Year 1955. The economic miracle initiated by the Federal Minister of Economics Ludwig Erhardt was taking hold in Germany, warranting the need for a new means of transport. So, in 1956, Mercedes Benz came up with the idea for the world’s first van, the L319D and premiered at the Frankfurt International Motor Show , the same year. It was called an “express truck” and it represented some pretty forward thinking for the time.
It was built robust, had an impressive load carrying ability (1.6 -1.8 tons of payload capacity), forward located passenger compartment and having a giant cargo area, making it ideal for craftsmen and traders. It had an undivided, bold and sweeping windshield which gave a panoramic view to the driver and since it had a space saving “cab-over-engine” design, (the engine occupied the floor space between the driver and the passenger). The three-star of Mercedes Benz and the large circular headlights were set into the oval radiator grill.
Initially it came only with a 1.8 litre diesel engine, but later models incorporated petrol as well. The L319D was quite successful with 1,40,000 units being made and production lasting till 1968.
It was also the precursor for various other successful vans from Mercedes Benz stable. And so, the seed of the world’s first van in true modern sense emerged.