1959 Mercedes-Benz among eclectic collection in League City shop
Paul Dunphey has got stuff. His shop just off FM 518 in League City is stuffed with stuff — knickknacks, bric-a-brac, examples of Texana kitsch.
There’s a barber’s chair draped with a free-fall parachute, a stuffed alligator, an antique cash register and hats — lots and lots of hats.
Among this assortment of somewhat windblown oddities is some really cool stuff. A whole pride of Jaguars slumbers in bays and on hydraulic lifts, along with two VW Things, one dressed for work, maybe at a Jamaican resort, and one outfitted for safari.
And on a lift tucked in a back corner, a 1941 Bentley minds its own business as well as a Bentley ever can, its great winged “B” hood ornament gleaming royally in the fluorescent light.
“I’m a collector of stuff,” Dunphey said recently. “I’m not a collector of fine antiques.
“When I was younger, I’d buy anything that was rusty and $2,500 or less.”
One of the most recent additions to Dunphey’s collection of stuff is neither rusty nor going to sell for less than $2,500 anytime soon.
It’s a 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190SL.
The 190s began rolling off assembly lines in Stuttgart in 1955 and the model continued to 1963. They were marketed in the United States as a sort of workingman’s version of the incredible 300SL, a gull-winged supercar selling for as much as $2 million today.
“It was not as powerful and not as sophisticated,” Dunphey said. “But it was sexy, fun to drive and affordable.”
The 190s were powered by an inline four-cylinder engine fed through a pair of carburetors, for example, while under a 300’s long, elegant hood was a directly fuel-injected six-cylinder generating more than 200 horsepower and a top end of about 160 mph in some models.
Dunphey’s 190 immigrated at a time when the domestic sports car market was ruled by Corvettes and it offered the enthusiast good power and handling along with European styling. It’s all clean lines and elegant, well-turned details.
Dunphey has modest plans for the Benz. He wants to upgrade the electrical system and the fuel system to get rid of those cantankerous twin carbs and plans to restore some interior areas and parts of the convertible top.
A complete restoration would be worth the effort, he said.
“Anything you put into one of these you’ll get back and then some,” he said.
“Once, you could get them in fine condition for $50,000 or $60,000. People have gone crazy for them, though; now they go for $200,000 to $300,000.”
A complete restoration would take a lot of focus, and Dunphey, who this year chairs the committee organizing Kemah’s annual boat and car show, Keels and Wheels, has a lot of stuff demanding his attention. Aside from the shop collection, he keeps five classic cars at home to drive more or less regularly.
Just keeping all the batteries charged and tires inflated is a job.
“The death of a car is sitting still,” he said. “I believe in driving them. I’m not a collector of 100-pointers. I like to drive them and mess with them. If you get a scratch, you get a scratch.”