High-End Barn Find: 1935 Mercedes-Benz 290 Cabriolet A

This 1935 Mercedes-Benz 290 Cabriolet A is an elegant looking car that has led quite a life. It is original and unmolested, but returning it to its former glory will be a significant undertaking. However, the result of all of that hard work should be a classic of jaw-dropping beauty. It is located in Astoria, New York, and has been listed for sale here at Gullwing Motor Cars. The styling might be jaw-dropping, but so is the price. This is a restoration that you could tackle by handing the owner $449,500.

The life of this Mercedes has been one of adventure and long roads traveled. It was originally built for a French winemaker and was finished in Dark Red. This seems like an appropriate color given that the winemaker in question was located in Burgundy, France. In 1957 it was purchased by an American in France for the princely sum of $200. He then drove it around Paris for a while, then through Switzerland, and on to Frankfurt. It was shipped to New York, and the owner drove the 290 from there to Baltimore, Maryland. It was eventually removed from active service, and it appears that someone might have been planning on undertaking a restoration. The body is currently tied to the chassis, which suggests that it was in the process of being removed when the restoration stalled. Although it will need to be dismantled to the last nut and bolt if it is to be returned to its former glory, the vehicle does appear to be largely complete. Thankfully, rust doesn’t appear to be a significant problem. There is plenty of surface corrosion, but penetrating rust is minimal. The panels appear to be straight, and while the convertible top is nothing but tatters, the frame looks to be okay. The glass is in good order, but there are a few missing trim pieces that could potentially cause some sleepless nights. Chief among these is the front bumper. It isn’t attached to the vehicle, and I can see no signs of it inside. Given the relative rarity of these vehicles, finding replacement exterior trim could be a difficult task.

Given how neglected the exterior of the Cabriolet looks, the interior is a pleasant surprise. This was sold as a luxury sports car, so it is natural that the interior is upholstered in leather. This is showing its age, and a retrim will be needed as part of the restoration. However, the dash, gauges, and wheel all look like they could be restored successfully. You aren’t going to be able to go online and buy an interior trim kit, so it will require the skills of an accomplished upholsterer to whip the interior into shape. However, there aren’t many pieces to be made, so restoring this area of the vehicle could prove to be surprisingly affordable.

Under the elegantly long hood of the 290, we find a 6-cylinder flathead engine. Given the model’s numeric designation, it should be no surprise to learn that the engine’s capacity is 2,867cc. When in good health, this motor should be capable of producing 68hp. The power finds its way to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. If any part of this restoration has the potential to be a sticking point, we have probably arrived at it. The engine’s condition is completely unknown. No information is provided on when the engine last ran or if it turns freely. Potential buyers will need to research the availability of parts for these engines, and I have to say that I would be doing that before I considered handing over the money for this car.

This is my opportunity to play Devil’s Advocate with a classic car. This is not a cheap project, and it does require a full restoration. However, if you step back and take a careful look at it, there are some things to consider. Restoring the panels and chassis on this car would be no more complicated than restoring the same components on any car from this period in automotive history. The story could potentially be the same with the interior. Undertaking a restoration is a task that would present no real challenges for a competent upholsterer. The engine is likely to be the one area that could produce dramas, and that is why I would be doing some homework on this first. If the parts are available, then what we are talking about is a rebuild on a 6-cylinder flathead engine. When you put all that together, the restoration of this 1935 Mercedes-Benz 290 Cabriolet A doesn’t look that complicated. Now, are you ready to take it on?

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Comments

  1. Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

    The guy who owns Gull Wing Motors knows his cars, that’s for sure, and he knows the pricing too. I’ve never seen any of his restoration candidates offered for light money. I’m assuming that the instance vehicle is going to cost at least double the asking price for a complete restoration. That would suggest to me that the ultimate value would be north of $1.5M at auction. One needs some serious cash to entertain this baby.

