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More Than Parts: 1961 Mercedes-Benz 190SL

1961 Mercedes 190SL

Throughout automotive history, there have been any number of cars that transition from throwaway projects to desirable specimens. Rarely does that phenomenon crystallize so perfectly than with the Mercedes-Benz 190SL, a car that recently has enjoyed a fast-rising tide after years of being cast aside in the shadow of the glorious 300SL. This 1961 example on eBay was actually purchased as a parts car and then left in the barn. Bidding is brisk with the reserve unmet at $27,400. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Jim S for spotting it!

Mercedes 190SL Interior

If the seller’s story is true, he’s enjoyed some good fortune likely buying this car for peanuts in the ‘80s and simply holding onto it. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve daydreamed about cars that if money and space permitted, I would purchase and squirrel away for a rainy day. There are some vehicles like the 190SL that just seem to be too affordable, almost as if you know it’s destined to become collectable someday. I often think cars like the Porsche 914, Corvette ZR1 and the first-generation Mazda RX-7 are next on the list to soon become more difficult to purchase on the cheap as good ones disappear.

Rusty Mercedes 190SL

Personally, the 190SL has always been a compelling choice to me. From a price point, certainly – the 300SL roadster has been fetching huge money at the auctions, catching up rapidly to the iconic Gullwing. Of course, the 190SL is enjoying a bit of a resurgence that’s driving prices on cars like these upwards, but it’s still attainable from a project standpoint. Restoring it to its former glory, however, isn’t going to be an affordable affair, especially if this car in this condition fetches over $30,000. There’s a lot of work to be done, from rust repair to reassembling the interior and of course, complete mechanical refurbishment.

Mercedes 190SL Project

To me, whatever the outcome of the auction is will make me feel good. A car that clearly deserves restoration will likely undergo an expensive transformation; a hobbyist will clear out some space in his barn and likely make a nice profit in the process. It does make you think, however, that now is the time to buy that project while it’s affordable (unless you’re shopping for a Renault Fuego, which you can likely buy for a good price at any time). What car would you buy now before the prices go up? Let us know in the comments below.


  1. Bobby D

    I just want the Pan Am bumper sticker

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    • Dan h

      Ah , Pan Am….the good old days!

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  2. Peter B.

    Adds new meaning to the term Fright Pig. Step away from the car…

    Having just returned from the AZ auctions, prices for these have cooled off considerably except for the absolute finest examples (as they should have). I can’t see any upside here.

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  3. rich

    Bobby D, I was thinking the same thing.

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  4. Josh Staff

    I’m digging the PanAm sticker too! I’d like to have a 190SL, I really like the way they look, but values have gotten insane. There are a lot of cars I wish I had been able to buy 10 years ago before they got so over priced. The 190SL and the 911 are two of those cars!

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    • tom999p

      Well BJ and Mecum auction sales prices have sure put an fantasy-like expectation on similar cars for sale in the real world…

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  5. jim s

    i would buy midgets and sprites, volvo 240/260s and early miatas. thanks for asking.

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  6. Claus Graf

    I agree with you that (in 10 years) the 914’s will be difficult to find. I think they will become valuable enough to restore (and make a profit selling). However every day you can see 914’s being parted out or too far gone to repair. If I had space I would stash away another one. (right now I’m rebuilding one that has a lot of rust)

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    • DT

      Did I miss something

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  7. James

    What a shame! Looks like it sat in a barn full of cow manure that ate at the body??

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  8. DT

    Its not just the looks they handle like they are on rails,Ive had 2 and they remain one of my favorite cars Ive owned,very civilized,I took a ride in a gullwing and it rode like my 1950 dodge pick up truck

    Like 0

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