BUILT TO SERVE
Simple, robust – and with an extended wheelbase, able to carry up to eight passengers – this rare 1967 200D EWB exemplifies the elegant functionalism of 1960s Mercedes-Benz design
ARTICLE Robert Gunthorp
IMAGES David Gooley, Susan Morehouse, Daimler Archives
Everyone knows I have a soft spot for unusual Mercedes-Benz automobile variants, with particular affection for commercial vehicles – taxis, ambulances, hearses and other utility vehicles – and have had this focus for as long as I’ve been maintaining, restoring and collecting classic cars. Consequently, I was not surprised when a dealer who specialized in importing classic cars called me in October 1979.
He wanted to know if I had any information on an extended-wheelbase 1967 Mercedes-Benz 200D with seats for up to eight people; one of his buyers in Germany had purchased the car and was shipping it to him. I hadn’t ever seen a bodystyle like that on a 200D but did tell him I might be interested in buying it if he were planning to sell it
At that time, he said he wouldn’t consider selling it because he understood the vehicle was very rare; he intended to recondition it to sell for a good profit. Fortunately for me, his rent was due within a week and he needed cash – fast. We struck a deal, and the 200D extended wheelbase (EWB) vehicle was mine before it was even unloaded from the boat. In this manner, one of the rarest cars I own entered my collection.
What had I bought?
When I took delivery of the car and inspected it, I found that in nearly all respects – except for the extended wheelbase – it was identical to the standard diesel-powered W110 200D finbacks introduced as part of the second-series W110s in 1965. Recognizable by their shorter front clips and single headlights, these bargain-basement models were being snapped up by taxi fleets all over the world as fast as Daimler-Benz could build them.
Though I had never seen a version like this before, it was obvious that the factory had made the modifications during production. My guess was that the body-in-white was cut just in front of the rear wheel wells and extended by lengthening the underframe and body subpanels. Then an extended exterior panel and hinged window were added behind the rear door. On the interior, a split second seat was added that folded up against the front seat when not in use.
I found that the car had apparently been used sparingly; the cloth material on the seats was still original and in usable but worn condition, and the body was very rust free. However, the original color was MB158 Ivory, a standard taxi color, and because I intended to use it for personal transportation, I repainted it to MB219 Dark Green.
Other restoration work
With the 3,230-pound weight of the extended chassis, and especially with a full load of passengers, I found that the bottom-of-the-range 4-cylinder diesel engine and standard 4-speed manual transmission weren’t really sufficient for decent traffic response; the car labored when pulling long grades. When I added air conditioning, it became even more underpowered. It simply needed more cubic inches of displacement.
Because of this car’s exceptional originality, and its apparent rarity, I wanted to retain the original OM621 engine block. My solution was to increase displacement by boring the cylinders and installing 240D pistons and a 240D cylinder head. By hot-rodding the engine in this way, I was able to increase horsepower from 55 to 60 without altering its appearance.
Although the car was – and is – still slow, it had much better performance after that upgrade. Nevertheless, I found that when I used it for weddings, the bride and groom were often quite happy to take their time arriving at the reception after the wedding ceremony. When we drove it from San Diego to Monterey in 2016, on the uphill grade through the infamous Interstate 5 “Grapevine,” we moved over to the truck lane, downshifted to third, and were still passed by the 18-wheelers.
Because of the distinct style and pattern of the cloth and vinyl interior trim, I made do with the original interior for many years. However, while seeking a source for velour for another of my cars, I found a textile company in Germany that produced replacement material for Mercedes-Benzes; representatives said they could make an exact duplicate of the material in my car, so I had the interior completely refurbished. It looked so great that I decided I should show it at Legends of the Autobahn® in 2016. The only modifications I’ve made to the original is to fit pads between the two front bucket seats – to squeeze in an additional front passenger for trophy runs – and fitting a 220 seat in the rear with a fold-down armrest in place of the original seat.
