1-of-3? 1967 Mercedes-Benz 230 Universal

During the production life of the W110/230 and the W111/230S, Mercedes-Benz did not produce a station wagon variant. However, if you had money to burn and had a real need for an estate, there was an option available to you. The result was a car known as the Universal, and that is what we are featuring here. It is a rare car in any context, but the owner claims that this is 1-of-3 examples of the 230 that was built in right-hand-drive form. If it appeals to you, then you will find it located in Wylie, Texas, and listed for sale here on eBay. The BIN price for the rare Merc has been set at $28,000.

The history of the Universal is an interesting one, as, during that period in time, Mercedes did not produce an estate version of either its W110 or W111 “Fintail” models. However, a Belgian coach-building company by the name of IMA (Société Anonyme pour l’Importation de Moteurs et d’Automobiles) was undertaking some European vehicle assembly work for Mercedes-Benz. They undertook the design and engineering of an estate version of the company’s Fintail, and these were built by IMA with the full approval of Mercedes. W110 and W111 saloons were shipped to Belgium minus the roof, but fitted with 15″ wheels and self-leveling suspension. IMA then fabricated and undertook the conversion work to produce the Universal, which was covered by the full Mercedes-Benz factory warranty. During 2-years of production, a total of 639 vehicles across the W110 and W111 models were treated to this conversion work. However, this is where we start to run into some confusion regarding the relative rarity of this particular car. The vast majority were built in left-hand-drive form due to their predominantly European target market. I have seen claims that only three examples of the W110, including this one, were built in RHD for. However, I have also seen the same claim for the W111 version, but I haven’t been able to positively confirm either set of claims.

The Mercedes is a relatively neat and tidy car that is finished in a color called Reddish Beige, with an Ivory top. I’m not sure if the paint is all original, as I can see some evidence of a repaint in some areas of the car. What I can’t see looking through the comprehensive set of photos provided by the owner are any signs of rust issues. The floors look like they were undersealed fairly early in the car’s life, and appear to be solid. One of the more rust-prone areas of the 230 is the front end of the rockers, and these also look quite good. Another area that is always worth checking is the bottoms of the door, and once again, I see no indications of problems there. The vast majority of the exterior trim and chrome looks to be in good condition, but there are a few pieces that are missing. The most obvious of these is the hood ornament, but finding a replacement should not be difficult. The Mercedes star and “230” badge are also missing off the tailgate, and the lack of any visible mounting holes for these is another indication that the car has received at least a partial repaint at some point.

The interior of the Universal is looking very tired, but the good news is that items such as door trims and seat covers are all standard Mercedes parts, so sourcing replacement trim pieces shouldn’t be that difficult. What might pose a challenge is the headliner because while the front half is common to the 230 sedan, the rear half was unique to the Universal. Given how severely damaged the headliner is, it might take the work of a competent upholsterer to produce a replacement. The same route may also need to be followed with some of the soft trim in the cargo area, along with the interior trim for the tailgate itself. The cargo area features a distinctive timber floor, and this hard-wearing surface looks like it is in good condition.

From a mechanical standpoint, there is no difference between a Mercedes 230 saloon and a Universal. What you get is a 2,308cc 6-cylinder engine. This produces 118hp, which is sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. Performance figures for the Universal aren’t up there with the saloon version, as the conversion work added a not insignificant 200lbs to the 230’s overall weight. The engine in the Mercedes is said to start and run nicely, and the car even drives. However, it has been out of service for a number of years, so components such as the brakes, the exhaust, and some of the soft components such as hoses are going to require attention, and possibly, replacement. Once again, thanks to the fact that the Universal is identical to the saloon in all mechanical aspects, sourcing parts shouldn’t be difficult. One positive is the lack of any obvious sagging in the rear suspension, as rectifying problems in that area can prove to be an expensive proposition.

As a project car, this Mercedes-Benz 230 Universal is not the cheapest car in the market today, but it is one of the more unusual. It will require some work to return it to its best, but once this has been completed, there is a pretty decent chance that it would be a unique addition to a local Cars & Coffee. It should be no surprise to learn that these don’t come onto the market terribly often, and even the more common left-hand-drive versions will easily command prices in excess of $30,000 for a tidy example. If the rarity of this right-hand-drive vehicle can be confirmed, then I would expect its value to be significantly higher, and this has the potential to make it quite a solid investment vehicle.

