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Mercedes-Benz Utes

Australian W111 conversion

A ute is probably not the kind of car conjured up when people talk about Mercedes-Benz… However the solid build quality and long life of Mercedes-Benz cars made them ideal candidates, and they've been around wearing Ute bodies, in tiny numbers, since the 1950s.

The 170V was the base of the first of these post-war pickups – and there's at least one example in Australia - stashed away in a Perth garage awaiting restoration. There had been versions built pre-war in Germany, but these were tray-back rather than what we consider today as proper utilities.

In the early 1950s in Argentina, the importers assembled some utilities on 170 bases, the backs of which differed to the German-made vehicles.

In South Africa, strict importation restrictions made pick-up versions of the Ponton or Roundies models popular – briefly. Importation of commercial vehicles was less restricted and between 1956 and 1958 Germany sent 400 cars with no back half of their bodies to be turned into pickups locally. All were 180Ds. The South African name for a Ute is Bakkie, pronounced 'bucky'.

Also, the German coachbuilder and Mercedes-Benz specialist Binz manufactured a similar number of their own design of Bakkie especially for the South African market. The rear was more rounded and had a lid for accessing the spare wheel below the tailgate.

In 1958 assembly of the Roundie sedans began in South Africa, with locally made Bakkies also built. A few are known to exist still.

In 1971 in Argentina, W115 Compacts came in for the Ute treatment. These conversions, based on 220Ds were done at the Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Buenos Aries, for local consumption. They featured a 650kg payload and look like a decent conversion. I have not been able to establish how many were made until 1976 when production ceased. This would have to be the most attractive Mercedes Ute. Do any remain in existence?

The model must have been of some interest, as a plastic scale model of the car was also produced in Argentina.

Perhaps even more bizarrely, a 4-door ute was also made in Argentina, with the standard sedan cabin but an elongated, open boot with drop-down tailgate. It was very unattractive at the back…

Of course there have been many custom made Utes based on Mercedes – some of them quite well executed – some, the builders should have been executed. From when Mercedes-Benz introduced their first wagon (the W123) it became much easier for custom-makers to build pickups from these.

Here are some examples...

Above: Lucky Argentinians had these pickups available from Mercedes-Benz dealers. Below: A South African 180 Bakkie.

South African Ponton


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