In 1936, in parallel to the classical front-engine Mercedes-Benz 170 V, Daimler-Benz AG introduced the Mercedes-Benz 170 H which had the same engine as the 170 V, with an architecture derived from the one of the 130, its predecessor.
The 170 H was powered by a four-cylinder 1697 cc engine with a power of 38 PS (28 kW). The “H” stood for “Heckmotor”, or rear engine.
The car was significantly more expensive than the 170 V (two-door sedan 170 V – 3750 RM, 170 H – 4350 RM) but offered much less room in the trunk, a much louder engine and poor handling (though it handled better than the 130). It was however more comfortably equipped and was therefore considered as a “finer” car, but sold less well than the 170 V. Apart from the sedan, there was still a convertible sedan. Production stopped in 1939 due to the War and the low demand.
Forty years later a company spokesman suggested that the car’s relative lack of commercial success was caused by the rear mounting of the engine and the resulting absence of the “characteristic Mercedes-Benz tall radiator”. The same spokesman was at pains to highlight the similarity of the car’s overall architecture and some of its detailing to that of the later highly successful Volkswagen Beetle: it was pointed out that Dr Porsche, creator of the Volkswagen, had been chief engineer at Daimler-Benz between 1923 and 1932 when the little rear-engined Mercedes-Benz sedans were under development.
Because these cars, unlike front-engined sister models, were not widely used, and also not suitable for conversion to wood gas generator, they were not confiscated by the Wehrmacht. Therefore an above-average number of models survived in private hands without damage due to the war, but most were used to exhaustion in the early post-war years. Today, these cars remain among the rarest and most sought-after Mercedes-Benz models.
In addition, engineers Karl Schlör and Krauss Maffei used the 170H chassis to build a pod-like streamliner called the Schlörwagen (nicknamed “Egg” or “Pillbug”). In wind tunnel tests done before the Second World War, it demonstrated the astonishing drag coefficient of only 0.113. It was displayed at the 1939 Berlin Auto Show; its fate is unknown.
Other news and photo gallery: EMERCEDESBENZ MAGAZINE