Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster

July 16, 2013
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Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports RoadsterMercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster

Though the image of Mercedes-Benz in the 1930s is all magnificent Sindelfingen coachwork and howling superchargers, that’s really only one piece of the story. Just like other carmakers, Mercedes was hit hard by the Great Depression, and its response was to add a line of small cars at the bottom end of its range.

When the 130 sedan appeared in 1934, it was the smallest production Mercedes in the company’s history, as well as the first to carry its engine in the tail.

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Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster rearThe potential to build a sports car out of the innovative underpinnings of the humble sedan must have occurred to Mercedes’ engineers from the beginning, because by the end of the year, they had produced a Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster to compete in a 2,000-kilometer rally across Germany.

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Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster side view

Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster

One year later, the thinking behind the Sports Saloon gave birth to the Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster.  While the 130 had a 1.3-liter, water-cooled four hung out behind the rear axle, the 150’s 1.5-liter four was turned around 180 degrees, its midships location giving the chassis better balance and more stable handling. In place of the 1.3-liter’s sidevalve arrangement, the 1.5 had overhead valves, and produced about 55 horsepower with a Solex two-barrel carburetor and a compression ratio of 7.1:1.

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Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster dash

Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster

The chassis employed the tubular backbone developed for the 130, with independent suspension by transverse leaf spring in the front, and coil-sprung swing axles in the rear. Behind where the seats would be, the chassis forked to cradle the engine and transaxle. To provide adequate cooling, a squirrel-cage blower moved air through the rear-mounted radiator.

Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster chassisThe rear-engine configuration allowed for wind-cheating bodywork. Unusual touches, such as the single high-beam headlamp and the twin spare tires mounted behind the rear-hinged doors, were blended with traditional sports-car elements like the swept vee windshield and the gently tapering boattail. Some called it beautiful, others called it ungainly, and all agreed it was distinctive. The car weighed in at 2,160 pounds, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of nearly 40 pounds per horsepower. Aerodynamics helped it to reach a top speed of 78 miles per hour. Although Mercedes had been hoping for volume production, the Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster suffered some disadvantages in the marketplace.

Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster rear

Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster

The mid-rear engine configuration and short wheelbase ruled out any possibility of a back seat, while the 16-gallon gas tank mounted in the car’s nose ate into already scarce luggage space. And the price, at 6,600 deutschemarks, was nearly double that of a basic 130 sedan. Despite the factory’s best efforts to promote the 150 as “a spirited sports car” with acceleration that was nearly equal to that of larger, supercharged cars, buyers were not interested. The Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster remained in the catalogue through 1936, but few were sold. Even Mercedes-Benz doesn’t know how many were produced: One record says that 20 examples were built, while another puts the number at five. There is proof of the sale of just two cars, one of which was reacquired by Daimler AG in the 1950s.

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Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster front

Click here to order your new Mercedes-Benz 150 Sports Roadster rival with a brand new Toyota Camry 3.5 L V6 268hp engine for only US$20,000.

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