Vintage Kodachrome: Upgrading From a VW to a Mercedes, and More

As is often the case, the import bug bit the poster’s father, and the two successive 1950s Beetles soon gave way to this handsome 1961 Mercedes 190 sedan, perhaps the last year they were sold here before being replaced by the “fintail”. This is the poster’s older brother, looking a bit less than thrilled at having to pose with the shiny new Benz.

The 190 was a common entry point for the first-time Mercedes buyer. It was priced at $3441, about the price of two VWs and is about $30,000 adjusted. The diesel version cost almost 10% more. A lower-trim and lower-power 180 was also available, for $200 less.

With its 90 hp 1.9 L gas four, it wasn’t exactly a road-burner, but it was considered a fairly lively car, and it conveyed an aura of solidity and quality. As well as exclusivity, unlike today.

Perhaps he got the Mercedes bug when they visited an acquaintance who had a 300S Coupe, one of the most expensive and desirable cars in the US in the ’50s.

The fact that they were already a bit “retro” at the time only seemed to enhance their exclusive reputation. It made quite the contrast to a finny ’59 Cadillac.

They were priced at some $13k ($120k adjusted), which was in Rolls-Royce territory. Given the high marginal tax rates (92%) in the fifties, one had to be pretty flush to afford something like this.

Another friend had a new Porsche 356, in a stunning shade of red that works so well with the colors of the Southwest.

I never get tired of gazing at these. And pretty much my favorite vintage (356 A), the last version with the original gracefully-curved front headlights and fenders.

I’d like to hop in that right about now, right where it is.

The photographer obviously got the sports car bug too, and here’s a couple of shots of a Morgan in a sports car race right through the heart of Jerome, AZ. We were there just two winters ago, and in the past too; a wonderful old mining town situated on a high mesa, and the road up is a great drive. Perfect place for a hill climb, which this undoubtedly is.

A TR-3 with whitewalls is next. Whitewalls on sports cars were still semi-ok in the 50s, but not at all cool within a couple of years.

The photographer worked for the NPS, and was stationed at one of the entry gates at Zion when a sports car rally or such came barreling through, headed up by this magnificent 300SL roadster.

The 300SL’s little brother, the 190SL was close behind.

Followed by an Alfa.

And a Porsche Speedster. In the distance is a ’59 Olds, most likely not part of this group.

And there’s even another 190 sedan in the group. So we’ll end with what we started with.

And that’s it for this set. One more left to go…