Mercedes 209 D T1 Marco Polo: time travel with a star

Friedemann Bayer
Mercedes 209 D T1 Marco Polo
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T he dream of the motorhome is timeless, and he is still good business today. This is why car manufacturers made sure early on with their own variants ex works to secure a piece of the cake of motorhome sales. One of these collaborations is that of Westfalia and Mercedes, and an early one of them is Marco Polo. With the name of the legendary Venetian adventurer and explorer, the Westfalia-Werke titled the conversion of the 'Bremen Transporter' - named after its original place of production. The 'Bremer' is still familiar to the scene by this nickname, although it later also rolled off the production line in Düsseldorf, the birthplace of the successor Sprinter. Like the Sprinter today, the van, soberly christened “T1” by Mercedes, mobilized entire generations of craftsmen, small hauliers and tradespeople of all kinds. Everyone for whom a VW bus was too small and a 7.5-ton truck too powerful turned to the “Bremer “.

Travel dream in bahama-beige

The transporter with the characteristic hood and the unmistakable light graphics ran pretty well long from the tape. Launched in 1977 as the first series, Mercedes managed to keep it alive with new maintenance measures. In the end, it was even available with ABS until the much more modern, faster, more comfortable Sprinter took the stage in 1995.

Our time traveler, the 209 D Marco Polo, was born a few years earlier: It was delivered in 1984 . Under the hood, the type code reveals it, the pre-chamber diesel OM 617, which is still beloved by oldie fans to this day. Five cylinders, three liters displacement, 88 hp. And above all: 172 Newton meters of torque, that was a heap of wood in front of the hut for that time.

An employee of the Mercedes commercial vehicle department discovered the Marco Polo a few years ago in Italy - at first hand, with one frivolous low mileage. The T1 with the plastic high roof retrofitted at Westfalia had covered just 120,000 kilometers; for the OM 617 and the equally durable periphery of the oil engine, that means at most a slightly larger lap around the block. Not even the body had to complain about significant losses. Only a gnawed front panel was replaced with a new part - of course still available today, Mercedes. Otherwise, the 209 D Marco Polo is ready for a test drive like himWestfalia and Mercedes created: first paint, original condition, unrestored. A piece of jewelery for everyone with a certain penchant for boxy.

In times when 'bahama-beige' was all the rage for the bathroom at home, the 209 D Marco Polo was very modern. This also applies to the upbeat beige-brown combination of the interior. At that time it was already possible to create a maximum of living space on the relatively small area. The swiveling passenger seat made it possible to climb backwards without opening the sliding door - the characteristically loud, 'popular' sliding door group on campsites can be omitted.

The 209D Marco Polo is three meters high

In the high roof - the overall height of the Mercedes 209 D Marco Polo is an impressive 2.97 meters - a double bed 1.4 meters wide can be unfolded. For two who like each other very much, the lower seating group can be folded into another bed 1.25 meters wide, an optional lying surface above the front seats would allow a child to experience beautiful dreams in an area of ​​160x160 cm. Five berths with an exterior length of 4.76 meters is hard to imagine considering the standards that are expected of mobile living spaces today.

That a Marco Polo by Mercedes Benz was not one of the cheapest options back then, Acquiring a motorhome shows that the 209ers are fully equipped even under today's wishes. 70 liter fresh and waste water tanks are available, three large, tinted windows with roller blinds and fly screens bring light into the interior. The kitchen with a sink and two-burner stove was equipped with a technology that was revolutionary for the time: an absorber refrigerator that can be operated with gas, a 12-volt electrical system and 220-volt shore power. Today it has long been established as an inexpensive basic equipment.

Of course, a fully-fledged wet cell as is common today could no longer be stowed away on the footprint of the 209 D Marco Polo. Instead, a plastic washbasin module with storage space for a mobile toilet is concealed behind a door, and sparse privacy can be created with a swing-out curtain.

The gas supply for the stove and refrigerator is ensured by a permanently installed gas tank that can be filled via a service flap . This could also be tapped with a connection piece for external consumers, for example to fire a mobile gas grill at the campsite. The connection valve can be heated to prevent icing up in winter.

Even today fully suitable for everyday use

Self-operated with the heating system the 209 D Marco Polo from the fuel tank: an Eberspächer auxiliary heater with fan and 2.3 kW heating output should be satisfied with 0.25 liters per hour.

Its compact dimensions - width 1.98 meters , Turning circle only 10.9 meters - make thatThe Mercedes 209 D Marco Polo is still a wonderfully handy vehicle even in city centers. And with its 88 hp it is anything but underpowered: the first owner may have lived in a somewhat hilly area, perhaps they were also afraid of the enormous frontal area of ​​the high-roof Benz, in any case it rolled off the assembly line with a particularly short axle ratio. Driving off in second gear was the norm with the T1 van anyway, the first was only needed on the mountain or when fully loaded. In this example, however, the third of five gears is almost enough, which can be sorted a bit gristly with the wonderfully long gear lever behind the engine cover protruding into the interior.

With this, the motorhome grandpa can do with astonishing temperament take off at the traffic lights, but at 80 km /h a speed is reached at which the ears stop. It is hard to imagine that you would send him on a journey at the 120 km /h specified as vmax. Fortunately, there was no tachometer on the option list.

On the other hand, the suspension comfort of the oldtimer hiker is completely satisfactory. A bit rustic, of course, but taking a tour of several thousand kilometers with this globetrotter would be the most normal thing in the world. And not just because of the virtually indestructible drive technology. It doesn't have to go as far as China, like the namesake. Although?


Rick T

2021-07-14 16:49:40

Interesting read. So glad I found this article on

Rick T

2021-07-14 16:51:11

I also forgot to ask have you ever worked for <a href="">Mercedes</a> because you seem to know a lot?

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