Mercedes-Benz 220S

Three-pointed not-quite star

FEW modern Mercedes-Benz owners could imagine the brand built cars in a Melbourne factory that also assembled Toyotas and tractors, but it did. And it built 7500 of them.

With Canberra introducing heftier taxes for wholly imported cars in 1953, Mercedes decided to assemble its cars locally. It teamed up with Standard Motor Company, which was based in Port Melbourne and was making a living assembling British Standard and Triumph models.

Mercedes sent most of the parts from Germany in a kit, with the engine and gearbox bolted together, ready for assembly.

Some local components were sourced, including interior trim, batteries and tyres.

The cars were painted in Melbourne and customers could choose from blue, green and black, or three shades of grey.

A grey Mercedes? Some things never change.

The old round-shape Ponton series (German for pontoon) was available with a choice of four-cylinder or six-cylinder engines. The upgraded 220S, which Victorian Premier Henry Bolte helped launch in 1959, was fitted with twin Solex carburettors so it cracked the 100hp-mark (75kW) and was also good for 100mph (161km/h).

Standard Motor Company (which changed its name to Australian Motor Industries in 1958 and ultimately morphed into Toyota Australia) also made money assembling Triumphs, Ramblers, Toyotas and even tractors. At its peak, it employed 1600 people.

Unable to meet higher government local content quotas, Mercedes-Benz switched to full importation in 1965.


Large and graceful prestige car made in Australia


Build quality wasn’t up to German standards