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On the trail of Paul Pietsch in the Mercedes-Benz L 206 D.

Mercedes-Benz L 206 D on a road through the Black Forest

Through the Black Forest with the Mercedes-Benz L 206 D. Classic car rally honoring the racing driver and publisher Paul Pietsch.

Readiness and unconditional reliability.

Switch on the ignition, pull out the lever on the dash panel halfway and patiently wait for a few seconds. Now pull out the lever all the way – and the legendary OM 615 engine in the Mercedes-Benz L 206 D comes to life. The 2.2 liter diesel engine starts up and the first few revolutions shake the steel frame and the chassis. That is the starting signal for the L 206 D at the 6th Paul Pietsch Classic through the Black Forest. Then the diesel engine quietens down to a calming rumble as it idles. The low frequencies indicate what the L 206 D stands for: readiness and unconditional reliability.

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A shining “Harburger” among many shrill racing cars.

On the classic tour on the tracks of the racing driver and publisher Paul Pietsch, the “Harburger” painted in the bright “Columbia Blue” tone is especially conspicuous: light commercial vehicles are rarely a part of such exclusive events. “We are happy about every rarity registered for one of our rallies”, says the organizer Harald Koepke, emphasizing the interest in the most colorful range of participants possible. The van with its all-round windows has a major advantage over the racing cars: it offers the driver and up to 8 passengers a fantastic view of the world outside.

In the 1970s, the L 206 D was also a meaningful alternative to the existing range of vans at the time: The drive concept consisting of a front engine and front wheel drive created a completely flat loading surface, in contrast to its most important competitor at the time.

Front wheel and engine in a Mercedes-Benz L 206 D

From 1972 onward, the L 206 D is equipped with the 2.2 liter 60 hp diesel engine.

Rain, inclines and declines – a true challenge.

The vehicles have to tackle 460 kilometers with innumerable corners, uphill and downhill stretches over the course of the rally – a true challenge for the L 206 D from 1972. The 55 hp diesel and the brake system are not actually designed for this kind of route. Thanks to a 200 kilogram additional weight in the interior, the braking behavior of the wheels on the rear axle is improved on wet roads – so that the idyllic route is no longer a problem. One thing is certain: Confidently known as the “economical giant” in the official sales brochure, it was one of the most exotic guests at this year’s Paul Pietsch Classic. It owes its nickname to the indestructible pre-combustion chamber diesel engine which makes more economical use of fewer than petrol engines and is also less prone to breakdown.

Every hundredth of a second counts.

The rally runs on a tight schedule. Naturally, they tried to keep up with the pace in the Mercedes-Benz L 206 D. The atmosphere is tense because rallies are not about seconds but hundredths of a second. The results when the van crosses the finish line are even more amazing: The L 206 D arrived seven seconds and six hundredths too early. Was the team on board actually too hasty? No, everyone agrees: a measurement error is the only logical explanation. But after these three eventful days in the L 206 D, nothing can ruin the mood of the team and the audience on the roadside.

Mercedes-Benz L 206 D

The L 206 D is the first van from Mercedes-Benz with a weight of less than three tonnes.

Mercedes-Benz L 206 D driving on a street curve

The front wheel drive is an advantage over the competition, giving the L 206 D a flat loading surface.

Side view of the Mercedes-Benz L 206 D

The L 206 D is also offered as a minibus or delivery van.

Rear view of Mercedes-Benz L 206 D

The flat loading sill at the rear makes the L 206 D popular among tradesmen.

Interior view of the L 206 D

The vehicle has more direct handling because power steering is not available for the L 206 D.

Front wheel in a Mercedes-Benz L 206 D

The vehicle has more direct handling because power steering is not available for the L 206 D.

Photos: Kai Knoerzer


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