The Mercedes-Benz 130 (W 23) was presented in March 1934 at the IAMA in Berlin. At the time of the presentation, it was not only the smallest production car, the first rear-engine car and the first four-cylinder model from Daimler-Benz AG, but also the first German rear-engine car to be mass-produced, apart from various small cars. Officially, it never bears the “H” in the type designation, although it is often used in in-house documents.
The Type 130 follows a completely new design. An original brochure summarizes the demands placed on the vehicle: “The design of the Mercedes-Benz Type 130 was undoubtedly one of the most interesting tasks that could ever be solved in automobile construction, since the task was to create a car that would have the driving characteristics of a larger swing axle , should have the space comfort of a modern middle car and the operating costs of a small car. “
The reasons for the rear engine concept are also named: ” The engine was moved to the rear for better room design, concentration of the entire power plant, reduction in weight and technical effort .” This offers three advantages: ” First, the engine with the gearbox, the Differential and the rear axle a closed and easily accessible unit. Secondly, relocating the engine to the rear has gained significant space for the occupants. Thirdly, the space for all four passengers could be moved between the two axes, which makes driving considerably more comfortable. “
The lower weight results, for example, from the fact that no cardan shaft is necessary, which at the same time improves the yield of the engine power due to the lack of transmission losses. Another brochure advertises the vehicle in 1934: “ This type is a quality utility vehicle for the widest circles, which thanks to the use of patented front and rear swing axles, low road holding, engine routing to the rear, wide track and cheaper Weight distribution has incomparable driving characteristics . “
Anyone who approaches the Daimler-Benz booth at IAMA and who is prepared to be greeted by the familiar radiator faces of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars will be surprised. The visitor winks at a new and very unfamiliar face that signals the beginning of a new era in vehicle construction. Only the Mercedes star shows the visitor that he is at the right stand. The new, smaller Mercedes-Benz in its vehicle class with the hitherto not yet very popular rear engine, a four-cylinder unit, and with new proportions caused a sensation and thought. It looks stocky and unwavering in direct comparison with its narrow-gauge and long-legged classmates, very confidently standing on four individually sprung wheels.
The new guy arouses curiosity and almost creates the expectation of being bigger inside than outside – and does not disappoint. It surprises with an astonishingly spacious interior, not much smaller than the Mercedes-Benz 170 with six-cylinder engine, the smallest vehicle from Daimler-Benz up to that point. The fairly large and undivided windshield allows an unobstructed view outside. The two large side doors, in conjunction with the foldable front seat backrests, provide quite good access to the higher rear seat bench, behind the backrest there is still room for a larger suitcase. There is space under the front hood for the horizontally lying spare wheel as well as tools and smaller travel items. A big exception at that time and in this vehicle category anyway is the standard warm air heating.
The 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine is a new design with standing valves and a riser carburetor, delivers 19 kW at 3400 rpm and enables a top speed of 92 km / h. This means that the vehicle is even slightly faster than the Type 170. It gets its shape that was favorable for it at the time. With a drag coefficient of cW = 0.516, it is on the level of a Mercedes-Benz 230 SL from 1963 with a hardtop, which comes to a value of cW = 0.515, and well below the Mercedes-Benz type Stuttgart with cW =, which was widespread in the pre-war period 0.662. Even a VW Beetle from 1966, which still has the advantage of the recessed headlights, with cW = 0.498 is not as much better than the difference of 32 years suggests.
The 30-liter fuel tank is located in the rear – to the right of the engine. The three-speed gearbox placed in front of the rear axle for better axle load distribution has an overdrive function as the fourth gear, which fulfills the trend of the time. This overdrive is selected without pressing the clutch pedal and switched by releasing the accelerator pedal. When you then accelerate again, the gear engages automatically. Hydraulic four-wheel brakes, not yet standard in this class of train in those years, ensure safe deceleration. The engine offers considerable displacement reserves and in the 1950s, as a 1.8-liter engine in the 180 and 170 SV types, reached its peak and end point.