    Like 15
    • David Frank David Frank Member

      Perhaps Peter could make you a package deal on the car and restoration. If restoration was actually viable financially, he would restore it himself.

      Like 6
    • Jt

      Thank you Jules. I was quite sure that this car was auctioned recently.

      Like 1
    • stillrunners stillrunners Member

      Thanks for the linc Jules…..hope it makes it to Pebble Beach !

      Like 2
  2. Pebblebeachjudge

    It’s an interesting car to see it so unrestored, but FFS it’s a 290! A proper restoration will cost 300’000 to 450’000. Same cost to restore a gullwing. And restored the car is worth no more than the cost of the restoration. Underpowered, basic prewar engineering, years of painful work. Better go for a 8c supercharged car for the same all in cost!

    Like 14
    • CJinSD

      It’s a pretty car, and I can’t require seeing another. But you are right. This wasn’t an Alfa-Romeo 8C 2900 competitor. It was a spiritual precursor of cars like the 190SL and the 1997 SLK.

      Like 1
  3. Rodney - GSM

    You had me at, “The body is currently tied to the chassis…”. Would that be the original German, period correct rope or aftermarket rope?
    Details, details, details…
    (Fantastic car)

    Like 10
  4. Charlie Mullendore

    Sold just a few weeks ago for $362,500. https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/25838/lot/355/

    Like 12
    • UK Paul 🇬🇧

      Looks like a buyer will have some room for negotiation then perhaps. Was that inc fees?

      • John

        Yes.

        Like 1
      • Jt

        UK Paul…Yes, fee inclusive

  5. C.Jay

    In 2016 a 1937 Mercedes Model 540 sold for $9.9 million.
    What’s the difference between the two other than $9.4 million in price?

    Like 1
    • CJinSD

      Roughly the difference between a new SLK 200 and an AMG GT R Roadster.

      Like 5
  6. Blackcat

    Can’t really fault Peter for the asking price. Looks like a 25% markup on a substantial investment, so hopefully (for him) he bought it right. He’s had an Jaguar XK150 FHC, automatic of all things and needing full restoration, for sale at $29k for seemingly forever. He must have bought that wrong which is unfortunate because I’d be interested at about 1/2 his price. And at that price, like with this Benz, after doing all the work one might be just about at the waterline for the effort. Lovely survivor here, though, and I think the chap who will have done best with this Benz is the one who bought it in France for pocket money and drove it round Europe.

    Like 7
  7. Thomas S Gordon

    ohhh ahhh,, may it be a gem for the buyer:: way out of my league *.*

  8. Brian

    I met the owner of this car in Maryland about 7 years ago, he showed me this vehicle tucked away in a rickety old barn….with an expensive security system. He was not open to offers back then, he knew what it was worth. This car is believe or not very solid for a restoration. Wish he was willing to sell it to me back then…….

    Like 3
    • UK Paul 🇬🇧

      What a coincidence
      How much did he want for it back then?
      Be interesting to know if it has appreciated since.

  9. Mike

    Am I the only one, humming the theme from Hogan’s Heroes? Neat car!

    Like 2
  10. ACZ

    Not for the faint of heart. (or wallet)

  11. moosie moosie

    LS swap, automatic overdrive, 9″ Ford rear, disc brakes at the 4 corners, all the modern accoutrements, redo the interior, update the suspension. 10 feet deep black paint job, chrome the spoke wheels, etc, etc, etc.

    Like 5
    • E.L. Puko

      You must be joking.

      Like 3
      • moosie moosie

        I’ll never tell ?

      • G-W

        You are being nice. My initial thought was “what an effing idiot”, but then he could be joking! But maybe not.

        Like 2
      • moosie moosie

        LOL

    • Roland Schoenke

      I was thinking the same thing. But I would rather see this restored. Pull some molds off it then do the LS retro mod on the replica body.

      • Matt c.

