Mercedes-Benz O 319

«Inspiration – the alcohol-free intoxication.»

Alexander Otto Weber, (1868 – after 1927), German writer


Here, I present selected collector’s items from the ISELI COLLECTION in a relaxed, monthly rhythm. My objective here is to present some of my individual treasures to lovers of classic vehicles, in order to inspire them further. These are vehicles that are not for sale.

«For children it is like a teddy bear that they would love to cuddle, for adults it is as
calming as a St. Bernard who has just dug them out of a snowdrift. Just a character

Peter Michaelyclassic car journalist, in «Auto Bild Klassik» on December 7, 2012

Car of the month spring 2021

Mercedes-Benz O 319

Model history

At the 1955 IAA, the 319 series from Mercedes-Benz caused a sensation: after a whole generation of new trucks and new buses, the then Daimler-Benz AG expanded its commercial vehicle range into lighter weight classes from 1955. With a total weight of 3.6 tons and compact dimensions, the new L 319 series was just right for trade, commerce and industry. The partially load-bearing structure was far superior to the competition‘s similar models. The first van with the star is the forerunner to numerous, successful, successor generations from Mercedes-Benz.

The new L / O 319 has an unusual visual appearance: In the 1950s, heavy and light trucks usually drove forward as hooded vehicles, so Mercedes-Benz used the spacesaving front-link design for the light vans. The oval grille of the L / O 319 surrounds both the large star as a trademark and the round headlights. Similar to buses and trucks, the van is also adorned with a chrome band. It extends under the windshield across the rounded front section to the side of the cab doors.

The handy O 319 / O 319 D bus, initially manufactured at the Mannheim plant, played a special role as a popular figure in the career of this model family. It was available from 1956 both in functional versions for commuter traffic with up to 18 seats and in versions as a touring coach.

The top model in the range is the O 319 with roof edge glazing, folding sunroof, twotone paintwork and luxury seating for ten passengers – today it would be called a club bus. The view is excellent and the passengers enjoy great comfort. Individual seats with leather or velor covers, armrests, adjustable backrests, luggage racks and chrome-plated ashtrays create an upscale ambience and are pure luxury for the time.

Model details

Finding an O 319 in its original condition is almost impossible. In all these years I was only aware of one vehicle – it was offered by a recognised vintage car dealer in Westphalia. Most of the vehicles were scrapped or converted into mobile homes. Unfortunately, many interiors were lost and can no longer be found.

The intensive search led to an advertisement for a high-roof bus. This was specially built ex-works for the German Red Cross. It was used as a staff bus, then as an ambulance and finally as a radio emergency vehicle. In a matter of seconds it was very clear to me: Don‘t hesitate, grab the chance and drive straight to Germany with the trailer, buy, recharge and take it home – that‘s what happened in August 2009.

Everyone who has anything to do with vintage cars knows what it means to completely restore a vehicle. But if it is a project involving conversion and rebuilding – and a vehicle that is very rare on the market and for which there are hardly any spare parts – then it takes patience, nerves and money.

About the project costs:

Stage 1: Wishful thinking – you budget
Stage 2: Disenchantment – adjustment of budget
Stage 3: Reality – keep your head held high and stay the course

Thanks to a project planning and preparation time of nine months, the renovation and restoration took a good 15 months. Of course, you‘re never finished, and there were still a lot of tweaks and changes that we had to make. I wrote a book about the whole project, documented with a lot of photos. The first edition is out of print, a new edition with a second 319 is in preparation.

My O 319 is a one-of-a-kind example: a high-roof bus with panoramic windows, a folding sunroof, 14-seater (including 3 emergency seats) and leather interior. A dream of a vehicle! The bus has already seen a lot in the past nine years: Countless trips through Switzerland, trips abroad with trailers – four times to Apulia alone. My O 319 achieved a great sensation or, better still, reputation at the Silvretta Classic 2019. The bus was «everyone‘s darling». I refer to the report in «Auto Motor Sport», issue 16, from July 18, 2019.

My enthusiasm for the O / L 319 has led to the fact that I have bought a few copies in recent years. Many stand idle waiting to be brought back to life. I had an L 319 flatbed truck with tarpaulin completely restored. This sensationally beautiful vehicle will be presented here at some point.

Pictures say more than words, let‘s let them speak …