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1953 Mercedes 180 owners handbook

As soon as you open the owners manual of a real old-timer, there are two red stickers which catch your eye. One of them points out, that if the car has been standing for more than three weeks, the distributor cap must be taken off to prevent the engine from running by itself and with the clutch pedal pressed, should be turned over until the oil-pressure gauge shows a reading.

Perhaps one should point out, that this should be spread out over several attempts with sufficiently long breaks in between, otherwise the battery and the starter will overheat. By the way, I feel sorry for the engines which have been standing around for a long time in the scrap-yards and which must be brought back to life again. With the valuable engines, it would be a good idea to have a look inside the cylinder or even strip it completely beforehand.

The second red sticker points to the fact that this car has water cooling with a thermostat. This additional piece of advice was apparently important for the manufacturer, in view of the fact that too many owners of the 180 were partially covering the radiator. In the actual text the verb 'disfigured' was even used. The wiser thing to do, would be to ensure that there was suffificient anti-frost in the cooling system. The system would take care of quick warming up by itself.

These old handbooks were really soothing! Altogether, a whole page of text about safety and economy. The first part could have been made a little shorter, if one would expect from others, what one is prepared to do oneself. The topic of economy culminates in a diagram, in which the fuel consumption up to 80 km/h stays at under 8 l/100 kms. After that, it rises quite steeply to 15 l/100 kms at 125 km/h. Then, once again, one is reminded of the vehicle care and maintenance. This means, that in the 180, the grease-nipples were to be regularly attended to.

The dashboard is not worth any further comments. Perhaps, that the rearview mirror could, even then, be dipped to prevent the driver from being blinded by the headlights of the cars behind, the oil-pressure gauge, which was typical for Mercedes, and the white indicator light for the choke. Because the car was also delivered with a bench seat, it was fitted with a steering wheel gear-change and the hand-brake was found under the dashboard. To set the turning-indicator, one had to turn the 'contact ring' in the center of the steering wheel, almost inconceivable under today's traffic conditions.

An enormous additional advantage, was that apart from more space and light, it must be pointed out the the doors were conventionally hinged. The older models had the so-called 'suicide doors' where the front-doors were hinged onto the B-pillar. The door-handles were also now static, with a push-button mechanism, odd that it took so many years to realise that with this type of mechanism, a door could be unintentionally opened, also in the event of an accident. By the way, the boot was always locked when the key was removed.

The 180 did not have water tanks with slits from above, there was however, enough space on the right and the left of the engine, to lead larger air ducts to the interior. At that time, this was by no means standard, the same as the heating system was. The water pump provided the circulation for this and also had to be lubricated. The apprentices, even at that time, were taught that coolant does not lubricate, regardless of what fantastic additives it has in it.

While we're on the subject of learning: The (whole!) page about engine oil would almost be enough today, to pass the journeyman's test. By the way, do you know what 'colloid graphite' is? Neither did we, but at least we have the chance to read it up in the Internet. At the end of this page we also learn that the running-in oil for the first 500 kms is to be unalloyed and thinner.

It could already be read, in 60 year old handbooks, that one should not warm up the engine before driving off.

The recommended running-in period was: No faster than 80 km/h for the first 500 kms, then no more than 90 km/h until 1500 kms were reached. After that one could slowly increase the speed, at 2000 kms the car went in for the second service. The engine oil was then changed every 4000 kms and the wire-mesh of the oil filter was cleaned. In addition, there were any number of lubrication points, among others, the heating-flap shaft, which was to be oiled or sprayed with Caramba. Neither the fuel- nor the air filter was ever replaced.

Noticeable in nearly all the older handbooks, was, despite being concise, the large amount of assistance offered in the event of a breakdown. This began with the changing of a light-bulb, carried on to the faulty fuel supply and even gave tips on how to work on the brake system. They were apparently afraid of the thought, that a Mercedes would need breakdown assistance on the roadside.

Of course, the wheel changing was also covered, including tips about changing the wheels, including the spare, diagonally every 4000 kms. People were thrifty at that time and attempted to allow the tyres to wear down evenly. Even the replacement of an inner-tube was explained. What the wheel-rim thought of that, was probably not all that important. Altogether, the chapter covering tyres and wheels was 4 pages long, including the old atm pressure-unit.

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