The humble van is the workhorse of the road. In its many different guises, the van keeps society on its feet. It brings food to our doorsteps, ferries us from place to place, keeps the construction industry ticking and even helps save lives. An utterly indispensable road warrior, if ever there was one.
Chances are, if you’ve recently found yourself in need of a plumber, taken delivery of a shiny new sofa or been snapped doing slightly north of 40mph – even though you swear it used to be a 50mph zone – you will have come into contact with a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
You wouldn’t necessary have twigged of course; as long the leak is plugged, the upholstery matches the curtains and it definitely still is a 50mph zone, you will have blissfully got on with your daily routine, none the wiser.
Perhaps the next time though, you should take a moment to appreciate it. Why? Because 2015 sees the spritely sprinter turn 20 years old. And, much like a fine wine it might deliver to your door, this van has got better with age.
The original incarnation of Mercedes-Benz’s best-selling load-lugger rolled off the production line in 1995. Pitched as a successor to the renowned but aging TN van, a cuboid relic of the 1970’s, the dynamic new Sprinter quickly forged a name for itself as the large van to have. By winning the International Van of Year award for 1995 thanks to its unparalleled levels of practicality, drivability and robust build quality, the Sprinter immediately booked its place as a go-to fleet favourite for many of the biggest operators on Britain’s roads.
That early accolade would prove to be the first of many over the Sprinter’s long and distinguished road-going career; more than 70 to be exact in the UK alone. It is a career that continues to this day, encompassing 327,201 UK sales and counting over two separate generations. Of this total, more than 250,000 models have been panel vans but that’s not to say the ubiquitous white van man (white is, per chance, the most popular colour sold) is the only road user out there relying on the eclectic services of the good ol’ Merc.
Like a Swiss army knife, the Sprinter is equipped for every occasion. From national home delivery giants to local tradesmen, from construction companies to utilities businesses and from ambulance trusts to ice-cream men, the Sprinter has served under them all over the past 20 years. In need of a mobile deluxe beauty treatment room? Step aboard the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter ladies and gents.
Of course, unlike your average car, a van is built first and foremost to work, and that means racking up the miles in a very big way. The Sprinter is no exception and some examples have become veritable cult heroes in Mercedes circles for their near-herculean durability. The most miles clocked up by an individual Sprinter currently on UK roads is an asphalt-pounding 995,242, meaning this 1999-registered survivor has quite literally been to the moon and back! Then there again. Then back again. Then around the earth. And then from London to Vladivostok and back. That driver’s side floor mat may need looking at by now.
What better way to celebrate 20 years of sterling service to the nation’s business than in the shape of a unique 20th Anniversary edition Sprinter. Since the start of the year, Mercedes have produced 1,200 of these special editions, featuring ‘Sprinter 20’ badging on the front wing along with various interior goodies and a chrome grille. It’s a characteristically modest but richly deserved salute to the Sprinter as it enters its third decade of service.
So, the next time your boiler goes up the shoot or the jingle of the ice-cream van resonates around your neighbourhood, spare a moment to appreciate the Mercedes Sprinter, a humble yet trusty workhorse for whom life is a marathon, not a sprint.