Why it became a Mercedes Ponton
2002 I asked my father to write down his memories from the time he bought and used the car, and above all why it became a Mercedes. This has taken a great deal of time, a lot more than we both thought. When you start to write things down it becomes apparent that memories have faded more than you thought and years, details and names have been confused. So, this text has been gone through, over and over again. Now we think it's finished, a year later. Thanks a lot for your effort father! So now I hand over the screen to my father.
How it begun
When the war ended 1945 and petrol could be bought again, cars and automobiles were taken out from where they had been hidden, after five years of standstill. I got a drivers license 1946 which my father paid for. He collected coins, 2 crowns. Four of these gave a one hour-long lesson in a brown Hudson of model 1938. After 8 hours of driving exercise in the car I was ready for the driving test and I got the long-desired license.
The same year my brothers and I had saved money enough for a motorbike. We bought a surplus-Matchless G3L, sold for too high a price. The motorcycle was a 350 cm3 OHV-bike. We had it for a couple of years before we bought a Matchless Twin 500 cm3, and then even a bigger one, 650 cm3. We drove motorcycle for some years till 1952 when my younger brother Börje and I had enough money to buy a car. After long research we decided to buy a second hand Henry J. It was a beautiful two doors sedan with a sloping back.
Click the picture to download in PDF-format, "Typ 219 (W 105), Katalog, Nr.333, Katalog, ca.1956, 12 S." © Daimler AG
The engine had 6 cylinders and ride valves. It was not very fast. The car had an electric overdrive, which broke down a couple of times to high costs. The car had other disadvantages as hanging doors and a very bad heating device. Spares could be bought only in limited numbers at Ostermans in Stockholm. I would buy new hinges to the doors, but after a short time they hanged again. As the car only with highest effort could reach 130 km/h we had no accidents. We drove the car calmly.
One episode I will never forget was as follows: It was on a trip from Stockholm to Eskilstuna a cold winter day with as usually the heating device out of order. The front windows were, on the inside, quite covered with ice, which made it quite impossible to look through. We could only achieve sight forward by holding and moving our thumbs on the window and thus get spots that we could see through. We also got icy thumbs. Fortunately the traffic was not so intensive.
The summer of 1953 we had the car in a garage in the suburb Nacka outside Stockholm. We checked the mechanics and painted it in a light grey colour. To save money we sold the car in 1956. At that time I had finished my studies at the Royal Technical University of Stockholm (KTH). I had a job at the Swedish Royal Navy and thus a grand economy. Börje and I had made a solid decision to buy a new car with a six-cylinder engine. We avoided English cars as they had a reputation for inferior reliability. Italian cars corroded at that time, so we could not see a future there and we didn't want any more American cars. American measurements and threads we had suffered enough with.
Click the picture to download in PDF-format, "Typ 219 (W 105), Katalog, Nr.368/1, Katalog, ca.1957, 12 S." © Daimler AG
After many inquires and visits to different car dealers we came to the conclusion that a Mercedes-Benz 219 was the right car for us. That the car should be black was quite obvious (this has left tracks in my son who has only owned black cars, with the exception of a graphite grey Mercedes-Benz 400E -93). The Mercedes-Benz 219 was bought in Eskilstuna and delivered in spring 1957. I bought the car from Gustafssons Bil AB and luckily it was paid via my bank. Later it was namely found out that the accountant of the company apparently hadn't made a difference between the firm's money and his own. But since my money had passed via the bank I didn't have to pay for the car more than once.
We drove the car during many years, we reached both 200.000 km and 300.000 km without any problems. It was a very good buy. The quality was high and that was the reason to my decision to continue to buy new Mercedes when my economy had matched the necessary level.
I drove Stockholm-Eskilstuna-Stockholm an immense number of times, first without family and then with. The road, main road number 6, Stockholm-Gothenburg, I learned by heart and I memorized every meter of it. The road had lots of curves and I knew exactly where it was possible to overtake other cars. The MB219 was fast in comparison with others and the speed was free in many places. The road was only partly asphalted; the rest was gravel or had a coating of oil gravel. When it rained the car became extremely dirty. Immediately after coming home I had to wash it thoroughly, even the chassis. The chassis and shields were not made for gravelled roads. My goodness, how I washed and dried with chamois. The road has now been improved four times during my lifetime. Now it is a highway with four lanes and has the designation E20.
