Mercedes-Benz has had a long history of building trucks and commercial vehicles; in fact, it is the company founder Gottlieb Daimler who is credited with creating the very first motorized truck in 1886 – a cart with a 4hp twin-cylinder petrol engine. He found swift success and would soon expand his offerings with 10, 8 and 6 horsepower versions that could carry upwards of 11,000 pounds and cementing the horseless carriage’s importance within industry. Prior to Daimler’s merger with Karl Benz in 1926, both firms had ventured into diesel truck production, which carried over once the two merged and Mercedes-Benz was born. They continued to be pioneers in the industry with the first diesel powered light truck in 1932 and a whole series of medium and heavy duty trucks following through to the outbreak of WWII.
In the mid -1950s, Mercedes commercial vehicle lineup included large trucks and buses, as well as small, city-type delivery vehicles. Medium duty trucks such as the Opel Blitz were selling well and Mercedes Benz wanted in on the action. The L 319 and its bus counterpart the O 319 debuted in 1955 to take on the middle-weight market. It featured a front engine “forward control” arrangement with a large glasshouse and pleasing styling. An array of bodies were available, from delivery vans to flatbeds to small buses. The stylish and versatile L/O 319 proved a great success for Mercedes and established them as leaders in the medium duty truck market. Today’s collectors have fallen for the charming good looks and impressive quality, and the compact size makes them very versatile for regular use. As a result, values continue to be on the rise.
This truly remarkable 1961 O 319 bus has been fully restored to a high standard and extensively yet subtly modified into a camper capable of roaming virtually anywhere a road will take you. The previous owner and builder was an eccentric and reclusive individual who utilized his tremendous skills to painstakingly restore and enhance this unique Mercedes Benz over a period of 15 years. It is quite like nothing we have ever encountered and it has been a thrill to discover the meticulous level of detail he imparted in this project. As you approach this O 319, you first see a beautifully restored but standard body with exceptionally straight panels, all original bright work and fine detailing. The doors and deck lids fit with factory precision and all shut with that signature Mercedes-Benz solidity that one might not expect from something that started life as a commercial vehicle. The blue over gray paint scheme is done in factory colors, and is beautifully finished to a very high standard over excellent bodywork. It wears a set of rare and attractive factory wheel covers and is fitted with a factory dual-rear wheel setup.
As delightful as this bus appears from up top, it is the work under the skin that has truly blown us away. The chassis has been fully reworked with a modern air-ride suspension system adapted to the both the front and rear (the standard rear axle remains). The entire system has been meticulously installed with precise plumbing and expertly run wiring. Details such as the custom made stainless steel loom clamps for wiring and plumbing are astounding. Beyond the air ride suspension system, the electrics have been fully upgraded with a full circuit breaker system on a centralized control panel and even a drop-down service panel below the bus that can accommodate virtually any power plug in the world, should you find a campground with power on your global adventure. Every control, cubby and compartment inside and out is wired with a micro-switch to illuminate when opened. The aviation-quality electrical panels and controls are beautifully backlit in green for easy reading regardless of conditions. Propane and water tanks are located underneath the body as well, seamlessly integrated along the frame rails and installed with the precise touch of a gifted engineer.
Power comes from a modern Mercedes Benz engine mated to an automatic transmission. A Gear Vendor overdrive unit backs the transmission and ensures comfortable and efficient highway cruising. As with everything else, the drivetrain installation is superb, with fastidiously run wiring and plumbing giving an appearance that is better than factory original. The electrical system has been thoughtfully upgraded to handle the additional load of the accessories, and the addition of an oil cooler keeps transmission temperatures in check. Modern model fuel injection ensures reliable running in virtually all conditions, and an array of remapped chips is included, presumably to accommodate high altitudes or other extreme conditions. This level of detail and forethought is simply astounding.
Of course the cabin has been thoroughly reworked and it features modern, leather covered seats up front and a comfortable berth in the rear for sleeping. Gray carpeting is in excellent condition and expertly bound along the edges with wood trim. A standard O 319 instrument panel has been enhanced with additional back lighting, and many of the upgraded electrics are operated through original Mercedes Benz switchgear. Behind the driver, a custom-made cabinet houses the sink, propane stove and storage for dishes and sundries. Aforementioned water and propane tanks are mounted below the floor. Dual audio systems are beautifully integrated into the front and rear, hidden within custom made cabinets. Even the trunk features a custom made drawer which houses a myriad of spares for virtually any emergency. The builder cleverly integrated a stowable solar panel for when you’re properly off the grid!
While we know little about the previous owner, we understand he was an eccentric computer engineer based in California. However, his personality speaks clearly through his exquisite workmanship and his meticulous attention to detail. We understand it took him over 15 years to build this remarkable machine and we are honored to offer it to its next keeper. It is thoroughly sorted and ready for adventure virtually anywhere the road will take you and includes a massive stock of spares and literature. Well and truly, there is not another vehicle quite like this O 319 on earth.
2310 Chaffee Drive
Saint Louis, 63146, Missouri
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