1 van. Two new diesel engines were offered, awarded "Diesel 1989". In 1995 the Mercedes-Benz T1N Sprinter was launched, replacing the T1. Diesel.
Use and popularity of Mercedes-Benz TN and T1 vans
In 18 years of production, 970.000 of the Bremen Transporter were produced. Most of these were used as delivery vans, especially in Spain, Germany and Eastern Europe.
The OM616 & Mercedes-Benz T1 (Tempo Traveller) in India
In 1982, Bajaj Tempo, now Force Motors, signed a deal with Daimler Benz to manufacture the OM616 Mercedes engine under licence in India for fitting on its line of vehicles. This Mercedes engine gave the company a technological edge over other Indian manufacturers led to the success of several Bajaj Tempo models.
The collaboration with Mercedes Benz (Daimler Benz) was further strengthened with the signing of the collaboration for the manufacture of the Tempo Traveller in 1986. This vehicle range was based on the popular Mercedes-Benz T1 range.
In 1987, a plant designed and built to the specification of Mercedes Benz was inaugurated at Pithampur for the production of the Tempo Traveller. The vehicle is currently in production and is one of the most popular people movers in the Indian market.
Some variants based on the Tempo Traveller (Mercedes-Benz T1) are the high roof / low roof versions, the short chassis / long chassis versions and the Excel series of commercial transport vehicles.
The Mercedes OM 616 or its variants still power the light commercial vehicles of Bajaj Tempo, including the tempo traveller and the new Excel series of trucks. Bajaj Tempo is also at present assembling other Mercedes engines and supplying it to Mercedes Benz India Ltd.