Super Rare 1955 Mercedes Diesel Pickup

Here’s a new one on me, a Mercedes 170 truck. I know what a Mercedes 170 is, many years ago there was a family in my neighborhood that had a collection of gearhead sons and one had a 1951 Model 170S that I thought looked like a German officer’s staff car. This was probably around 1969 and as I recall it wasn’t in such hot shape even back then. But a 170 with a truck bed? That’s a horse of a different color – let’s investigate. This Mercedes 170 S-D is located in Taos, New Mexico and is available, here on craigslist for $60,000! Thanks to MattR for this tip!

The Mercedes 170 and all of its variants were produced between 1949 and 1955. The S-V and S-D were offered between 1953 and 1955 and saw production totals of about 18K copies combined. Known in Mercedes parlance as a W191, the 170 was offered in two-door models, both cabriolet and fixed roof models, with two and four-seater configurations depending upon the body style. The seller claims that fewer than 80 of these MB truck conversions were assembled. While I couldn’t find another, I found this very example all over the internet. Most prominently, it was featured on Bring -a-Trailer back in 2012 and then again in 2017 where it was referenced as being available on eBay for $40K – sounds like the same owner as the geography has not changed. I’m not certain what economic fairy-dust has been spread over the last four years that would justify a 50% increase in the asking price but the seller’s admonition of, “Let’s not waste either one of our time, please be a qualified buyer if inquireing (sic)” may not be helping the cause.

It seems interesting that there is not another example of this truck that turned up in an open search. My thought is that they were a custom fitment for one, or only a few, fleet operators and not a regular Mercedes offering. With only 80 produced, the existing number is claimed to be only three, but it still seems reasonable to assume that at least pictures of others, dated or not, would surface. From a fine German engineering and design perspective, this 170 S-D looks more like a cut-down, fixed-roof version that has had a Reading-style truck body plopped onto the rear frame – it’s just not finished looking, not in the way one would expect from Stuttgart. Unfortunately, there are no included images or descriptions as to how the enclosed truck bed is configured – perhaps it’s just a covered pickup and nothing more. The body of this truck is fair at best, there is no front bumper, and no evidence that one existed, the rear left side fender is dented and the paint is peeling in places. While this truck may be rare, it’s rather forlorn looking. It does have cool flip-out turn signals, however…

Under the hood is a 40 HP, 1.7 liter, in-line, four-cylinder diesel engine connected to a four-speed manual transmission. The seller makes no reference as to whether or not this truck is operational. Without some sort of an endorsement and the statement that the owner made back in the 2015 eBay listing of, “I have owned this truck since about 1985 and last drove it in 1988 and parked it when I blew the output shaft bearing in the transmission” leads me to conclude that this is a non-runner.

From a 2015 eBay listing

There is no image of the interior in this listing but I did find the above image from that 2015 eBay ad that I referenced above. It’s interesting to note that this M-B is a right-hand drive version, a UK export perhaps? Being dark and grainy, it’s hard to make out any real detail other than the column-mounted gear shift which is probably a real treat for all of us right-handers. There is no sign of the bench seat in this image, but the one partial interior image included in the current craigslist post shows a maroon upholstered seat with matching door cards.

As previously stated, this 170 S-D truck is supposedly one of only three still in existence. How that is known is beyond me but I’d sure like to catch a glimpse of either of the other remainders. Sometimes rarity brings value, and sometimes not, right?

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Comments

  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    Wow! I’d have to say that Mercedes took some design cues from Studebaker. It looks like there was a spy in South Bend back in the 30s. I’m a little curious if this has a full frame or is it a unibody. That 1.7 engine is going be working its butt off to go downhill with a tailwind. I’m thinking about 60 HP. It will be running a vacuum governor so you’ll have a butterfly in the intake manifold to maintain. You’ll also have a lot of fun passing a semi in a crosswind. Just the same I think a project like this would be a rewarding challenge. If I was ten years younger…

    Like 6
  2. Jcs

    So strange!!

    Like 1
  3. Douglas Reddy

    I worked in Perth West Australia in 1962 and a dealer had one as a parts delivery vehicle . The word was three of them were in Perth. I later saw one in outback NSW on a farming property, it probably came from there.

    Like 7
    • F. Falcone

      Yes, I have also heard the Perth, Australia story. Dealer trucks as described by Douglas Reddy built for right hand drive Australia. I know the owner of this unique truck and was personally on site when this was brought out of a Washington state barn in about 1985. The owner is a nice person but as many know, it can be frustrating dealing with call after call from folks trying to convince you to sell for considerably less than the asking price OR indicating they have the money when they really don’t. The owner is merely trying to avoid those types of calls. I would love to own this as either a stock very rare Benz or perhaps a resto-mod if I had the funds.