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Comments

  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Drop in an OM621 diesel and replace the Bundt wheels with original W110 wheel covers, and this would be an awesome wagon.

    Like 5
    • PDXBryan

      Heck, drop in a warmed up VW ALH TDI (150-175hp/275-300+ft lbs) and get 45mpg while outrunning the zombies.
      This awesome wagon really gets me goin – love it!

      Like 2
  2. dirtyharry

    No offense to the MB lovers, but 28k! Wow! From my point of view, you would be nuts to spend that kind of car money, for this dog. Granted, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but please take note, Lens crafters is offering an eye exam for $49. I will go get my eyes checked and see If I feel different, yeah right.

    Like 6
    • Universal

      Clearly not your taste but do you have to make it public?

      Like 7
      • Redwagon

        Name checks out.

        Like 2
      • PDXBryan

        Agreed! 20/20 vision but very narrow focus.

    • Scott Buchanan

      Show me where I can buy one cheaper… Please!

      • Universal

        I am not sure if you have not realized that yet. Those times are long gone.

      • Scott Buchanan

        It’s crystal clear. People hoard them so the rest of us can’t have any. I was challenging the people who think they can find one for less money, and if so, to let me know where.

  3. DETROIT LAND YACHT

    I would shamelessly restomod this homely old maid…into a super sexy AMG powered and accessorized “shooting brake”…suitable for a SoCal mom hauling kids to school and getting groceries.

    Like 3
  4. sir mike

    A fin tail estate….doesn’t get much better.

    Like 3
  5. Arby

    I’d have to teach myself to drive all over again.
    RHD with a left handed 4 speed column shift?

    Like 5
    • Derek

      That’s so’s you don’t hit the door when you’re changing gear, no?

      Nice old bus.

      Like 2
  6. Poppy

    If only I were a rural route mail carrier and needed a vehicle…

    Like 7
  7. Andrew Franks

    If I had the room and time I’d probably buy this for its unique body and general prescence. I’m suspicious of all the wiring hanging down from underneath the dashboard, not Mercedes style, and the interior will require a healthy number to get it back in place. The wood will have to be refinished.
    And because I have hot summers where i am a Behr Air Conditioner would have to be added, doing nothing for overall performance. Maybe Vintage Air and Heat would be better. I agree on the Bundt wheels which I never liked anyway, and when finished this car would be stunning and very individual. I have two projects going now, and I’m short on space dammit.

    Like 2
  8. That Guy

    One of the old guys in my grandmother’s retirement community drove one of these back in the late 60’s-early 70’s. It was far and away the coolest car in the ‘hood. This community was populated by retired missionaries, military chaplains, church officials, and the like, so most of the residents were unusually well-traveled. I imagine the owner had bought it in Germany himself, probably brand-new. I’ve sometimes wondered if it is still around.

    • Universal

      Definitely not 1 of 3 but maybe 2 or 3 dozen. The 230 was 1 of only 2 models with 6 cylinder engine of the Universal wagons built by I.M. A. in Belgium.

  9. Peter R.H.Atherton

    I’ve owned one of these for about 50 years;Dark Green,Cognac MB Tex,automatic.Due to Massachusetts salty roads, it rusted badly, but I managed to buy new stock floorpans and rocker panels before it nearly broke in half.Mercedes-Benz wanted to make a six cylinder engine for the small-bodied 190,and 200 series car;in order to fit the 4 cylinder engine bay, the two center cylinders were Siamesed,leading to overheating problems at highway speeds.My car’s original owner traded it in with a bad engine.Fortunately one of the technicians took on the task of rebuilding the engines all is now well.

    Like 1
    • Scott Buchanan

      Pretty cool, though I will say there is no such thing as “Siamesed” cylinders. The six cylinder engines in these cars are the same ones as in the longer-nosed W111 chassis. They just moved the radiator further forward.

  10. FJB

    additionally to the rarity of the wagon, it is a “short nose” – compact (round headlights) and they usually come in 4 cylinders. There is a 6 cylinder version in the sedans as well, but rare. (note the radiator is within the radiator support panel and this then has an external expansion tank)

    The mainstream 6 cylinder versions were in the “long nose” or S-class were the US stacked 6.3 lights fit

    To my knowledge the 6 cylinder engines were the same in the compact and the S class. Not sure about Siamesed cylinders

  11. Car Nut Tacoma

    Lovely looking car. Assuming all parts are available, restoration should be possible.

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