The legendary Mercedes-Benz van: travelling through time with the MB 100
The MB 100 is as unique and varied as its owners: a tour from the origins of the van to today’s adventures.
Come to stay
An air of nostalgia surrounds the MB 100, which is lovingly referred to as the “Cutter”. According to the anecdotes, travelling with the small bus is more like a sailing journey than a road trip. Then and now, the predecessor of today’s Vito offers a lot of space for retail, trades and service industries. There is room for up to nine people in the compact van. It is no wonder that retro fans often discover this all-round talent and transform it into their own unique small camper van. But anyone inspired by this jewel’s angular design needs to be fast because the van was only produced from 1988 to 1995 in the Spanish Basque region – more precisely in Vitoria. Important: The small bus was available in five types, from the MB 100 to the MB 180. The number referred to the payload in tonnes.
|1952||DKW Schnelllaster under the management of IMOSA (a subsidiary of the Auto Union)|
|from 1963||F 1000 L|
|1965||Takeover by Volkswagen: export to Germany stopped|
|1972||Founding of MEVOSA (Mercedes-Benz y Volkswagen S.A.)|
|1974||Volkswagen ends its cooperation with MEVOSA: the birth of Mercedes Benz España (official name change: 1981)|
|1975 – 1987||MB N 1000 / N 1300|
|1988 – 1995||MB 100|
|1986||MB 100: Technical upgrade|
|1987||MB 100 D|
|1991||MB 100: Visual upgrade|
|1991||NECAR 1 (New Electronic Car)|
Back to Vitoria in the very beginning
Back to the origins of the MB 100: Its history began long before the end of the 1980s. In 1952 the DKW-Schnelllaster went into production in Vitoria – under the management of IMOSA, a subsidiary of the Auto Union automobile corporation. From 1963 onward, the infamous F 1000 L was also produced there. With its unusually angular design, it is regarded as the original ancestor of the MB 100. After the takeover by Volkswagen, export of the vehicle to Germany was stopped in order to eliminate any in-house competition with the more powerful VW vans offered there. When VW withdrew from the cooperation with MEVOSA, founded in 1972, Mercedes-Benz España was born – together with the MB N 1000, which now displayed the Mercedes star on the front rather than the rings of the Auto Union.
Better equipment for subsequent models
The N 1000 soon reached its technical limits: its engine was not designed for passenger and cargo transport. Mercedes-Benz developed the enhanced N 1300 and equipped it with a four-cylinder diesel engine, the OM 615, with 55 PS and a 2 liter displacement.
The vehicle also included other improvements to the body, suspension, clutch and gearbox. Because it was primarily produced for the southern European and North African market, the company did not export it to Germany. This changed with its successor – the MB 100.
The world’s first electric vehicle went down in history
In 1986, the MB 100 underwent a technical upgrade: All of the subsequent models from 1987 were equipped with a 2.4 liter diesel engine with 53 kW (72 PS) and had the name MB 100 D. Further upgrades followed. The result: new safety systems such as front disc brakes, an automatic load braking system and an angled radiator section that enhanced the vehicle’s passive safety.
Another fundamental technical advance followed in 1994 when Daimler-Benz presented the NECAR 1 (New Electric Car) – based on the MB 100. As the first fuel cell vehicle with an electric motor delivering 41 hp, it achieved speeds of up to 90 km/h and only required recharging after 100 kilometers.
From a practical van to a large sedan
The MB 100 not only served as the practical platform for various fire service vehicles, but one exotic variant was also converted into a true luxury van. In 1989, AMG quickly transformed the once simple MB 100 D into a large sedan. In Affalterbach, AMG equipped the Vito’s predecessor with a robust body kit plus a futuristic design. The optional extras of the AMG MB 100 D included hydro steering, a special AMG-panel with tachometer and expanded board along with a front spoiler bumper and radiator grille with double headlights.
The interior highlights included the seats with Alcantara leather upholstery, folding tables and side cladding. Other optional extras such as the video and telephone system or carpeted floors raised the sedan with a complete package price of around 95,000 German marks (approximately €48,500) to the level of top-class models.
Around the world with the “Cutter”
The journey with the MB 100 is more like swimming than driving. So it is no wonder that owners often lovingly refer to their minibus as the “Cutter”: Owners like Mareen and Daniel from Herford near Bielefeld. They have been discovering the world together since 2012. And always have a piece of home in their luggage. One thing the couple truly appreciates about the camper van is the opportunity to relax and slow down:
“We realize how little you need in order to be happy. This also applies to day-to-day life: this gives us a fresh perspective of life”, explains Daniel. Thanks to the freedom and independence that they have with their “travelling cutter”, the world is their playground. Today hiking in Denmark, tomorrow the Northern lights in Sweden – with fuel, curiosity and naturally the MB 100, anything is possible.
Into the past in “1916 kilomètres”
With their MB 100, “La Strada”, Hélène and Paule-Élise follow the traces of the past – along the front line of the First World War. “It almost feels as though you are in a boat. That is how relaxing it is to drive the MB 100”, explains Paule-Élise enthusiastically.
They discovered their camper van in Provins, a small town in northern France where an old retired couple was looking for worthy next owners. In their blog “1916 kilomètres”, the couple shares their experiences with the world: Always following the tracks of the past, yet never removed from the present.
The way to one’s heart is through the stomach
Today, the MB 100 is not just on the road as a camper van. Fans of culinary culture have also gained a taste for the van:
Food trucks are the new hit and extremely popular among both guests and owners. That is why three guys from northern Germany recently opened their “Cathedral of good taste”: “Holy Dogs” is the name of their shop and as you can guess, they sell hot dogs in Hamburg and the surroundings.
Photos: Daniel Barral, Mareen Henke, Michael Palatini, Robert Schlossnickel, Andrea Thode, Boudou Reuzé, Matthias Sperber, Mercedes-AMG, Vans of Berlin, Josep Jorba, Francisco Cardoso