What I now know
Though I acquired this W110 200D EWB in 1979, it wasn’t until 1989 that I looked for more specific information about it. Mercedes-Benz historian Robert Nitske couldn’t help, though he did speculate that the fact my car was produced in October 1967 might explain why it had some features in common with 1968 cars, even though it was officially a model-year 1967 car.
In 1991, I wrote to the staff members at Daimler archives. They were able to provide the build records confirming that my model-year 1967 200D VIN No. W110.110 10 371433 had been shipped October 20, 1967. In addition, an archivist stated that no production statistics were available to indicate how many extended-wheelbase M-B 200D (chassis W110.110, Code 846 taxi-cab with folding seats) had been built and he didn’t believe “anybody anywhere knows this figure anymore.”
Subsequent correspondence with DaimlerChrysler in 2000 could produce no additional information on the extended wheelbase Code 846 models. I was able to learn from various sources that the extended wheelbase version of the W110 200D was designed by Binz GmbH & Co. – which had been a builder of special-order custom-bodied Mercedes-Benzes for the commercial market for many years – as a mass-market version of the seven-passenger 300 and 500 limousines.
However, the modification work was actually done, probably only on special order, as part of the in-house production process. Original pages from the dealer model catalog include pictures, specifications and diagrams of the Code 846 model. In that literature, the company stated, “The vehicle is extremely suitable for taxi operation, airport service, sight-seeing tours, transporting school children, group trips and so forth.”
In other words, this was built to be a workaday commercial vehicle, not intended for personal use by the limousine set. Nevertheless, production of the EWB 200D would last only nine months, ending when the W110/111s were replaced by the W114/W115 chassis series in 1968.
A rare workhorse
Through the Internet, I recently met an enthusiast in Germany who had access to period sales records. He found that 689 extended-wheelbase versions of the 200 were produced, of which 283 were diesel-powered. If those numbers are accurate, my 7-passenger hotel car is an example of the rarest postwar model built by Daimler-Benz. Friends in the hobby tell me they only know of fewer than 10 in Germany now, of which five are in museum collections.
Based on the Vehicle Identification Number, my friend found that my car was originally purchased by a furniture company in Hamburg, perhaps to take buyers from the train station to the company showrooms. In 1975, the car was sold to an independent buyer who used the car for about three years before it passed into the hands of the U.S. dealer who in turn sold it to me.
And so the loop is closed. My 200D was designed to be of service and I guarantee I’ll continue to keep it in service for family, friends and other enthusiasts as long as I am able.
1967 Mercedes-Benz Extended Wheelbase 200D
(Now 220D) W110 Chassis
ENGINE: OM621 4-cylinder diesel 1,988cc (now 2,200cc)
HORSEPOWER: 55 SAE (now 60)
TORQUE: 83.2 lb-ft SAE (now approximately 95 lb-ft)
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed synchronized manual gearbox
WHEELBASE: 131.89 in LENGTH: 211.81 in CURB WEIGHT: 3,230 lb
ORIGINAL COST: DM 15,650 (approximately $3,925)
The utilitarian W110 200D was beloved by car-hire firms and taxi drivers alike for its mechanical reliability and capacity to absorb mile after mile without complaint.
The EWB was designed by coach builder Binz, and then built – likely by special order only – in house on the W110 Mercedes-Benz assembly line
Originally painted in ubiquitous taxi livery of MB158 Ivory, the W110 EWB was resprayed in MB219 Dark Green, which beautifully offsets the simple, yet elegant, body details picked out in chrome.
Reflecting the engine’s increased displacement, a “2.2” badge from a 190D gleams on the trunk.
LEFT: Interior of the 200D was redone in new reproduction fabric and materials to match the original.
A photograph from a period sales brochure demonstrates the EWB’s passenger-carrying ability.
Interior photo of Gunthorp's EWB illustrates the extra seating.
Manual shift and high-mileage badges attest to the machine’s no-frills commercial roots.
Original OM621 engine was modified with 240D pistons and cylinder head.
Owner Bob Gunthorp at the wheel.
Only 283 extended-wheelbase W110 200D vehicles were produced.