The Type 130 is available as a two-door sedan and as a two-door convertible sedan. For special government purposes, versions as open touring cars and Kübelwagen are also offered. There were also plans to offer the bare chassis for special bodies, but there is no evidence of implementation. The roof of the limousine, which was completely pressed from one piece, was not commonplace at the time. Most of the car roofs of that time consist of a supporting wooden structure in their large central area, which is covered by a fabric cover. For the new large pressed part, the company is purchasing a hydraulic press with corresponding dies for the Sindelfingen plant.
MERCEDES-BENZ 130 FROM THE W23 SERIES
The name convertible limousine characterizes the second vehicle variant very precisely: the fabric folding top opens the roof and rear part on request, while the side walls of the vehicle are fixed.
By the way, even before the official release date, there was agreement not to leave the Type 130 as a single item in the model range, but to expand it into a model family of rear-engined vehicles. A model with a 1.6-liter engine and four doors and a sports car are already being considered.
The new concept requires a new design
The exterior of the new automobile requires a complete rethink among the more conservative Mercedes-Benz customers. Because the rear-engine car does not need a classic front-mounted radiator, and Daimler-Benz has not succumbed to the temptation to give the vehicle the look of a traditionally shaped front-engine vehicle through a pseudo-cooler. There are corresponding tests and suggestions from the company, but you consistently opt for a clear design as a rear-motor vehicle. This also includes a Mercedes star with a border, which is embedded on the front hood in the bead running over the hood.
A striking part of the new vehicle optics are also intake grilles in the side areas under the rear side windows for the air supply to the water cooler placed above the rear axle. The curved bonnet is characterized by three ventilation slots running lengthways over the bonnet, which give the vehicle a striking and distinctive rear view due to the cover plates attached above it.
Thus, the Type 130 presents itself with a completely unique design, which at the time made it look quite avant-garde – and which did not exactly facilitate the market success of this vehicle. In its clear consequence, the decision for independence deserves great respect. This fact is also recognized in the press at the time.
The Type 130, as can be seen from the company’s production statistics, is quite successful in contrast to the opinions often expressed later. In the year of preparation for series production in 1933, the statistics show exactly one copy of the two-door sedan of the 130 type. In 1934, 2205 units were produced, each of which was sold for RM 3425. In 1935, 1781 pieces (3680 RM) were manufactured, in 1936 still 311 pieces (3200 RM). For direct comparison: The production statistics for the four-door sedan for the year 1933 of the type 170 (W 15) contain the number of 3130 pieces (4400 RM). In 1934 2508 pieces (4150 RM) were manufactured, in 1935 a total of 3020 pieces (3950 RM), and in 1936 there were 497 pieces (3950 RM).
The sales of the rear-engine car are all the more impressive, since the whole of its design embodies a very avant-garde concept in which many ancestral Mercedes-Benz customer has shown fear of contact.
A fundamentally new design
A new central tube frame is constructed for the Type 130, which is forked at the rear to accommodate the engine. For a low center of gravity, the cross members for mounting the body are attached below the central tube. The seats are located in the best sprung zone of the car between the axles. As with the Type 170, independent suspension, the front axle construction has two leaf spring assemblies lying one above the other, which are attached to the front chassis cross member, and lever shock absorbers. The two-joint rear axle has two coil springs.