My parents marriage photo and a photo with them and their first child, Gunilla
After some years my economy was so good that I could buy my brothers share in the car. He in his turn bought a motorcycle BMW R69 and returned to his roots as a "Hells Angel". 1958 I married and my economy was not as good as before…
The car was excellent to drive. It was steady on the road and had stiff bodywork. The difference to the Henry J was enormous. During the years 1957-1960 I had received orders to the 1st submarine flotilla. It was absolutely necessary to be on time on Monday mornings on the Vitså Bridge for further tug journey over to Märsgarn where the submarines had their marine base. Märsgarn is an island in the region of Hårsfjärden south of Stockholm. We drove as fast as we could to be in time before 8.30. The school in Skogås, which we passed, had teachers who were very upset when we came. The police had speed controls now and then but meeting cars warned us with twinkling headlights. 1958 there was a world exhibition in Brussels. Together with parents and Börje we drove to Belgium. A memory from the exhibition was the computers, which were quite new at that time. They were big as buildings and "knew everything". All visitors could ask questions to an IBM computer, which gave an immediate answer. My question was "What happened on the 30th of November 1718?" As an answer I had expected, as most Swedes, "The day the Swedish king Charles XII was killed". Instead the computer's answer was about an epidemic of smallpox somewhere in the world. What happened in Sweden/Norway had no response in the world.
The first picture is the cruiser Fylgia, delivered 1907 and the second the Öland class destroyer Uppland, delivered 1947
Another event comes to mind: During the summer of 1960 I sailed with the Swedish destroyer Östergötland, where I had the position of chief engineer, to Karlskrona for summer break and a minor overhaul of the ship. My wife Gunn was left in Stockholm with our firstborn daughter, Gunilla. Gunn had the car and felt lonely and so decided to drive to Karlskrona (450 km). Gunn is a very good driver and started the trip with our 15 months old daughter who at that time had not yet started to walk. At a stop for eating and drinking our daughter obviously got bored and wanted to get going and so got up and walked to the Mercedes. What moral can be seen of that?
I did not remain true to Mercedes Benz for a period of some years. My father-in-law had died and we could take over his car, a Volvo PV544 -61. It was cheaper to drive than the Mercedes (now I had a whole family and hence not so much money). That car was also not so thirsty. It was smaller and very nice to drive. But it had one disadvantage - it corroded which was impossible to prevent. It finally dissolved and disappeared from our position, its whereabouts unknown today.
I had the Benz hidden on an unoccupied place at my work. It stood there for a couple of years. When I intended to start it I could not run the engine. With the help of friends and a perfect mechanical workshop we took the engine out from the car for inspection. The piston in cylinder nr 6 could not move. I replaced some of the pistons and all piston rings. The cylinder bores were perfect. We could by measurement find a conicity in all cylinders that was not more than 0,03 mm. Except that a valve was burnt, everything was in perfect condition.
A couple of times I dismantled the head and grinded the valves. One of those times I got a chock. By bad handling I managed to break the camshaft close to the front gearwheel. I had no manual and had thought that the draft was made of hardened steel. It was of malleable iron…..
Two submarines of the Royal Swedish Navy, Kust class submarine U6 (coastal submarine intended for short range operations along the Swedish coast and in the archipelago), delivered 1943 and the submarine Sjöborren, delivered 1942 and belonging to the Sjölejonet class
The brake system was not the best one. The cylinders and the adjustment devices corroded due to the intensive spraying of salt in the roads during the winters. I could manage it by suitable intervals of checks. The heating device could also have been better (comment of the present owner, -How it was in the backseat you can't even imagine!). In comparison to the Volvo PV where it was hot as in Hades in the front seat when only cold air was sent to the backseat.
How the Mercedes got reclining front seats
This event must fall under the statue of limitations since it happened many years ago in 1965. At this time dilapidated cars were parked on the street or in the woods, the fine for not taking your faithful old servant to the junkyards wasn't high enough. Håkan's comment to this; keep in mind that my first memories from strolling around with my parents (late sixties, early seventies), especially in the forests around Stockholm, are finding scrapped cars. This was of course very interesting to my friends and me. Since this was a well-known problem at that time, you learnt in school that it was very dangerous to play in them. Today you very seldom encounter these wreckages outside a junkyard.
On my way home from work in Västberga to Hagsätra I saw an abandoned Mercedes-Benz 220a on the old Huddingevägen a little bit north of the railway bridge. The 220a is a little bit more luxurious than the 219 and has reclining seats, which the 219 had not. I saw the 220a every day for a week and then the next week as well. Curiously enough it seemed not to have been plundered and wasn't even demolished.
