EXCLUSIVE: 1957 Mercedes 190SL Garage Find

For sale in Abilene, Texas as a Barn Finds Exclusive is this 1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL, a very much in-demand sports car that has soared in value to as much as $200,000. That, of course, is for a fully restored example. This one is like a Lego set—it needs to be restored and reassembled. Both the engine and interior are out of the car but included.

The Texas location has been kind to the bodywork. The 190SL is prone to rot, but this one has damage only to the driver’s side rear quarter. A photo shows the engine in the car, but others show that same motor reduced to its constituent parts. The owner says that “pretty much all parts to rebuild the motor” are on hand.  Parts on these cars are very costly, so the more that comes with the car the better. I see lights, bumpers, and other items as well. The grille might be around somewhere.

The buyer is going to want to remove the rest of the trim and restore the body, and a rotisserie would work well if the floors are also bad. The parts for this car are readily available if anything is missing. Some 25,881 were built. The 190SL, code-named W121, was introduced at the New York Auto Show in 1954. The removable hardtop, evidently missing here, was an option. The 190SL was the baby brother of the iconic six-cylinder 300SL, sold as a “Gullwing” with up-sweeping doors and as a roadster.

The swing-axle 190SL used the 104-horsepower motor from the 180 and 190 sedans. It had a unitary floorpan, instead of the 300SL’s tubular spaceframe. The first SL used twin Solex carbs that were hard to keep in tune. Ask me how I know. I owned a nearly identical 1957 190SL, even the same color. Mine was right-hand drive, however—this one isn’t mine.

The 190SL was more of a boulevardier than a race-proven thoroughbred. It was the 300SL that won races with Stirling Moss at the wheel. That being said, these are still enjoyable cars to drive.

In 1963, the 190SL was replaced by the 230SL, the first of the Pagoda roadsters. But that’s an icon of a different stripe. What we have here is a tantalizing possibility for an ambitious restorer. The car is now in a diminished state, but the finished result will be a beautiful motorcar of taste and refinement.


  1. Paul

    Good find for someone who wants one.
    I’m amazed by the price appreciation of these. Back in the day, sports car people really looked down on them. They didn’t perform or handle particularly well, the exhaust sound was like bleating sheep, and they were expensive new. They were a touring car version of Mercedes’ bottom-line 190 sedan, kind of like a pricier Karmann-Ghia but not as cute. It eventually became hard to give these away used.
    Of course, they were assembled to Mercedes quality standards, so as time has passed, it’s easy to understand that today’s collector crowd would place more new value on them. But the extent of the increase remains a puzzle to me.

    Like 7
  2. tyroljag

    Well looking at the bondo around the headlamps one might assume that the body is not as well at all. And 200K will be paid for after a 5 star restauration where somebody paid 250K. Imagine that the sheet metal is nailed and glued to the a- and b-pillars of cast alloy. So know your enemy. He´s called Sir Rust. Therefore we in Austria and Germany call this one the rusty prince.
    Guess how I know, Restored two of these!
    Looking at the carbs, wrong type because nobody understands how the Solex`s work. The top tubes are not for ventilating the chambers, this tube is for air correction, if wrongly bent or the parts on the scuttle missing or wrongly adjusted the engine will not perform as expected, the carbs are blamed and the Webers mounted, most of them dont perform better, but as so much money was invested people are happy with the outcome.
    Avid Barnfinds follower from Austria!

    Like 16
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      The thing with the Webers is you just don’t take them out of the box and throw them on the car. Take all the engine specs, go through the Weber tuning information, install the proper size venturies, jets etc. to match the engine specs and then you get proper performance.

      Like 5
  3. Greg Millard

    A weekend cruise through the country-side brings back the days of spirited yet relaxed quality motoring.A well balanced gentleman’s touring car – rhey are however a Mercedes whose parts depth is fully priced

    Like 1
  4. Clinton S

    Ahem, the W120 was the upscale 190 sedan. The 190 SL is a W121

    Like 1
  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    Rough. And the real asking price is….?

    Like 5
  6. jwaltb

    Not a sports car. A lady’s car back in the day.

    Like 3
    • Laurence

      You are absolutely right, jwaltb! These were very much pseudo-sports cars and usually they were driven by middle-aged women whose husbands had money. They are “personal two seaters”, such as the ’55-’57 Thunderbirds, or all the other heavy pseudo sports car Mercedes SL two seaters that have come since (the 230-280 SL, the 380 SL etc). At the very least, a real sports car has to have decent handling!

      Like 0
  7. bull


    Letting a seller place an ad with NO PRICE!

    Why even look at your for sale ads when they are just as BAD as CL and Facebook?


    Like 8

    Perfect car for today’s speed limits! In that respect it was way ahead of it’s time! No price…no dice!

    Like 2
  9. stillrunners

    Funny – our paper route bundles to fold for delivery were usually dropped off at a street corner – one with a street light for those Sunday deliveries – back in the 60’s.

    Over our shoulders at that corner we knew the family at the second house that had one of these doing a back driveway restoration – back then there were no fences and you could see them daily – we kinda shrugged it off but what did we know !

    Like 0

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