The photos in the ad for today’s Nice Price or No Dice Mercedes 190 show a Maserati Merak and a Ford Model A in the background. That might just be considered showing off, but we’ll still need to consider what the Benz has to show for itself.
It was pretty clear in both the comments and in the 78 percent No Dice vote on yesterday’s $38,500 1987 Land Rover 110 Hi-Cap pickup that many of you express an incredulity of a market in which such a thing could exist. As dubious and distasteful as the Land Rover’s price — and the overall used car market in general — it seems to be our present reality.
Since we don’t kitten to that all that much, today we’re going to look at a car that appears to be the result of one particular individual’s attempt to create their own automotive reality.
According to its ad, this 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 is a custom car. That’s something plainly obvious from even a quick gander at the exterior. The whole Benz has been painted in what looks to be gray primer. Accentuating that is some flat black sections surrounding the side glass and covering the rockers. Is this the car’s intended final form? Probably not, but even as a seventh-inning stretch, it’s a unique look nonetheless.
More mods come out to play at night. The headlights have been given custom Mercedes Stars and additional lighting illuminates the Mercedes mascot above the grille. For a sleeker appearance, the bumpers, front and rear, have been given the heave-ho, and the car rolls on aftermarket alloys that look to be about a generation out of step with the rest of the car’s looks.
Inside, there’s lots of added wood and some digital screens. Everything else seems to be vintage W121 and to be in reasonably good shape. The seller claims that the car is a runner and that it has an “aftermarket fuel injection set up for reliability” plus a “Freeway Flyer” transmission. I’ve never heard of a Freeway Flyer gearbox for anything other than air-cooled Volkswagens, so that’s a new one for me.
Now, Mercedes first introduced the W120/121 saloon way back in 1953. It would become Mercedes’ second post-war saloon design and the company’s first unit-body car. The model brought Mercedes into a more mainstream market than did the company’s other immediate post-war effort, the W186 Adenaur flagship. As a result, it was built in comparatively large numbers, with almost half a million produced between its 1953 introduction and its replacement in 1962 by the W110 “Fintail.”
Notably, this model also served as the basis for the 190SL roadster, which shared suspension bits with it, including the swing axle rear end. Consumers nicknamed the W120 the “Ponton” (German for pontoon) based on its boxy, all-in-one styling. That ‘50s look deviated from the separate hood and fenders look that had been carried over on Mercedes’ 170 cars from before the war. The same sort of reaction happened in the U.S. to the “Shoebox Chevy” of 1955.
The mods ensure that this one stands out from all the rest of the W121s on the road. That’s actually not all that hard since you don’t really see many 190s on the road at all. Perhaps that’s owed to the car’s advanced age or maybe to its somewhat staid performance. The 110 horsepower (gross) 1.9-liter SOHC four under the hood can’t muster much more than a tepid pace. A four-speed manual with synchros on all four gears does help though. In place of the expected column shift for that gearbox, this one has a floor-mounted lever, sitting in a console of indeterminate origin. The steering wheel is also non-original and looks almost like it came out of an old Mustang.
Per the seller, the car has a clean title, has done 119,634 miles while on the job, and is being sold due to health issues. Considering the apparent condition of the Maserati and Model A seen in the background of the ad’s pictures, this is probably the car on the chopping block because it’s the one that requires the most work.
That chopping block has a $4,000 price tag on it. We should stop for a moment to agree that you are unlikely to find a car like this anywhere else, or at any price whatsoever for that matter. That makes it notably unique, but does it make it desirable? More importantly, does it seem worth dropping $4K on?
What do you think? Is this custom 190 a deal at that $4,000 asking? Or, does that price sink this “Ponton?”
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