JellyBean HotRods Mercedes Benz 190SL

Some great HotRods have been works of great inspiration and some evolve over years, but this V8 Mercedes came about with equal parts hard luck and hard work.


Arriving at JellyBean HotRods, this 1958 Mercedes Benz 190SL had a 289 stuffed in and evidence of much abuse. The mill was too tall and needed some creative thinking to come up with an air cleaner that would fit. Shoehorning a Ford 289 in a sports car was all the rage back in the day, but the ready availability of the Corvette LT-1 with EFI seemed a perfect modern fit. Swapping mills only worked as a band aid solution and the owner wanted something of higher quality and safety.

Along with the usual  tune ups and oil changes this car had been regularly welded and re-welded since the owner acquired it 12 years ago. The rear end used welded joints instead of flexible joints so the constant repairs were inevitable. With the new mill along came a whole new suspension and strengthening of the heavily modified and compromised unit body frame set up.


The front suspension was stock and disintegrating.  Multiple welds, cracks and re-welds peppered the front cross member and a new unit had to be fabricated around a new Mustang II style front suspension. A power rack and pinion MacGyver’s dual control arm front suspension on air, cleaned up the front end. Hot Rod Mercedes parts for 1959 190SL’s are not “off the rack” kind of pieces so some creative thinking and fabricating came into play. A custom built Triangulated 4-link rear suspension with a 373 8.8 locker differential finished off the rear end, now the massive void in between had to be addressed.


This unibody car had been cut to make room for the 289 and tranny and much of the original strength of the car had disappeared with the hacked away pieces. New custom made floor pans, subframe connectors, new transmission and driveshaft tunnel were installed and provide the right support for the 700R transmission and the LT-1’s 300 Horsepower. Originally powered by a single overhead cam 1.9 litre (115.8 cu in.) four, putting out 120 horsepower.(over one horsepower per cubic inch was rare in the 50’s.)

Now riding on air, with 4 wheel disc brakes and a Wilwood 7-1 ratio pedal and master cylinder and breathing through a dual 2 ½ “ Stainless steel exhaust system, the car has been transformed into a true sleeper. The 20 year old paint and stock upholstery still looked good, and the owner was very happy.

All good things come to an end. JellyBean HotRods entered the car into the 2005 Seattle Roadster Show and it won the runner-up trophy. This enticed the owner to take the car to the next level…or the next 3 levels. A complete rewire was done and new Dolphin gauges added, but the original steering wheel and many original control knobs were refurbished and used. Air Conditioning, GPS and a hand built console with a Lokar shifter add to the modern interpretation of the Mercedes original upholstery, complete with fully carpeted and upholstered trunk with lights to highlight the trunk mounted amplifier. An 800 watt stereo with DVD installed by Steph at West Side Custom Audio and a custom built speaker box with lights to highlight the speakers behind the seats.

This was all the easy stuff compared to doing the body work. To get a show quality paint finish the car was stripped to bare metal and the years had not been kind to this little Merc. Many collision repairs had been done by someone very skilled at the art of fillers. The whole grill surround had been perforated with holes to allow for a dent puller to work it’s magic and the metal was like a cheese grater. Many areas were comprised of soft metal and Jelly Bean Hot Rods purchased a metal spraying machine to help with the repairs.

Metal spraying has been used in Heavy Industry for years and is the technique of applying molten metal to a metal surface and then the new metal is ground down to factory specs. For automotive body repairs, metal spraying is used to apply “new” metal onto thin or corroded panels. The damaged area is properly prepared by grinding and/or Media blasting. Where large perforations are present a backing material is used to stop the metal from being sprayed right through the opening. The excess is ground down to stock dimensions. This allowed for the Mercedes to have arrow straight body panels like the car had as new, with superior strength to what the car had succumbed to.

To compliment the car’s new perfect lines, a paint with no pigment only tiny metallic flakes was applied. This unique “colour” really highlights the straight body and tight clean panel gaps. Riding on new 17” chrome rims with radials, the proud owner won the 1st place trophy at the BC Classic and Custom car show in 2007. This car is no trailer queen and one of the first repairs had to be done when a chop saw picked up at Home depot did not quite fit in the trunk and the upholstery was slightly damaged.

Although purists may not liking the new version of this classic Mercedes, Jelly Bean Hot Rods believes anyone can restore one, it takes a real man to cut one up. With 300 horsepower and weighing 2700 lbs. this car is sure to please it’s owner for many years to come…without constant welding.