I liked the reclining front seats and wanted the same for my car. I checked the dimensions of the ironworks in the 219 and the 220a and found these to be identical. When figuring this out I went from thought to action. I initiated my wife Gunn into my plans and equipped with tools we went to Huddingevägen and into the 220a. There I took away the desired ironworks and we could go home after having finished our work. As I worked in the car I was afraid of the police. I thought there would be big headlines in the evening papers. "Master of Engineering and his wife caught in a car in the act of burglary" Presumably the publicity had not been so good for Gunn either. "Future mother of three out in the evenings stealing parts from cars". It all ended well though and at last also the child was born, Håkan (who today is happy with his fathers venture, converting the front chairs).
How the Benz got rust protection
The corrosion was from the beginning not a problem. At delivery they had a sprayed layer of asphalt under fenders and chassis. It didn't protect in the long run against corrosion as promised - instead it made the situation much worse. The layer didn't stick to all surfaces and thus water and humidity could affect the bare metal, often unseen.
My father had interests in motorcycles as well. The beloved Henry J with my father beside his mother Annie and father Oscar and finally my father in uniform 1961
During my years in the marine when I did duty on all the post on board, also the torpedoes, (which for the crew in general were top secret) I noticed that the shell of the torpedoes was made of black steel, very far from 18Cr8N, which was not allowed to corrode. For this reason they were "painted" with Tectyl.
If the Tectyl prevented the torpedoes to corrode it ought to do the same in a car? I put the fluid in big quantities in the bars if the chassis and started a crazy drive over stock and stone with a hope that all surfaces would be covered with Tectyl. I put that wonder fluid in the doors too forgetting that the drainage holes in the doors should be kept open. The holes were unfortunately plugged (which gave the welder Mikael some work).
I was very observant when it came to the car. I always had it in a garage and could control every leakage from it. Thus I discovered water leakage from the right fork, which carries the engine. How could that happen? A bad design - as I see it - was discovered. The cable to the speedometer coming from the gear transmission to the instrument panel passes through a big hole in the fork. My investigations showed that the entire fork was filled with wet gravel. I made a special nozzle to our vacuum cleaner and with that I could take away most of the sludge. How it looks today in the bar only Håkan knows. Swedish roads in the 50´s and 60´s were not asphalted to a large extent. This was the case with all roads, highways as provincial roads, and so when it rained, lots of gravel and mud splashed over and under the car.
How the Benz got windscreen washers
Windscreen washers were not common in the 50´s. In winter the road maintenance started to spray salt over the roads when many car owners had bought tires with spikes. That caused a dreadful black mud, which splashed over the front window and headlights when driving behind such a car. The sight forward could be ZERO or a little bit less. I really saw the necessity of windscreen washers. We could have bought windscreen washers, made by Trico, driven from the vacuum in the carburettor but they caused the cars being infirm just when you needed speed and water.
My grandmother and grandfather, Edit and Gunnar
1963 I bought a small one, which was driven electrically and installed it the proper way in the Mercedes. Originally it belonged to a Volvo. I mounted the nozzles in the gap between the hood and windscreen washers. I didn't want to drill ugly holes in the hood as it was far from pleasant to see such an arrangement.
How the Benz got safety belts
At delivery the car was not equipped with safety belts. My parents thought of my wife and myself and considered safety belts necessary (I didn't speed that often….). As a Christmas present 1960 we got a set of safety belts of two point type. Then I got the opportunity to make the installation. It was of course handsome and good to look at (I had the bolts, nuts and fasteners to be chrome plated).
How the Benz got a folding star
The car had originally a fixed star. It was magnificent where it was mounted on the shiny cooler. It was also desirable as a souvenir. Two of them were stolen from my car and me. It was easy to break them away as the foot/shaft was turned with a fracture point - a sign of safety thinking from the 50´s. At a collision the star immediately would be broken off.
My mother and her father Gunnar and finally a photo of my mother 1954
Then the general safety thinking in Sweden suddenly made all radiator mascots forbidden. I don't know if it was valid for already delivered cars. The new trend was all for folding mascots. My father thought that the star should be of the folding type and therefore gave me a new folding star and that was the end of that.
How the Benz got a KAK-sticker on the trunk lid
According to Swedish rules and norms the original red reflex plates, which were mounted in the bumper horn, were not big enough. The importer and dealer of the car had therefore drilled two ugly holes in the middle part of the rear bumper and there mounted two red reflex plates of 75 mm size.