      Like 2
  4. Rex Kahrs Member

    Geomechs is spot-on with the Studebaker comparison. Here’s a Hudson Terraplane pickup from 1937, fully 18 years before the Mercedes. The Hudson looks more modern!

    Like 11
    • Danny

      Naturally it looks better. It’s a Hudson. They don’t come much better.

      Like 1
    • Richard Kirschenbaum

      The terraplane is far better finished as well. Notice how the Benz is “pieced together” back of the cab. You gotta wonder if MB really built this “truck” as you see it.

  5. Gordo

    Those turn signals were called mox nix sticks by GIs in Germany in the 50s.

    Like 1
  6. Bunky

    I love old Mercedes. I’ve owned several, mostly diesels. I love this truck-but $60k is out of the realm of reality.
    I did one google search and instantly found several different MB 170 pickup images, gas and diesel. Quit looking after perusing a dozen or so different images.

    Like 2
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      I was able to find some as I had the time to dig further. They all appear to be open pickups. My thought is that this example was a special order with the enclosed cargo bed. That said, I still don’t know what’s in there as there are no images. I’m forced to assume that it is just a covered pickup.

      JO

      Like 1
  7. wcshook

    60K? I think not. For that much money, you could get a much nicer vehicle. I understand the uniqueness, but it ends there. The attitude of the seller, as quoted in the article, is the biggest turnoff.

    Like 1
  8. Cobra Steve

    Having owned a 1970Va (gasoline variant), I can say with honesty these cars are comfortable on the road. Slow? Yes, but SOLID Mercedes-Benz quality we all remember and miss as their current offerings are pure ultimate money pits when the warranty expires.

    Stop and think about it…1955 was only 10 years after the big war. Surprised anyone from the UK would buy a German car then as the memories from the war must have been very fresh.

    Like 2
    • Cobra Steve

      170va… I should should proofread better before submitting. Apologies.

  9. MGSteve

    WAAAAAAAAAaaaaay back, weren’t Mercedes sold through Studebaker dealers? That could be the connection for the similarity in design.

    • Cobra Steve

      MGSteve, yes they were marketed back in the 1950’s I believe through the Studebaker-Packard dealerships. As one can imagine, their dealer network was non-existent “back in the day”. Having a poor dealer network can cause a myriad of problems, and once a customer is turned off, it may take another generation of buyers for it to turn around.

      • Bill McCoskey

        Cobra Steve,

        If I remember correctly, in the late ’50s and early ’60s there were a little over 1,500 S-P dealerships in the USA, and a majority of M-B dealerships today in north America began as Studebaker and/or Packard dealerships. For example, in my area [Washington, DC] both the Arlington, VA [Studebaker] and Bethesda, MD [Packard] M-B locations were as the result of the S-P and M-B agreement.

        When the Bethesda location became M-B only, I grabbed most of the S-P stuff as it was tossed out. I still have a large color framed print from 1956, showing M-B vehicles being unloaded from a ship, and the title at the bottom says “Mercedes-Benz around the world — USA sole importer: Studebaker-Packard”. It hung in the showroom until 1976.

        Like 1
  10. Eckhard Lüngen

    As far as I know those were produced in South Africa so there should be a higher figure of cars made. Of course many of them are gone because of use as working horses.

    Like 1
  11. Cobra Steve

    Richard, while it may appear to be “pieced together”, the 170 is credited from saving Mercedes-Benz from the ashes–literally! Following the war which the infrastructure of Germany was devastated, there was a need to restore basic services such as postal delivery & hospitals, and ambulances, hearses, & delivery vehicles etc. Many variants of the 170 sedan were created to fill this void–including a wood-gas version as fuel was precious. Really cool to see this one as intact as it is and I hope it is restored to its former glory, no matter how mundane it might have been.

  12. chrlsful

    that’s the thing w/older models. I think ‘respect’ might B the watch word (even if a citron CV, 90’s honda DX). Each -a museum- to me. Like the mechanical breaks, cloth covered wires, advance on steer wheel, etc. Gives us a lill glimpse into ‘what it was like’? Anything w/suicide dors is to like…
    This 1 almost looks as if its got one of the 1st ‘topers’ on it, may have not come w/it. I saw an early 60s ford w/1 like this on it. Alu or steel, oval window in it w/that thick rubber gasket…

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