The precursor to the Sprinter: the legendary Mercedes-Benz T 1.

As a newly developed model, the T 1 quickly became a best-seller at the end of the 1970s. Innumerable variants and engine options created a level of flexibility from which users can still benefit today.

The birth of a pioneer.

In January 1967 when Mercedes-Benz presented the 309 model series (later known as the T 2) as the successor to the L 319, the era of the post-war vans drew to a close. Bigger and more powerful than a delivery van, more manoeuvrable and lighter than a truck: the so-called Düsseldorf models filled a gap in the market and set the tone in their segment from the very outset. Ten years later, the Zeitgeist called for further development of the large van and even greater personality. And so the T 1 was born. Its multifaceted versatility paved the way to the future for Mercedes-Benz vans.

The best-seller from Bremen.

The van's career began in 1977. The T 1 – still known at the time as the TN (for "Transporter New") – rolled off the production line at the Bremen plant in large quantities thanks to high demand. Colloquially, the vans of this model series were often known as the "Bremer Transporter" or "Bremer model". Until 1984, the van was produced in Bremen before production was moved to the Düsseldorf plant until 1995. In its 18-year-long production, across both production locations a total of almost one million units were delivered which meant that the T 1 was the most successful Mercedes-Benz van produced to date.

A meeting of generations.

 

Mercedes-Benz L 319, Mercedes-Benz T 1 and Mercedes-Benz T 2.

Masters of transformation.

The fact that the T 1 became such a sales hit has partly to do with the fact that it was available in so many different variants. Be it as a minibus, a crewbus or a panel van, with or without a platform: at the time, the "Bremer van" was already able to meet the needs of the most diverse range of customers. And this flexibility was even reflected in the available engines. The vans were available ex-works with either a diesel or a petrol engine. Performance ranged from 65 hp in the 207 diesel model to 105 hp in the 210 petrol engine. True to its pioneering role, the T 1 was even made available from 1978 with a fully electric drive system. This small production series was mostly used by major customers like the German post office.

Vehicle fact sheet – T 1 310 D

 

 Years produced  
  1. 1988–1995

 Predecessor model   Düsseldorfer van (T2)
Successor model   Sprinter
Body variants   Panel van, crewbus, minibus, platform vehicle, tipper and chassis cab
 Displacement  

2874 cm³

Output   70 kW (95 hp)
Length   5350 mm
Width   1980 mm
Height   2450 mm
Payload   up to 1.5 t
Permissible gross weight   3.5 t

Back to basics.

In 1977, a major keystone was laid in the success story of Mercedes-Benz: the new van model series for payloads of 1-2 tonnes was released on the market and became a real best-seller. The crystal clear vision of the designer at the time Stefan Heiliger led to the striking lines of the pioneering vehicle. The use of an arrow shape visually reflected the rapid transporter concept which has continued its successes to the modern day.

Three questions for designer Stefan Heiliger.

   
  1. 1. Can the T 1 be called a pioneer as a result of its design?
    If you want to refer to the T 1 as a pioneer, then rather in terms of the new symbolic language which it created and which has stuck around to the present day. At the time, it was clear that this would be a language which would be spoken and understood even 50 years down the line.

   

2. To which degree did the T 1 design influence that of the Sprinter?
The basic idea behind the T 1 – an arrow – can also still be identified in the Sprinter today. The idea established itself back then and its effect hasn't been lost over time. It became something of a formative component within this category of vans.

    3. Can the T 1 be seen as the keystone to the success of Mercedes-Benz Vans?

The symbolic fundamental idea of the design can certainly be dubbed a success. It was clearly desired and, as I say, it is still legible and comprehensible even today. And that's definitely a sign of success.

With a nose for future trends.

The design of the T 1 was particularly formative. Renowned industrial designer Stefan Heiliger was the man behind the edgy lines of the "Bremer van". The T 1 was the first Mercedes-Benz van to feature a noticeably protruding nose and thus set itself apart from predecessor vans. "The protruding nose came about for design reasons. It was a precondition because the engine was up front and needed space," explains Stefan Heiliger. This revolution in design was broadly replicated and has stayed with us to the present day. In 1995, the T 1 finally handed its well-established technical concept down to the next flagship from Mercedes-Benz Vans: the Sprinter. And so one success story drew to a close, leaving space for the next one to begin.

A pleasant sight.

The T 1 in the especially successful panel van variant with high roof.    

Follow your nose.

The T 1 was the first Mercedes-Benz van with a protruding engine compartment.    

The all-rounder.

Even as a works vehicle, the T 1 was well-received and regularly used.

Photos:

Fabian Freitag

The conversions shown were made by independent third-party providers. The providers and the conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. The photos in no way serve as an evaluation by Mercedes-Benz of the provider and/or conversions in question.

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