How the “Tempo Matador” turned into the L206 D.

A blue Mercedes-Benz L 206 D on a country road at the edge of a forest

From 1970, the Mercedes-Benz L 206 D supplemented the Mercedes-Benz vans commercial vehicle range. But it was a long journey to that point.

Mercedes-Benz L 206: A metamorphosis.

Even at the time of its market launch, the L 206 could look back on a long history. In its 22-year existence, it also changed manufacturer three times. But how did this all come about? And what made this charming van so attractive for Mercedes-Benz?

The original model, the “Tempo Matador” made in Hamburg, was known from 1966 onwards under the brand name “Rheinstahl – Hanomag” after being taken over by the parent company Rheinstahl AG. After the foundation of Hanomag – Henschel Fahrzeugwerke in 1968 and subsequent takeover by Daimler-Benz AG in 1970, the diesel models of the series were equipped with Mercedes Benz diesel engines. One year later, the van was offered in parallel as a Mercedes-Benz product. In the same year, the new light vans L 206 D and L 306 D were presented at the Daimler-Benz plant in Düsseldorf. In contrast to the Hanomag-Henschel models that were still on offer, these had some new features.

A sepia picture of a Mercedes-Benz L 206 D

The Mercedes-Benz L 206 D can look back on a 22-year career.

An attractive expansion of the van model range.

The Harburg vans were ideal for Mercedes-Benz. They were a welcome addition to the existing model range. The Harburger van had a front engine and front-wheel drive, which made it possible to have a flat loading surface throughout. This made it different from the competitors’ models, which relied on a rear engine. The Mercedes-Benz diesel engines used from 1970 onwards came from the passenger car models: The OM 615 from the 200 D/8 with 40 kW/55 PS, from 1972 onwards the more powerful version of the OM 615 with 44 kW/60 PS from the 220 D/8. The Austin carburettor engines were used in the petrol models of the series until the end of production in 1977.

Interior of a Mercedes-Benz L 206 D

With windows all around, the minibus offers a great advantage:
A fantastic view of the outside world for the driver and up to eight passengers.

Gradually becoming a masterpiece.

In January 1973 the L 206 D shone with new splendor: Colors such as bast yellow, columbia blue or pearl grey perfected the revised model series. Both the face of the vehicle and the time-tested front-wheel drive remained the same. The Mercedes-Benz L 206 D was modified and was now available in new versions.

As early as 1972, an improved seat, suspended pedals and new exterior mirrors offered more driving comfort and safety on the road. Steering and brakes were also optimized inside the vehicle, so that even tougher road conditions could be mastered with ease. The vans with a payload of 1,000 kg up to a respectable 2,000 kg took on a number of challenges. Up to eight passengers could be comfortably accommodated in the vehicle.

Today, the L 206 D is still proudly referred to as the “lightweight” van of the 70s and does not only look good on classic car rallies. As a minibus it complemented the commercial vehicle range below its “big brother”, the L 407, which is still used worldwide today as a camper van.

The steering wheel of a Mercedes-Benz L 206 D

At the time of the L 206 D, power steering was still very rare in vans,
so the driving experience was more enjoyable.

Vehicle profile L 206 D

Production period

1970–1977

Production locations

Hamburg-Harburg and Bremen

Base model

Matador

Successor model

"Bremen van"/TN/T 1

Types

Minibus, panel van, high loader flatbed truck

Engine

OM 615, 2 l, 4 cylinders, prechamber diesel

Output power

44 kW (60 PS)

Length of

4.490 mm or 5.030 mm (panel van and minibus)

Width of

1.820 mm

Wheelbase

2.400 mm oder 2.920 mm (panel van and minibus)

Payload

up to 1,3 t

Gross vehicle weight

2,4–2,8 t

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Steering wheel and engine of a Mercedes-Benz L 206 D

From 1972, the L 206 D was equipped with the 44 kW (60 PS) 2.2 liter OM 615 diesel engine.

Rear view of a blue Mercedes-Benz L 206 D

Due to the flat loading sill at the rear, the L 206 D was particularly popular with craftsmen.

A blue Mercedes-Benz L 206 D from the side

The L 206 D was offered as a minibus or panel van.

Photos: Kai Knoerzer, Daimler

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