The original impulse for the rear-motor vehicle can be clearly assigned, as the designer Josef Müller writes in his memoirs: “Max Wagner remembered his ‘Benz drop’ with a rear engine, actually a mid-engine.” The design of the new vehicle is difficult – above all because to date, one can hardly refer to experiences with rear-engine cars. Müller reports: “It had already been learned from a test version with an air-cooled four-cylinder boxer engine that the engine transmission block should not be screwed directly to the central tubular frame, but rather should be suspended elastically in a frame fork for noise reasons and should be water-cooled if possible. Unfortunately, when choosing the engine, one was tempted to take the longer, albeit simpler, inline four-cylinder instead of the short boxer engine. The first test drives were by no means satisfactory. The […] birth defect of the pendulum axle, in conjunction with the large rear load, had a stronger impact than expected. Nevertheless, by painstakingly adjusting the tire and spring softness between the front and rear axles and solving the noise issue,
The driving behavior always causes internal discussions. In November 1933, the Untertürkheim plant manager, Hans H. Keil, expressed great concern at a technical meeting and was quoted in the minutes: “Mr. Keil expressed that he and Mr. Uhlenhaut had determined the rear road car’s poor road position and that he was aware of the type of vehicle of extreme concern. “
Fine-tuning improves driving behavior
But the company finds technical solutions to improve driving characteristics. The fine-tuning mentioned by Müller has proven successful, as the first driving reports also prove. The trade press initially met the new car with skepticism, but then recognized the complex and early maturity of the concept. The journalist Joseph Ganz, who had the opportunity to drive a pre-production car before the official launch, also goes into the driving characteristics of the new Type 130 in the following report: “I recently had an extensive test drive of the car. In terms of engine, the MB 130 rear engine car behaves almost the same as the MB 170 [with front engine]. The mileage corresponds almost perfectly to each other. It is interesting that inside the car, the engine, which is by no means quiet, is in no way annoying. Idling, tightening and stamina: flawless.
And now the most important thing, the road properties: the MB 130 is actually not a pure rear-engine car. It is more of an ‘outboard motor’ car. The motor is built over far to the rear, which causes undesirable tail heaviness. This made front shock absorbers necessary, and that means, so to speak, the absence of the icing on the cake of the driving characteristics that are used to uncompromising rear-engined cars. This results in shortcomings that disturb the sensitive driver, the connoisseur. Once you have overcome the uncomfortable feeling that the car is swimming a little and tries to get around in the corners, and then you make comparisons to another x-remaining vehicle with the engine in front, they are far in favor of the MB 130. The suspension is unique. Bumps are completely absent. The only thing left is a gentle weighing, which must make the trip a pleasure. And the maneuverability is almost complete. The car reacts to every stroke of the steering wheel. It is very sophisticated driving. Braking smoothly and very effectively. Good road overview, faultless ventilation. No smell of gas in the car.
In order to enjoy all the possibilities of the rear motor car, I drove on snowy and partly icy paths to the Feldberg in the Taunus, which was almost completely avoided by motor vehicles these days. The four-day-old snow was still virgin. The car only came once due to a snowdrift, a few degrees from the intended direction of travel, but was immediately caught again. Otherwise he did not keep track on a split road like many others. The MB 130 is a really big deal. It stands by far above all vehicles of the same class that I know. However, it can be further developed by extending the wheelbase to the rear and moving the weight of the engine mass closer to the center of gravity. “
Ganz ‘colleague Stephan von Szénasy came to issue 1914 in issue 14 of the specialist magazine “Motor und Sport” when he stated in test report no. 105: ” Every car that somehow falls outside the ordinary has to be dealt with before one starts Test drive in detail. The Type 130 from Mercedes-Benz is a novelty in every respect. Rear engine – that is, having the main mass of the vehicle behind you. The theoretical considerations could therefore not give complete confidence to the building arrangement chosen by Daimler-Benz. All the more impressive is the very positive criticism that is the subject of this test report.
Just as is the case with the first drive with a front-wheel drive, you have to relearn in a certain sense, especially when it comes to cornering. After half a day of driving tests in city traffic, we went out onto the road. At the end of the first hour of driving, exactly 67 km had been covered, including the passages through Spandau and Nauen. That’s explaining everything. With the 130 Mercedes you can achieve driving averages that come close to those of the so excellent Type 170, but only a 400 cc smaller machine is the power source. The performance characteristics are to be commended in every respect. A top speed of 92 km / h – stopped on the Avus – is by no means everyday performance characteristics for a car of this size.
