Why spend $132,709 for this car? One reason: Mercedes-Benz provides service and parts to keep it running

Mercedes-Benz managed, starting in May 1955, to produce a sports car that cost less than half the price of the very desirable — but hardly accessible — 300SL. The 190SL was a strong and sturdy car, and it was for a clientele more interested in a stylish machine than one of performance.

It was very well built, as has always been with Mercedes, so this car could be used on a daily basis, and a number of 190SLs have covered very impressive mileages. The car was offered in three versions: a roadster, which was a convertible with a finish that was rather crude; a coupe with more luxury and an optional removable hard top; and the Tourensports-wagen, which was intended as a more serious sportster that was lighter and equipped with windowless doors and a flyscreen instead of the windshield.

The car on offer is impressive, as its restoration has been very well executed. Looking at the 190SL, we immediately understand the quality of work done in terms of bodywork, mechanicals and interior. The owner bought this car with no backlog of bills, just got behind the wheel, and started using it with the understanding that this car is beautiful in every way. Nothing was left to chance — the car’s red leather upholstery is like new, and the carpets and the hood are of the same color. The paint is of a high quality, and the color combination is very elegant.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1961 Mercedes-Benz 190SL Roadster
Number Produced:25,881
Original List Price:$4,145 (1955)
Tune Up Cost:$400
Chassis Number Location:Passenger side of firewall
Engine Number Location:Left rear of block
Club Info:190SL Group, Mercedes-Benz Club of America

This car, Lot 122, sold for $132,709, including buyer’s premium, at Artcurial’s Le Mans auction on July 7, 2012.

The example presented looks worthy of consideration for any buyer with the same profile as the original intended customer — a person looking for a sturdy, well-constructed and pretty two-seater with readily available parts and service.

Mercedes-Benz built and sold about 25,000 examples of this car, so it is certainly not rare.

What, then, is the rationale for spending $132,709 for one? Then, as now, the company that built it makes available service and parts to keep it running, and hindsight informs us that the series has been durable over the past 50 years.

That reassurance, plus its undeniable beauty, has perhaps kept the values of 190SLs abreast of less-wellmade, albeit sportier, two-seater roadsters.

Other compelling 190SL virtues include luxurious features, such as door-operated courtesy lights, roll-up windows, leather seating adjustable for rake, a quickfolding and tight-fitting convertible top, a weather-tight and lockable trunk, aluminum deck lids and doors with cast aluminum frames, independent front and rear suspension, and Alfin brake drums with power assist.

The next big thing?

The subject example sold at a price well above the auction company estimate of $86,000 to $110,000. This suggests that there may have been an uptick in desirability for the series, or that this one had some unseen special appeal.

Maybe the market thinks that this is the “next big thing.” If that is so, this trend is just starting, as a quick run through the SCM Platinum Database shows no big spike in 190SL prices at auction. Cars sold during the past three or so years range from the mid-$50k range to the low $70k range.

Perhaps this car appealed to two or more buyers at this auction, and a bidding war drove the price far beyond what was expected. This is the dream for those who consign their cars to auction, and all it takes is two bidders and a little red mist.

In any case, I would argue that, of the 25,000 cars made, there are great ones out there to compete with this car in the $130k bracket. A few marque specialists have produced fastidiously-well restored examples in recent years.

A beautiful car with some shortcomings

The car appears to have had a quality rebuild, but it is let down by several glaring shortcomings in authenticity.

As post-war production sports cars become more and more expensive, correctness and provenance become more and more important. First noted is the lack of body-matching paint on the hubcaps.

Then one sees the off-brand clock in place of the German VDO , the use of red carpet on the front floors instead of rubber mats, the choice of a non-period red top fabric, the change of color from the original 158 white-gray to the present silver, and the listing, and perhaps titling, of the car as a 1961, when it was made in February, 1958.

No mention was made of a matching removable hardtop, or fitted luggage, which are common period options which would increase value.

The convenience of finding a good 190SL at auction may outrank the hard work involved in finding a great one in the marketplace. I’d value that convenience factor at $20,000 and declare the car well sold. ?

(Introductory description courtesy of Artcurial.)

Comments are closed.