1959 Mercedes-Benz 190SL - $169,900
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If you seek a 190SL that is right in every way that matters, your search will begin and end with this car.

True greatness always comes from within.

While the world is filled with mediocre cars that have achieved greatness merely by being popular, the Mercedes-Benz SL is not one of them. Bred at the race track and engineered to the highest standards in the world, few cars have ever been able to compete with the SL in terms of elegance, performance, and technical sophistication. It would be a critical mistake to dismiss the 190SL as simply being desirable by virtue of its association with the mighty 300SL, because that completely overlooks the 190’s core values: reliability, economy, and beauty. Packing all the virtues of the bigger car into a more manageable and affordable package was not a move downmarket but rather a brilliant ploy by Mercedes-Benz to grab market-share from established brands. In essence, the 190SL was built to wage war on the status-quo and it’s a brilliant weapon for such a task.

Like all Mercedes-Benz automobiles, pedigrees are important and this fantastically beautiful 1959 190SL has arguably the most detailed history we’ve ever seen. It has just three documented owners from new, each of whom has owned the car for more than a decade. It is 100% matching-numbers (since such things now matter in the Mercedes-Benz world). It is perhaps the most heavily-documented car of any kind we have ever seen. And thanks to conscientious maintenance and expert restoration work, it remains in absolutely stunning overall condition. If you seek a 190SL that is right in every way that matters, your search will begin and end with this car. With these cars, you’re a fool if you shop price exclusively. Quality is all that matters, both when it was new and particularly in today’s collector car marketplace.

How good is this car? It was sold new in August of 1959 by Mercedes-Benz of Manhattan to a company, H. Katz, Inc., for use by Peter Thauer, an executive with the company. Mr. Thauer loved the car so much that in June 1968, he purchased the car from the company to keep in his own collection (as such, we regard the Katz/Thauer ownership as a single owner). He kept the car until October 1974, when it was purchased by Thomas Reetz of Dunwoody, Georgia, for the princely sum of $1500. Mr. Reetz kept the car and performed a select bit of restoration and maintenance to keep it in good order until it was sold to the third and most recent owner, who purchased it in March of 2000 with just 53,985 miles on the odometer. Today it shows 54,230 miles, a number that is authenticated by the extensive service records that accompany this car. Those records include many of the maintenance receipts from all three owners, showing a long-term interest in the car’s overall health and suggesting that it was never used as daily transportation.

Some of that maintenance included a repaint and black vinyl interior in the late 1970s, but by 2011, it was overdue for a freshening. It was delivered to expert Robert Brannon in Lula, Georgia in spring of 2011 for a bare-metal repaint. At that time, they discovered repairs to the floors, trunk, and rear fenders, so the work was removed and re-done to a high standard, rendering the repairs all but invisible today. The paint matches the original code 608 Elfenbein, better known as Ivory, and remains in near-show-quality condition today. It shows minimal signs of use and expert care, with a deep shine and a depth that perhaps the original 1959 paint couldn’t have matched. It’s just lovely. Obviously the fit and finish of the bodywork is up to Mercedes-Benz standards, with doors that close with a permanence and authority that few other cars, let alone small cars, can match. Likewise, almost all the chrome and trim was restored during the third owner’s tenure (since 2000) and remains in first-rate condition today. This is a very correct, well-maintained, and beautifully restored car.

The interior was refinished as soon as the bodywork was complete in fall of 2013 by the noted 190SL experts at Bud’s Benz in Douglasville, GA. It matches the original code 1073 Grun (dark green) leather specified on the data plate and cardex and is as beautifully done as you’d expect. You will note that this car sports a rare “kinderseat” on the package shelf, probably good for—as the name would imply—a child to ride for short period. That, too, was restored to new condition. Correct door panels with fresh brightwork, new carpets with the proper weave and bindings, and a new dash pad were installed. Everything inside the car is fully operational, including all the gauges, wipers, lights, Becker Europa AM/FM/shortwave radio, and even the delicate Keinzel clock in the glove box lid (which was rebuilt in spring 2017). Most of the chrome levers and handles were recently restored by SpaceCoast Plating in Melbourne, Florida, so it’s bright and crisp. Bud’s Benz also installed a new green canvas convertible top at that time, along with new weather seals throughout, and there’s a matching green boot for the top in the lowered position. In spring of 2016, the accessory removable hardtop was fully restored in period-correct code DB268 Blaugrun (Blue-Green) and the hubcap inserts were painted to match, offering a wonderful contrast to the Ivory paint and a close match to the leather interior. The trunk is correctly finished with rubber mats, correct jack and tools, as well as an original 13-inch wheel with what might just be the original spare tire on it.