That meant that you had two potential spots for corrosion on the bumper. They were not handsome pressed inside aluminium frames as they were and didn't fit a Mercedes. At the first opportunity I got I bought a middle part without Swedish holes. I don't know when or why, if there was a scratch on the bumper part or if I had felt the need to spend money.
The problem with the reflexes I had already solved after studying the instructions where it was clearly stated in what area the reflexes must be mounted. The suitable area according to the law and my personal preferences were the corners of the luggage door. My brother Börje had connections in KAK (Royal Automobile Club, RAC) where you could buy self-sticking reflexes, which were of course law abiding. They also had signs with approval form SP (test enter of the Swedish State). The stickers were beautifully red with yellow text and ornaments. The arrangement with new reflex stickers enhanced the beauty of the car in comparison to the original ones mounted in Sweden.
Mercedes-Benz Typ 220a W180 I Limousine 1954 - 1956. © Daimler AG
There was still a shortage in Sweden for some special articles 15 years after the war had ended. To buy and get spares was not always easy.
I wanted radial tyres from Michelin. They were big news and much better than the standard diagonal tyres. Since I really wanted the tyres I waited for them for months and drove the car with complete worn ones till the new ones would appear. On occasions the car started to gallop at speeds below 75 km/h especially as the steering damper was bad. To balance the wheels didn't help at all.
Incident no 1
My family and I had made a visit to one of my brothers living in Vallentuna. He lives there now as well. Outside the Veterinary College the car started to act curiously and hard scratches were heard.
The bar holding the right part of the rear axel was loose (the bracket that supports the cross arm had failed). The car was towed to Philipson for repair and we took a taxi home. Philipson welded a new device for the holding beam and then the car was OK again. Other damages didn't occur.
I can imagine that the car in the worst scenario could have ended up as scrap. The reason to the accident was corrosion. Later I took away the bracket welded by Philipson and also the good one on the left side. They were replaced by long bolts, of strength 12.9, which were mounted through the bearing beams of the car and in under the rear seats.
Typ 219 Ausstellfenster, große Frontscheibe aus Dreischichtglas, Lichthupe und Heizgebläse gehören u. a. zur Serienaustattung, 1956-1959. © Daimler AG
The brackets have been re-fitted to the car today (see article Welding) but the holes through the beams, under the rear seat, are kept for venting purposes.
Incident no 2
My brother (who at this time was part owner of the car) and I were very good friends and had no disputes about who should have the car since we had quite different types of jobs. It was not difficult to share the car between us.
We also had two sets of keys to the car. Once we came quite close to having an accident. We had together visited our parents at Eklången and on the way back to Stockholm outside Berga Säteri it was Börjes turn to drive the car. So when the car was running I took my key out from the car to stop it. What I didn't remember was the steering lock. It said "click" and the car went straight ahead; luckily the road had no curves at that spot. Håkan's comment on this: I don't understand where that could have been. There's a reason why motorcyclists, including my father when he was young, love that road!
Incident no 3
One year when visiting Skåne for summer vacation the car got its first and real dent. A farmer driving a tractor dented the left fender. He overtook a car parked on the road, without seeing me with a collision as a result. It happened on the road between Kullaberg and Ängelholm. I bought a new fender at Philipson. It was painted before delivery and I mounted it in my garage in Hagsätra. Håkan's comment on this one: this fender was one of the first reasons why I decided to initiate the restoration. The original paint was so thin that the metal and primer was visible on top of it, behind the blinker.
Click the picture to download in PDF-format, "Typ 219 (W 105), Faltprospekt. Nr.362de, Faltprospekt, ca.1957, 8 S." © Daimler AG
Incident no 4
Another incident worth to know was as follows. With car and family on the way to Eskilstuna I overtook a lorry outside the golf course in Södertälje. That overtake I should not have made as the drover of the lorry became crazy.
After that he intended to overdrive me to any prize. At Almnäs there was a valley and he got enough speed to pass me. What he didn't care about was a meeting car which was forced off the road. I made sure nobody was hurt and drove away. I had remembered the license plates of the lorry. After a while a police car came. I stopped it and told them what had happened. With that I thought the story could be forgotten. Afters some weeks I was summoned to the police in Södertälje. I didn't care much about it but after a reminder I had to go there and make a statement over what had happened.
After some time I read in the papers that a lorry driver had been sentenced to prison for very careless driving…
My Mercedes-Benz 219 photographed in Eskilstuna, along the river Eskilstunaån