We have reached the final book in the Tintin series, “Tintin and the Picaros”. This book is set in the 1970s, thankfully only the settings have changed and none of our lovely characters aged with time. Tintin is as young and energetic as always and Captain Haddock’s temper has not tempered even a bit. In my last post, Captain Haddock had got into a very public spat with General Tapioca, the ruthless dictator of San Theodores. The dictator having alleged that a conspiracy was being hatched at the Marlinspike to overthrow his rule. As part of his crafty plan, General Tapioca had invited Captain Haddock and Tintin to a round table conference in Tapiocapolis. Well Captain and Professor Calculus arrived at Tapiocapolis and the first car that we encountered there was an Opel Ascona. Just behind this car in the traffic was a blue coloured minibus. This was the Mercedes L 206D.
The Mercedes L206 D started life as a Hanomag – Henschel F20. But this company was in trouble in the late sixties and was soon taken over by Daimler Benz in the 1970s. Daimler Benz; in keeping with the naming tradition of Mercedes; re-named the F20 as the L 206D. This vehicle was sold in Europe from 1970 to 1977 but continued in India till the late nineties as the loved “Matador”, manufactured by Bajaj Tempo, now Force Motors. In fact in the India of seventies, Matador was the eponym synonymous with a mini bus. The Mercedes L 206D was manufactured in Bremen and Hamburg, Germany while the Matador was manufactured in Pune, India. In India, I am sure, most of the people who grew up in the eighties and nineties must have either gone to school or a family trip in a Bajaj Tempo Matador. This was the time before the Tata Sumo and later the Toyota Innova arrived. The Bajaj Tempo Matador was the Daimler Benz 307, sister model of the 206D.
Mercedes sold 165,000 units of the L 206 D which was way more than what Tempo or Hanomag sold. The vehicle was cheap at DM 6,000 and was used extensively as a bus as well a delivery van and pick up truck. These vans were powered by the OM 615 engines which were 1988 cc (121.3c cu-inch) naturally aspirated inline four cylinder diesel engines which produced 55 BHP of power. The Matador was offered with and OM 616 engine which was a 2,404 cc (146.7 Cu-inch) inline four cylinder diesel engine that produced 65 BHP at 4,500 rpm and 135 N-m of twist at 2,500 rpm. The front wheels were driven through a four speed gearbox. The van came with a torsion bar with independent coil spring suspension.
In March 1972 Daimler-Benz presented the LE 306 test vehicle, it was based on the L 206D and was the first electric van with battery exchange technology. It could climb gradients of up to around 16 %, had a range of 65 km on one charge. It was capable of a top speed of 70 km/h.