Reader Submissions: Coachbuilt Rarity: My 1966 Mercedes-Benz 200D Universal

Coachbuilt Rarity: My 1966 Mercedes-Benz 200D Universal

By Petrolicious Productions
November 29, 2017

Story and photography provided by Pedro Miguel

Hello, my name is Pedro Miguel, I live in Santarém, Portugal, and this is my 1966 Mercedes-Benz Universal that I would like to share with my fellow vintage enthusiasts!

To be more specific, it is a coachbuilt 200D that was converted from the shell of a stripped-down Heckflosse (Fintail) sedan. It was modified by the Belgian firm IMA more than half a century ago—in 1966, before they went bankrupt a few short years later—to become this elegant station wagon, kombi, estate, touring, whatever word you want to use for it (officially, it is called a “Universal.”) Unlike some shoddy conversions though, IMA was working with support from Mercedes-Benz, presumably to help the German car manufacturer test the market for an official factory-built estate car to come later on. The sixties were somewhat of a resurgence period for the body style, and Mercedes certainly noticed the increase in interest.

Mercedes supplied other coachbuilders with Fintails to be converted into larger-cargo carriers, ambulances, and other utilitarian configurations, and like my car, they equipped many of the shells they supplied to these companies with larger-diameter wheels (15” instead of 13”) to cope with the increased loads the converted versions would have to handle. In some cases, Mercedes would also fit them with early versions of self-leveling suspension in the rear, though thankfully not as complex and costly a system as used on the likes of the stately 6.3s and 600s. 

Sorry, back on topic. There were other coachbuilders like Binz for instance, that were predominantly tasked with building the Fintail ambulances from the factory-supplied shells, but IMA was creating something more refined and much sleeker than that. This was a car to be driven by families across Europe on holiday, a car to be loaded up with picnic baskets and German Shepherds and taken for a day out wandering. Some of the Universals had split folding rear seats like mine does, and a few were also fitted with a rear-facing third row of seating that could be stored flat à la the Volvos that would come later and make that trunk-seat a staple of many millennial childhoods.

Being a 200D, it has a four-cylinder diesel under the hood so it’s no rocket ship, but it is an incredibly reliable car, and though it doesn’t have neck-snapping—or even neck-bending—acceleration, it is more than happy to chug along all day at highway speeds once you’ve reached them. I enjoy driving it regardless of where I am though, and I frequently take my Universal exploring in town and country alike, simply enjoying the experience of owning and piloting this rare piece of German automotive history.

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Dan CorcoranMartin NixonDrSmartAlexandre Recent comment authors
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Dan Corcoran

What a cool old ride! Probably run for another 50 years too…

Alexandre Goncalves
Alexandre Goncalves

Saw the pictures, and my first thought was – “this Mercedes got to be Portuguese”!

I was right!

I maybe mistaken, but I’m sure I’ve seen one or two Universal in these past 20 years (basically, since I’ve started to pay atention to W123’s and older Mercs).

I’m still amazed with the diversity of Mercedes (body wise) from the 50/60’s you get overe here (Portugal).

Back to the article – what a nice car and article! Nice to see Portugal represented on Petrolicious!

Pedro, thanks for sharing and all the best to you!



Thanks Alexandre!

Yes, i’m from Portugal, and my Fintail was Portuguese plates! You can see it in Santarém, where im from!

Cumprimentos e obrigado!

Peter Lukáč
Peter Lukáč

Man, that´s really cool car what you have! Thanks for good read and enjoy driving.

Martin Nixon

Fantastic article and thanks for the great picture of the factory Leo, I’ve not seen that one before.

I’m currently restoring my 1966 230 Universal. It’s a RHD automatic car and so far the body has been restored from bare metal and is now repainted. Here’s some ‘before’ and ‘after’ pics and the original UK sales brochure.


Fantastic Job Martin. Is it a 230 S or a 230 ? Herewith I sent you some more pics one of which is that of the last Universal produced. Left is the designer, Mr Vermeersch. I have a 1967 230S. Best,
Leo Van Hoorick

Montage 3.jpg
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laatste universal 19690108 Jos vermeersch (ontwerper), Henri Smeekens, Denis Ambrosi en Sephila ( ).JPG

Production ended 8/01/1969 not 68. Herewith the production data and some more pics. Best, Leo

Persfoto interieur 1.jpg
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Production Data.jpg

IMA was the Mercedes importer in Belgium. They developed the Universal and went to Stuttgart with it. In the period 1965 – 8/01/1968 they built 2754 Universals, 335 of which were 230S models with the 6 cylinder, 14 cm longer front and big headlights. The cars came in kit (CKD or completely knocked down) from Sindelfingen to Mechelen. The one piece roof, rear wings, rear door etc were pressed at IMA. This company started assembling Mercedes-Benz cars in 1954 (sedans). In the period of the first Universal they also assembled normal Heckflosse models. The production of Mercedes cars lasted until… Read more »

Persfoto 230 Universal 2.jpg
Montage 8.jpg
Martin Nixon

Hi Leo, such fantastic images!

Mine is a 230 not a 230s. It would be great to see some images of your car. Best regards Martin

Dave Lyle
Dave Lyle

Thank you for sharing. A very nice, special car with universal appeal. Like you I too would enjoy driving it anywhere. I learned to drive with my father’s 1965 190D and they are fantastic cars. Once you get them up to speed, you don’t need to slow down for the curves.

Martin Philippo
Martin Philippo

Great stuff. Enjoy it, drive it and keep it running.


An elegant automobile and in demand lately. I am restoring a 1966 230S Fintail sedan the same color, would be fun to have a Universal as her stablemate. Thanks for sharing, hope you will enjoy many many more miles on her.