On paper, the 1.9 liter SOHC four-cylinder engine may seem modest, but on the road, it provides a delightful experience with plenty of torque and a willingness to rev that you might not expect. With so few miles, it has never needed to be rebuilt, and indeed has not been removed from the car. Today it runs superbly. Experts will quickly note that it is fitted with Weber carburetors, which were installed and tuned by Bud’s Benz in September 2010. However, a pair of correct and freshly rebuilt Solex carburetors are included with the car should you wish to return it to 100% factory condition. Those Solex carburetors were rebuilt and tuned “on engine” by Todd Prevatte Restorations, so they are ready to use. We have chosen to leave it as-is simply because it starts, runs, and drives beautifully—why mess with a good thing? It can sometimes take a few extra moments to start after sitting for a while (a by-product of today’s fuels) but under most circumstances, it sparks to life without any drama and idles nicely. On the open road, it pulls with enthusiasm and remains a delight to drive under any circumstances—in traffic, on the highway, or rolling through gentle country roads where it seems happiest. The engine bay is properly detailed with correct finishes, materials, hardware, and decals throughout, some of it original, some being accurate reproduction equipment. Every effort was made to find correct components whenever the car was serviced, and even experts will be hard-pressed to find demerits.

The 4-speed manual transmission is pleasant enough to shift, the ratios are well-chosen to match the engine’s power curve, and it runs happily at any speed that’s legal today. The subframes and body have never been separated and the undercarriage is largely original, so it is not detailed for concours showing. On the other hand, it remains in outstanding mechanical condition throughout and there is something particularly special about a car that has not been fully disassembled. The aforementioned floor and trunk repairs are visible and they were certainly well done, and the critical structural components are in excellent condition with no issues to be found. The brakes have been recently serviced by local expert Klaus Kutzler and there are new bushings in many locations so it feels tight and smooth. A new muffler has been fitted so it has the correct sound and the gas tank has been restored and sealed so you will have no problems with rust or debris in the future. It currently sits on 14-inch steel wheels borrowed from a 230SL, a common upgrade, but the original 13-inch steel wheels and factory hubcaps are included with the sale of the car. Recent 185/70/14 Michelin radials improve handling and look suitably tall and narrow inside the SL’s wheelwells.

As I mentioned, this might just be the most heavily documented car we have ever featured. Not only do we have a detailed ownership history from Day One, we have extensive files filled with receipts, photographs, and invoices for all service work that has been performed. In addition, the current owner has compiled and indexed meticulous records for service, indicating when each service was performed and by whom, and even what evidence supports it. A thick binder full of receipts and information is brilliantly categorized and photocopies of original manual pages and documents are included as needed. Of course, the original manuals are included as well, such as the original owner’s manual and a properly stamped service booklet showing that Mercedes-Benz in New York City handled all the early work. The car also includes a complete reproduction service manual and parts list and, perhaps most importantly, a COMPLETE TOOL ROLL.

By itself, this 190SL would be a wonderful car. It looks spectacular and drives as it should. Add in the low mileage, the known ownership history, the absolutely phenomenal documentation, rare spare parts, and you have one of the finest possible SLs available anywhere. It is only for the moment that this car appears expensive, and by owning the best, you are always assured of staying on top of the appreciation curve. There are surely less expensive 190SLs out there that you could own, but there are none finer. If quality matters to you and you appreciate an iron-clad pedigree, this is a car that can easily be considered a smart investment. Call today!

Vehicle: 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190SL
Price: $169,900
Stock Number: 114109
Mileage: 54,230
VIN: 121042109501828
Engine: 1.9 liter inline-4
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 3.90
Wheelbase: 2400 mm
Wheels: 14-inch steel wheels with hubcaps
Tires: 185/70/14 Michelin radial
Exterior Color: Ivory
Interior Color: Green leather
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