What is the road holding like? The Mercedes-Benz 130 has a very high safety factor under all operating conditions – however, the car could only be tested on dry roads. The road grip is perfect, as is the insensitivity to poor road conditions. As far as cornering safety is concerned, this can be praised if you have only gotten used to the peculiarities of the car, which requires a slightly changed driving technique. “
In 1934, six Mercedes-Benz 130s took part in the “2000 km through Germany” long-distance journey. Three finish and receive a gold medal (with target time to the finish), a silver medal (up to 30 minutes above target time) and a bronze medal (up to 60 minutes over target time). The brand is participating in the event with a large contingent, in which around 650 cars participate, in addition to an equally large field of motorcycles: In addition to the compact rear-motor vehicles, the Mercedes-Benz types SSK, SS, 500 K, 380, 290, 200, 170 and 150 represented.
Model maintenance with detailed improvements
In 1935, the new small Mercedes-Benz received improvements, particularly in the body and interior. For example, a revised dashboard: two large round instruments with ivory-colored dials are placed directly in front of the driver, on the passenger side there is a larger glove box with a lid and built-in clock. The front seats have improved upholstery and are now comfortably adjustable thanks to a “momentary adjustment” – the previous archaic solution by loosening screws is a thing of the past. The rubber mats on the floor are replaced by carpet mats. A ventilation flap for the footwell is installed in the stem below the A-pillar, recognizable from the outside by two slots on the right and left above the front fenders. To improve the driving characteristics, the tuning of springs and shock absorbers and the camber of the front wheels have been changed. Indirect steering is also under discussion, but it is unclear whether it was used. Even before the start of the new model year, the Type 130 had been equipped with a Vigot jack. In addition, the front hood has been modified, which closes the trunk of this rear-engined car: it no longer encompasses the standing side parts, but lies on top. Except for the completely black variants, the vehicles of 1935 are largely painted in two colors, with the fenders optionally in black or in the second vehicle color. whether it was used. Even before the start of the new model year, the Type 130 had been equipped with a Vigot jack. In addition, the front hood has been modified, which closes the trunk of this rear-engined car: it no longer encompasses the standing side parts, but lies on top. Except for the completely black variants, the vehicles of 1935 are largely painted in two colors, with the fenders optionally in black or in the second vehicle color. whether it was used. Even before the start of the new model year, the Type 130 had been equipped with a Vigot jack. In addition, the front hood has been modified, which closes the trunk of this rear-engined car: it no longer encompasses the standing side parts, but lies on top. Except for the completely black variants, the vehicles of 1935 are largely painted in two colors, with the fenders optionally in black or in the second vehicle color.
Remaining stocks of the original variant are initially still available as “Model 34” and are still included in the price list until July 1935, at a price reduced by RM 225 for limousine and convertible sedan. The “Model 35”, on the other hand, is positioned 480 RM or 500 RM higher. In October 1935, a technical change was made to the 130, which allowed the fuel tap to be operated from the driver’s seat. At the same time, the price of the so-called “autumn model 1935”, which does not yet have this feature, is reduced by 580 RM or 600 RM. However, a price reduction of the “Winter Model 1935” carried out only two months later is already preparing the market launch of the successor. In February 1936, the more powerful and, in many respects, redesigned Type 170 H replaced the 1.3-liter car.
Incidentally, there is another innovation linked to the Type 130: it starts the international production of Daimler-Benz AG. In 1935, the first rear-engined cars were assembled in Denmark in order to respond to the sharp rise in demand there. The vehicle parts are delivered entirely from Germany.
MERCEDES-BENZ 130 FROM THE W23 SERIES
Cylinders: 4 (in-line)
Displacement: 1308 cm³
Output: 19 kW at 3400 rpm
Maximum speed: 92 km / h
Production period: 1934 to 1936