        They do make …or at least did, I almost bought one it was called the Marlene and was a copy of the 320. I still have an engine and transmission 230/6 fuel I ever do

        Like 1
    • Doug

      IF one were to do a swap, ( God forbid ! ) a more modern Mercedes drivetrain would be much more appealing than the LS, which is way too big, heavy, and ridiculously overpowered for this car.
      A 250-280SL drivetrain would give more than enough power and reliability for a car of this size/weight. A better option would be to buy a Morgan – still great style, good performance, and you can drive it daily if you want to, at less than 20% of the asking price of this non-running car that will cost megabucks just to turn into a decent driver that you’d be afraid to drive.
      If you are Daddy Warbucks, then by all means bring this car back , and loan it to a good museum, like the Simeone , where it will be started and driven around their grounds often enough to keep it from deteriorating.

    • K. R. V.

      Like putting a supercharged big block in a Mini!

    • piston poney

      do it right and put a 426 hemi and a 4 speed manual in it duh

      Like 1
      • moosie moosie

        lol

        Like 1
  12. Martin Horrocks

    More interesting as is than restored to perfection. As noted above, this probably is not a driver´s delight, but bodywork is attractive.

  13. Joe Haska

    WOW! What an amazing story and a very rare and unique car, it makes you realize, as much as you hate to admitt it, you are not playing in the Big Leaues. The one point you stated about the restoration, that would seem insermountable, what about parts, especially trim parts, you don’t even have. Forget about finding a replacement ,just try to find a picture of it and hope someone can make it, for less than a small fortune. Not a restoration for us,who go to the local Auto Zone for replacement parts.

  14. Pete

    This car needs to go back to Germany to MB’s historical restoration service. When they get done it will be a complete fresh new car. Yeah it will cost a half million to get it done/ Plus the cost of buying it. Ah but when it is done it will most likely bring close to 1.5 million. Where would you get another one. I should start a ground me page for it. LMAO

    Like 2
  15. HARM R SMIT

    Beautiful,historical and highly collectible. I agree MB’s historical restoration the only ones to do the job.

    Like 3
  16. TED WALTHER

    Another fine barn find by Peter Kumar!

  17. Matt C

    If I found this in a barn or old garage or what ever situation that allowed me to acquire it for a low amount of money and in this condition , I would probably make it run and use it as a driver as it is. I have restored a few only to find that once they are perfect or close to it you have to worry about it , store it properly temperature controlled, dust free and all that. I would just drive it and enjoy it , not worrying about dings scratches or mild damage then leave it to my kids to sell or restore or just keep it as is. Yes I could drop in a more modern ( I’m talking 60s or early 70s drivetrain just to keep some authenticity to it and not do anything that couldn’t be restored. What good does it do you if you put a ton of money into it only to have the exact amount of a return? I know I’m probably pi$$ing off a number of purists that would consider it the holy grail. Why not enjoy it as it just running and know its always going to be worth more in the long run?

  18. A.J.

    Interesting comments. I see some knowledgeable posters and some idiots. The asking price for this is pure folly. You can buy a running driving 500k with a lesser body style but 10 times the chassis for this price.

    Like 2
  19. Charles Sawka

    Many years ago, I worked in a restoration shop, specializing in Rolls Royce, Bentley, and other high end vehicles. The one thing that’ll always stick with me is this. You can purchase a Model A for 10k then spend say 1000 hours at 70$ per hr. What can you sell the a Model A for? The labor is gonna be the same so go for it on this MB. It’s worth it.

  20. K. R. V.

    How many Barns has the guy Peter be lurking around?

    Like 1
    • UK Paul 🇬🇧

      I am guessing the barns go to Peter?
      He is the man for Barn finds, especially big ones.
      Him and Wayne Carini.
      What a job.

  21. chrlsful

    sorry to say: this 1 is so nice I’d like to see it hot rodded a lill (wish it wuz a cross flow)…cam, carb, rear end, 5 speed, suspension improved (inc lowered an inch or 2), tires? Keep way more’n just the bones………..

  22. moosie moosie

    Hows this one ?

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