Black Beauty – 1952 Mercedes-Benz 220 Cabriolet B

Ted Zombek
This elegant 1952 220 Cabriolet B has been treasured by the same family for 45 years.

Sometimes early impressions stick with you for a lifetime. It seems that was the case for a young Scott Montoney, whose early impressions of this classic Mercedes-Benz 220 Cabriolet B are still with him. But unlike most impressions from early life, these take a very tangible form.

The 220 (W187) series of cars first appeared at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1951 as a replacement for the aging prewar design of the 170. As Germany’s postwar boom expanded, the management board decided that the time was right to introduce the next level of luxury motoring.

Scott Montoney’s 1952 Mercedes-Benz 220 Cabriolet B, with the tallest grille on any postwar model, and its separate fenders and running boards, has a handsome appearance, even though the cabriolet soft top looks a bit awkward when folded back.

In addition to a more modern external appearance, the suspension and power train were upgraded as well. The car now rested on a 112-inch wheelbase with a track of 56.5 inches. The 6-cylinder, 2,195cc engine with 80 horsepower now provided the power to allow this 3,200-pound car to achieve a top speed of 87 mph. A speed like that was ideal for cruising on the expanding network of Germany’s improved roads and autobahns in the 1950s.

The story of this particular cabriolet-body example of the 220 started in Germany in 1952, but we don’t pick it up until several years later when a young American veterinarian posted to Germany with the U.S. Army in 1957. As an Army officer, Capt. Jack McGuire, DVM, had plenty of time on his hands. Duty time was similar to normal weekday working hours, so McGuire wanted to use his weekends to explore Europe. As an officer holding a captain’s rank, he was entitled to personal transportation. Early in his tour, McGuire imported his 1954 Chevrolet sedan to use for transportation and weekend trips, but, as luck would have it, a Greek businessman spotted the sedan and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

With his tour rapidly coming to an end, McGuire began searching for his next car to continue his European adventure. During a visit to Munich in 1958, he visited a used-car lot to look at a two-year-old Volkswagen sedan. Negotiations began, but the salesman would not budge from the asking price of 3,825DM ($900). Frustrated and without enough cash to meet the asking price, McGuire turned to leave, but the salesman suggested an interesting alternative to the pricey VW – a grey 1952 Mercedes-Benz 220 Cabriolet B.

A physician purchased the new Mercedes-Benz on April 21, 1952, but had recently traded it in for a newer car. While it was not what he was looking for, McGuire agreed to a test drive with the salesman. Within a few miles, he knew that this would be a good car for him. They returned to the car lot where he was able to negotiate a price of 2,975DM ($700), definitely within his budget.

McGuire had a habit – as many of us do – of naming his cars. For his new Mercedes, he decided on the name “Troidl,” which is the Southern German diminutive name for Gertrude. Perhaps because he was a medical doctor, McGuire didn’t remove the German National Automobile Club (ADAC) badge on the fender that displayed a red cross on a white field and the initials ARZT – German for doctor – which the original owner had placed on the curbside fender.

With his tour coming to an end, but still on active duty, McGuire could have the Army ship the car to the United States without cost. But he wasn’t traveling home directly; McGuire took some photographs of the car and sent them with a letter to his parents, instructing them where and when they should meet the car in New Jersey.

Once back in the United States and reunited with the 220 Cabriolet, McGuire learned to live with its quirks – the limited effectiveness of a one-blower heater fitted as an option by the dealer, the small wipers and other little things were all part of Troidl’s personality.

They certainly did not cause him to be timid about using the car. He drove it to Colorado for additional studies, to California, across the country to Washington, D.C., and back to Ohio. With the car beginning to show its age in the late 1960s, McGuire shipped the cabriolet back to Stuttgart where the factory did some minor refurbishing. McGuire retrieved the car in Affalterbach and visited the Alps, where he skied for a month before returning to Ohio.

A young Scott Montoney and his family were also Ohio residents. Montoney’s father just happened to be McGuire’s first cousin. Montoney became familiar with the 220 Cabriolet at family gatherings as he was growing up. Fascinated by this unusual car, he wanted to know more. McGuire was happy to teach the young enthusiast what he had learned about the car in his years of ownership.

During the next few years, McGuire taught his young relative the intricate workings of this Cabriolet B. Montoney learned the mechanicals and how to fold the large cabriolet top. Plenty of rides were also to be had. Eventually, Montoney got his turn behind the wheel.

In the mid-1970s, McGuire took the car to New England and witnessed Mercedes restorer Alex Finnegan perform the necessary work to bring the now-aging car back to its former, impressive appearance. At McGuire’s request, the car was treated to a major restoration with the paint color changed from grey to a more elegant black, but with the leather seats redone in the original red. The door side panels and other interior panels were still in good condition, so were left original. The ADAC doctor’s badge was carefully re-installed after the car was repainted.

After years of coaching him about the 220, McGuire eventually gave Troidl to an excited Montoney in 2007. Since that time, Montoney has honored the car, as well as McGuire’s generosity, by continuing to drive the car enthusiastically, including a run on the autocross course at Gemutlichkeit in 2011 (The Star, Sept.-Oct. 2011, p. 73). With only three owners from new, the car now has more than 500,000 km on the European odometer, though the grille badge only takes credit for 300,000 km.
Troidl is obviously no trailer queen. She is regularly driven to car shows and continues to impress everyone who sees her. As for McGuire, he now drives a more sedate 220 sedan, but of the same year – 1952.