Buyers Guide: 1961-1968 W110 Sedans

Richard Simonds

Mercedes-Benz transitioned from the Ponton models to the Finbacks in the early 1960s using the current engines but in the newer, unibody construction of the finback sedans. Although the Ponton series was designed with safety in mind – with a strong body shell and the first crumple zones – the Finbacks were the first models made by any manufacturer to undergo extensive crash testing before release. It would only be much later that crash testing was mandated as a part of the new car development program by various governments around the world.

The W110 series included the 190c, 190Dc, 200, 200D, and 230 sedans. They have been called the “baby sister” to the W111 series that had more powerful engines, and other amenities than the more economical W110 models. The most obvious features that differentiate the W110 from its W111 siblings are the 7-inch sealed-beam headlights with large round chrome bezels on fenders positioned straight up from the single bumper.

The W111 series had the stacked quad headlamps (or the very smooth European headlight housing) and double bumpers all around. The W110s had a front appearance similar to the earlier Pontons, with the rear looking more like the W111 Finbacks. One trait they all shared, however, was the same basic chassis. That meant that your interior and trunk space were close to the same regardless of whether you had a 190 sedan (W110), or a 300SE sedan (W112).


Mercedes-Benz stylists came late to the game of “fins” on cars, introducing the finbacks in 1961 only after GM had reached its apogee – literally – of tail fins in the 1959-1960 models (think 1959 Cadillac). The Chrysler products’ tailfins peaked – again, literally – in 1959. Thus, some Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts have denigrated the Finbacks as being old-fashioned or just plain ugly. In reality, the smooth, squared-off rear fenders actually provided some aerodynamic benefits and they certainly added to trunk space by avoiding the rounded corners in earlier models. Interestingly, the company actually saw the fins as providing good sight cues for parking assistance.

The 4-cylinder Finbacks were quite plain; anything that did not enhance the functionality of the cars was not included. Many of them, especially in Europe, were used as taxicabs or for other utilitarian applications, so most of them were fairly well used up at the end of their life. The smaller engines – especially the diesel engines – were designed for longevity and economy, not for performance and, as a result, they are quite leisurely in acceleration. Thus, the W110s have not been seen as collectible.

The 230 sedan has a 6-cylinder engine with two carburetors and a bit more performance and was available toward the end of the W110 production cycle (1965-1968). The question for the buyer is: Are you looking for a classic sedan that can give you miles of service, has safety features to protect you and your family, gains attention because of its classic lines, and is still reasonably priced? If so, the W110 might be of interest to you and this buyers guide may be of value.

Reasons to buy

*          A proven chassis with built-in safety features
*          A good starting point for ownership of a classic Mercedes-Benz
*         Spacious seating and trunk space great for families and touring
*          The ride is comfortable (good ergonomics) even with the leisurely performance
*          Visibility was excellent in all the Finbacks
*          Four-cylinder models (gas and diesel) offer good fuel economy

Reasons not to buy

*         They require a very careful inspection before purchasing to be sure that everything is working as it should
*          Check for rust – headlight housings, frame rails, fenders, door sills, floor pans, trunk floor pan, spare tire well, etc. – and no “Bondo” or other fillers that indicate body damage
*          Carburetors on gasoline engines can be a problem if they have not been maintained, have a tendency to warp (causing air leaks), or have damaged components because of use of corrosive modern ethanol-based fuels; however, carburetors can be rebuilt if the core is usable
*          Fuel-injection systems on diesels are durable, but can require a rebuild after 200,000-300,000 miles
*          Trim pieces are not as easy to get as mechanical components, so be sure none is missing  from the model you’re evaluating
*          Column-shift models should have good tight bushings and not a lot of “free play” in the shift linkage


*          Structural rust is a show stopper; any rust can be expensive unless you own a body shop and can do all your own work
*          Buy the best one you can find!  Poor repairs to the body or any of the major systems (engine, fuel, cooling, drivetrain, etc.) can be expensive whether you want a “show car” or a “daily driver”
*          Front suspension requires regular lubrication (even when not used regularly) to prevent the grease from drying into a concrete-like consistency that will break components
*          A low-mileage model that was rarely driven can be worse than a well-maintained, high-mileage car because of corrosion, fuel-system rust, dried out seals that leak oil, etc.
*          A vehicle inspection by a mechanic who knows the cars of the era and preferably who knows the characteristics of the finbacks is seriously recommended;  you need more than a modern car technician to perform a thorough assessment

The nitty-gritty

The 190c (W110) was quite different from the preceding model (W121) with the same model designation: It was longer, wider, and lower, and had the tailfin rear fenders. Its wheelbase at 106.3 inches was two inches longer than the W121s, but two inches shorter than the W111 Finbacks. The 4-cylinder gasoline engine (M121) carried a 10-horsepower increase over its predecessor. An automatic transmission with four speeds was available in August 1962. Starting in August 1963, the W110 had disc brakes in front with a twin-circuit braking system. The manual transmission cars are better suited to the engines, but an automatic transmission was available – mostly for American drivers who didn’t mind the 22 seconds required to accelerate to 62 mph. The 190c was produced from April 1961 through August 1965.

