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No Rush to Sell: 1962 Mercedes-Benz 190SL

The Mercedes-Benz 190SL pops up surprisingly often as a barn find project, especially among other variations of Mercedes drop-tops. You could likely fall down quite a rabbit hole in terms of the “why” factor, from perhaps more families holding onto convertibles due to the potential of enjoying them for one more summer, or because the 190SL’s lower price of entry makes a future restoration seem more feasible. Whatever the reason is, this 190SL offered here on craigslist is yet another example of a project-grade W121, and the seller is looking for $46,000 – and mentions he is not in a rush to sell.

The 190SL was seen as an entry-level model when introduced, which I believe has been one reason values have stayed fairly flat. In the 1960s, this was the Mercedes to buy if a 300SL was out of reach, and today’s values reflect this dynamic:  the 300SL is a million dollar car when sold at auction, whereas even the best 190SL is going to have to work pretty hard to clear $100,000. The car shown here retains its old-school California blue plates but also lost some things along the way, such as its trunk badges and most of its paint. The seller claims that despite the missing trim, the car remains largely complete.

The 190SL was predominantly sold as a two-seater, but you could a very rare rear jump seat option that made it possible to shoehorn a third occupant in. The interior of this 190SL suggests it has been in California for some time, with much of the cabin completely baked away from the sun, with the seats completely trashed and the dash pad missing. The original, bus-like steering wheel remains in nice shape, however. The 190SL is equipped with a manual transmission, which is certainly welcome considering the four-cylinder, SOHC engine’s meager power output. The soft top frame appears to be present, but it’d be a smart move to locate the optional removable hardtop.

The M121 inline-four spit out about 104 horsepower, which wasn’t awful for the time period but also did not make for a particularly sporting drive. So many of the world’s great and sought-after sports cars produce strong numbers under the hood, to the point that I truly believe some aspect of value is directly impacted by horsepower. that’s hardly scientific but I do believe there’s a correlation. Regardless, the ask here is not unreasonable, especially if the 190SL isn’t rusty; however, you can still likely find a slightly better deal if you’re patient. Thanks to Barn Finds reader T.J. for the find.


  1. HoA Howard A Member

    Fi fy fo fum, I think I see the rear of a British twin,,,by gum.
    I’m pretty safe in saying, most here are in shock, I mean, you’d have to have grown up on Mars, and not know what a fantastic car this was. I think the 190SL set the standard for all other roadsters. How could one possibly end up like this? Really, there’s some sharp folks here( present company excluded) I’d like to hear the BFs nations thoughts on how this could happen. It doesn’t look particularly abused, but just neglected to utmost. I couldn’t imagine trying to restore this, unless you got it for free. What a mess of probably the worlds coolest, most well engineered roadster.

    Like 6
  2. RayT Member

    I’m glad he’s in no hurry to sell…at that ask, he’s liable to leave this to one of his grandkids.

    There was a time when 190SLs didn’t attract much collector attention, and I remember seeing several in not much better shape than this one. Just guessing, but I’d say someone was going to attempt to “fix it up” at some point, and there’s a possibility that some of the missing bits are still lying around.

    The nearest Mercedes-Benz Classic center will be happy to take the buyer’s money — a LOT of it — for necessary parts. Paint and trim will run the tab much higher still.

    These are nice cruisers, but however much they look like cut-down 300SLs, the driving experience is far different.

    Like 4
  3. Rob

    It’s complete alright, a complete PoS. His price is off by about $30K.

    Like 8
  4. jwaltb

    No rush to buy. Girl’s car then, girl’s car now…

    Like 4
  5. Cam W.

    I’ve always considered these the poor man’s 300sl. I believe the current 190sl values are artificially inflated by the 300sl values in a case of “high tide lifts all boats”.
    If the 300sl had never been developed, I think these would be priced among the Ponton models.
    Some years ago, I was into collecting/restoring M-Bs. The 300sl variants have always been expensive, but driver-quality Pagodas were affordable, and 190sl were cheap. My godfather had a 300sl roadster that I learned to drive stick with, and I also drove different Pagodas and a few 190sls.
    To me the driving experience in the 300sl was fabulous, the 280sl was very nice (best Pagoda), and the 190sl was comparatively dull, noticeably underpowered, and uninspiring.
    Over 50 years of collecting cars, I have experienced several that have not lived up to my expectations, or the price. The 190sl is on that list for me.

    Like 3
  6. Frank Barrett Member

    Good thing he’s in no hurry to sell, as he won’t be disappointed. The 190SL is probably the most disappointing car to ever come out of Stuttgart, more a marketing gimmick than a real sports car. Its three-main bearing engine came from an economy sedan. It’s heavy. Not easy to work on. Very expensive to restore properly. Slow. You get the picture.

    They aren’t rare, so instead of spending too much to restore this, find one that’s already done or buy a 230-280SL. Plenty of people want their 190SL to move out.

    Like 3
  7. Frank Barrett Member

    Sorry, I forgot to say that this one has a totally wrong carburetor (SU?); should be twin two-barrel Solexes. Webers can be used, too.

    Like 1
  8. robbert

    The car you drove whilst wishing you had the 300SL

    Like 2
  9. justpaul

    I’m sorry, but no. Simply no.

    A 280SL in that condition isn’t worth $46K. Or even $26K.

    This is a money pit which has a bottom, but you won’t have a house, or a spouse, by the time you get to it.

    Like 2
  10. Fubard

    The reason they are coming out of the woodwork now is until a few years ago even minimal restoration on one left the owner upside down fast. Maybe the most overpriced collector car on the market now.

    Like 0
  11. Chris Eakin

    Maybe a restification rather than a restoration? Squeeze in an MB straight six with a turbo and an overdrive transmission, all that fun stuff.

    Like 0
  12. Glemon

    It’s stylish, I am sure it was well engineered and put together with quality materials, but at some point in the past I must have taken a long nap and when I woke up these old 190SLs were bringing a lot of money. I agree with those who think these are a bit overvalued. There was a scruffy black one down the street from me growing up, seemed to be an occasional runner.

    Seller is in no hurry to sell, assume not many would be in a hurry to buy at this price, so I guess that works out for everybody.

    Like 0

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