Parked In The ’80s: 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL

Mercedes-Benz 190 SL two-seaters turn up fairly often here on Barn Finds. And as you would expect, most are true barn finds and look the part. This 1959 version is no different, it has been sitting since the ’80s and it’s rough around the edges. This example is located in Baraboo, Wisconsin and is available here on craigslist for $45,500. Let’s check it out and thank Ikey H. for this find.

My experience with 190 SLs is pretty limited. I had a friend in high school who had a ’59, similar to this example, and he managed to wreck it senior week by plowing into the side of a hill at high speed. This was long ago, and the car was rough to start with, and rougher still after its forced stop. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. My ex-brother-in-law had a ’63 that sorta ran but it always had some kind of foible occurring, and since he wasn’t much of a wrench, he let it go after years of boogering on it. This too was many years ago and back then, 190s were just interesting old cars that traded nowhere near the values that they attain today. While not exactly rare – there were about 25K produced between 1955 and 1963 (2,700 on average per year), they’re not exactly common-place either.

The seller states that this Mercedes was “redone” years ago; it looks like it will need a redo again and he admits as much suggesting that a full restoration is in order. The body panels are straight but rust abounds, surface in nature and rust-through as well. Also, note what appears to be very thick and cracked Bondo on the front passenger fender. There is evidence of more in other places so a restoration, or a redo, is going to involve a whole lot of undo first. Ditto the chrome, it will need to be stripped and re-chromed. The removable hardtop, which is a nice inclusion, appears to be in good nick and there is a folding top frame included too but it is minus its canvas.

The interior is in fair shape but it’s moldy – evidence of poor storage. Nevertheless, the tan seat upholstery probably needs nothing more than a thorough cleaning. The instrument panel is interesting in that it is finished in a hue of dark red that does not match the exterior, perhaps something related to the seller’s claim of an earlier restoration. From what can be seen of the instrument panel, it appears to be intact with the exception of one, unoccupied opening in the glove box door, probably the clock’s location. The carpet is all in place but pulling it back to get a look at the floors would be a worthwhile effort. The seller mentions that the hardtop’s original headliner is in good shape; there is an accompanying image to support this claim.

The moldy condition continues under the hood. The 104 HP, 2.0 liter, four-cylinder engine appears to have not turned a revolution in many moons. Minus the battery, it looks to be all there but the new owner should count on having to perform, at the least, a restoration of the fuel system i.e. pump, tank, lines, and carburetors. It would be good to know if the engine will turn over but mum’s the word on that front. A four-speed manual transmission gets the power to the rear wheels.

The observable corrosion, and the noted mold, are cause for concern from a rust perspective. Specifically, the reinforced portions of the unibody should be checked closely for rot. While a bit ratty, this 190 SL is in much better condition than several that I have reviewed in the past, some that looked like they were beyond redemption, hardly the case here. A quick look around reveals asking prices from $75K (very nice condition) to $225K for a high zoot suit, Concours condition car. Considering this car’s originality, and the asking price, a full restoration on this example may make reasonable sense. Of course, I’ve been known to be wrong, way wrong, on restoration costs. What do you think, would this ’59 190 SL make for a project worth undertaking?

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Comments

  1. GuernseyPagoda Member

    These have really been climbing in value. Totally wrong headlight assemblies, as they are from a 67-71 280sl. Good luck with the sale.

    • matt grant

      given that the fed chair stated clearly 3 mos ago that the US is heading into a depression (despite the recent GDP results), this car market it poised for a huge correction. remember 1989/90? when mercedes made thousand of 230/250/280SLs that are going for stupid prices and they are not rare is stupifying to me. and I watch ebay, they are not selling. to me it’s fun to look at from afar but I am waiting. if am right, i win, if I am not, oh well. have owned 50 cars during my life, I can keep my forester turbo and be happy.

      Like 3
    • Kram

      I have one with the same headlight set up from the factory it is right hand drive and the lights are the same as a 300sl Europe style.
      I have seen others like that too so it must have been available ?
      I have seen it described as a mexico version ? and some were produced with 6 cylinder engines. What is a 6 cylinder 190 called?

      Like 1
  2. Little_Cars

    Didn’t know 67-71 280 pagoda headlights would be a bolt on fit to a 190SL. Kinda neat! I can just smell that interior from here!

    Like 2
    • Hoos Member

      I’m sure it took a lot of bondo to make those things fit. They don’t just bolt up.

      Like 3
  3. Captain RD

    I love the simplicity of the 190’s — but if you really want one — buy the best you can afford is an old maxim and this is way too expensive as is.
    Worth reading from an expert:
    https://www.collierautomedia.com/hagerty-insider-volume-2

    Like 7
  4. HARM R SMIT

    Nice but lives under the shadow of the 300SL.

    Like 1
  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    Posting pulled. Wouldn’t touch this one even with two 0s removed.

    Like 4
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Next stop: Gullwing Motors.
      This is right up Peter’s alley.

      Like 3
  6. Derick

    Was thinking best to pay Seller to keep it.

  7. Stan Marks

    $$$$$$ pit……

  8. Bill McCoskey

    My restoration shop worked on many of these over the years, and I can predict this car will require ALL body panels from the belt line on down, to be replaced or repaired. When a 190sl has that amount of rust showing on the driver’s side [the passenger side is almost always worse do to the right side tires hitting pools of standing water during most drives], it’s almost a given that all the unit body frame sections are swiss cheese.

    40-50 years ago I turned down far better examples for under $5k. I had a couple of nice rust free examples I sold for under $10k each. Shoulda kept ’em!

    Like 3
    • Stan Marks

      Bill, as I mentioned, before. Nothing but a money pit.

  9. Kram

    The headlights could be correct as I have one with 300sl lights although the eurostyle . The front grill, bumper and lights all same as 300.
    It is right hand drive and I have seen others the same and I think Mercedes made some with 6 cylinder engines for competition in road rallies.
    When I was young 50 years ago they were called the mexico versions although I doubt that they sold exclusively in Mexico.

    Like 1
  10. Lowell Peterson

    $100k plus on the resto full rotisserie needed. Parts are available .Its worth doin’ if you want to. No fear project but not for first timer! GO FOR IT!

    Like 1
  11. dr fine

    I had a friend, who with his father, pulled a ’59 out of a junkyard in 1968 and had it completely restored. It was immaculate, and he enjoyed driving it for a few months, then traded it for a new ’68 Olds Delta 88. It was too late to say anything, but I knew in four years the Olds would be near worthless, while the 190 SL would just continue to go up in value. Hell, I would have bought him the Olds!

    Like 1

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