The 190Dc (W110) had a larger capacity OM621 diesel engine compared with the 190Db (W121) diesel, gaining five horsepower, taking it up to 60 horsepower. Other than its diesel engine, the 190Dc was very similar to the 190C. Acceleration was a leisurely 29 seconds – 30 seconds with the automatic transmission – to 62 mph. Fuel efficiency was rated at 26 mpg, compared with 20.4 mpg for the gasoline engine, very good for the time. The 190Dc was produced for just over three years in total, from April/June 1961 until August 1965.

On the W110 200 model, designers moved the turn indicators from on top of the fenders, near the windshield, to the front fenders, below the headlights. The M121 engine was enlarged to 2 liters with a 2mm increase in the cylinder bore, and gained a 5-bearing crankshaft for smoother operation. This led to a 15-horsepower increase to 105 horsepower. A narrow chrome strip was added to the “C” pillar covering vents where cabin air exited. The 200 was produced from July 1965 until February 1968.

The W110 200D kept the same OM621 engine as the 190Dc, with the same horsepower, and other features on the body and interior were the same as the 200 sedan. Fuel economy was the same as the 190Dc. The 200D was produced from July 1965 through February 1968.
The 230 (W110) sedan gained a 6-cylinder gasoline engine that was slightly larger than its predecessor, the 200 (W110) sedan. With its 2.3-liters displacement, 7-main-bearing crankshaft, higher compression ratio, and new camshaft design, it produced 118 horsepower for improved acceleration (14 seconds) and slightly lower fuel efficiency (15.6 mpg). Maximum speed went to 104 mph, compared with 99.5 mph. The 230 was produced from July 1965 until February 1968.
From the top: Two views of typical W110 Finback sedans. The W110 was designed to appeal both to the aspirational buyer in the newly prosperous West Germany of the 1960s, and to individuals of a practical nature looking for a no-frills automobile. The W110 was also attractive to business people looking for a no-nonsense, but high-quality vehicle. Traveling salesmen often selected W110 sedans for their mechanical robustness and ability to absorb miles without complaint. Many became taxis, ambulances and other forms of specialized transportation. Bottom: A 190D Universal with station wagon body supplied by the IMA Company, circa 1964-65.
Clockwise from top: The adaptability of the W110 is seen in this impressive ambulance, coachbuilt by Binz in 1961. The 190 may have been a basic Mercedes-Benz, but it still exhibited the same restrained elegance as more expensive and luxurious models from the firm. Type M121 2-liter gasoline engine – with 105 horsepower –  was the most powerful available in the W110. Type OM621 200 Diesel was offered  from 1965-1968. Facing page: Sindelfingen assembly line, circa 1968 with W110s mixed among their W111 siblings.

April 1961: 190c production begins
April/June 1961: 190D production begins
August 1962: Automatic transmission offered
August 1963: Front disc and dual-circuit brake system offered
July 1965: W110 200, 2090D and 230 production begins
August 1965: 190c and 190D production ends
February 1968: All W110 production ends
Value Guide
Model Year                    Low     Medium          High
190c    1961-1965       $2,000 $4,000     $6,000
190D   1961-1965       $2,000 $5,000 $8,000
200      1966-1967       $2,000 $6,600 $9,100
200D   1966-1967       $4,100 $11,100           $15,300
230      1966-1968       $3,300 $8,200 $10,900
Technical Specifications
Model: 190    
Produced: 1961-1965 
Engine Type: M121 1.9L I-4
Horsepower:   90       
Torque:           112.9  
Transmission: 4-M|4-A         
Zero-62 mph:  18-M|22-A     
Top Speed:     93-M|90-A     
Wheelbase:      106.3  
Length:            186.5
Weight:            2816   
MPG:              19|20
Model: 190Dc            
Produced: 1961-1965 
Engine Type: OM621            2.0L I-4          
Horsepower:   60       
Torque:           87       
Transmission: 4-M|4-A         
Zero-62 mph:  29-M|30-A     
Top Speed:     81-M|79-A     
Wheelbase:      106.3  
Length:            186.5
Weight:            2904   
MPG:              24/26
Model: 200                
Produced: 1965-1968 
Engine Type: M121   2.0L I-4                      
Horsepower:   105     
Torque:           122.3  
Transmission: 4-M|4-A         
Zero-62 mph:  15-M|16-A     
Top Speed:     100-M|98-A   
Wheelbase:      106.3  
Length:            186.5
Weight:            2805   
MPG:              17/19
Model: 200D             
Produced: 1965-1968 
Engine Type: OM621            2.0L I-4          
Horsepower:   60       
Torque:           87       
Transmission: 4-M|4-A         
Zero-62 mph:  29-M|30-A     
Top Speed:     81-M|81-A     
Wheelbase:      106.3  
Length:            186.5
Weight:            2915   
MPG:              23|26