Motoring Trailblazers - Mercedes-Benz 260D

Fri 21st Jun 2019

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Mercedes-Benz 260D
The 1980s may have been the boom time for diesel engines, and the current era of motoring may well go down as their ultimate demise, but the 1930s must be recognised as the time when diesel became known as a viable fuel alternative to petrol.

Citroen had trialled diesel with their 1933 Rosalie 11UD, while a German company, Hanomag Rekord had produced a diesel model also, but it widely regarded that Mercedes-Benz were the first to mass produce the diesel engine, and they did so in style with the 260D.

With a top speed of 56mph, the 260D was initially a hit with the taxi and car rental trade, here was a car after all that offered huge savings economically compared to traditional fuel engines.

Early attempts at creating a diesel engine had failed, mainly due to the overbearing vibrations of the diesel passing through the engine, and to this day, the diesel has always suffered from this side-effect - but it is about striking a balance between economy and engine durability at one end of the scale, compared to noise and a rather less smooth drive.

The 260D was named after its engine capacity, which with 2545 cc, 4-cylinder engine and a Bosch diesel fuel injection system certainly gave it plenty of oomph.

The early version, which was loved by cabbies, was launched in 1936, but Daimler-Benz soon appreciated that they have had a hit on their hands and went about producing a smoother running version for the general public, with independent front suspension, swing axles at the rear and hydraulic brakes.

The 260D came with a range of body-types, including saloons, a semi-convertible and a full-convertible.

Almost 2,000 of the 260D were produced in a four-year spell, before the Daimler-Benz motor group dedicated its efforts to the Second World War.