By on January 28, 2012

Mercedes-Benz 320 (W 142 series, 1937 to 1942) in the Streamline Saloon version, also known as “Autobahn Kurier”, 1938.

In 1937, Mercedes-Benz had a familiar problem: It lacked a car in what we would today call the “obere Mittelklasse,” or the upper middle class, that sweet spot between medium-sized vehicles and top-of-the line. Apparently, auto managers already engaged in the art of positioning. At least, that’s what the “Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung” (AAZ or “General Automotive Magazine”) wrote when Mercedes showed its 3.2 liter Mercedes-Benz Type 320 (W 142 series) at the International Automobile and Motorcycle Exhibition (IAMA) in Berlin in February 1937.

There was ample competition. Opel showed the new Admiral, Ford fielded a 3.6-liter V8. Audi-predecessor Horch had its 930 V and 830 BL models.

Initially, the 320 was available with two wheelbases. Short (2,880 millimeters) and regular (3,300 millimeters).

The short version was offered as a bare chassis, a  Cabriolet, and a Combination coupé with removable roof that did cost 12,300 Reichsmark.

The regular version was by far the most popular. Here is the on-line version of the pre-war catalog:

Mercedes-Benz 320 in its saloon version.

Saloon with 4 doors & 4 windows 8,950.00 RM
Cabriolet B with 2 doors & 4 windows 9,800.00 RM

Mercedes-Benz 320 in its Cabriolet D version.

Cabriolet D with 4 doors & 4 windows 10,400.00 RM

Mercedes-Benz 320 in the Pullman-Saloon version, 1938.

Pullman saloon with 4 doors & 6 windows 9,800.00 RM

Mercedes-Benz 320 in the Pullman-Cabriolet F version.

Cabriolet F with 4 doors & 6 windows 12,500.00 RM
Open touring car with 4 doors & 6 windows 9,900.00 RM
Cabriolet A with 2 doors & 2 windows 13,500.00 RM
Roadster with 2 doors & 2 windows (only 1937) 13,500.00 RM
Streamline saloon (until 1938) 14,500.00 RM
Chassis 6,800.00 RM

The Mercedes-Benz 320 was developed out of the 290 model (W 18). Its anemic 68 bhp engine was re-worked using methods familiar to any greying hot-rodder. The engine received a bigger bore (78 to 82.5 millimeters,) which lifted displacement from 2.9 to 3.2 liters. The simple updraught carburetor of the W18 was replaced by a dual downdraught carburetor. All of this yielded a whopping 10 horses more.

Completely reworking the suspension of the W18 bore fruits: Testers were delighted by the driving comfort and handling,

Mercedes-Benz 320 N (W 142 series) in the combination coupé version

Among the many body styles, the short wheelbase came as a so-called “combination coupé.” It was a convertible which also had a removable hardtop. Before leaving the garage, one had to decide which roof to leave at home.

The long-wheelbase had several cabriolets (A through F.) The Pullman saloon, the Cabriolet F and the open touring car had no trunkspace. Luggage was carried on a folding luggage rack. Special containers for luggage were sold as optional extras.

At the IAMA in February 1939, Mercedes-Benz presented a revised version of the 320 model. It’s 3.4 liter engine was adapted to the increasingly inferior fuel quality with lower octane numbers – Germany switched to liquefaction of coal.

The 320 gets drafted and goes to war

In 1939, the 320 went to war as a “Wehrmachtskübelwagen.” The last Mercedes-Benz Type 320 was built in 1942. Between 1937 and 1942, a total of 6861 vehicles were made, 1764 of which were bucket seat vehicles for the German Army.

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