A Different Breed of Hot Rod by Black Orchid Customs

We don’t often shine the “RideTech Rides” spotlight on foreign cars, but we occasionally come across a build that really strikes a chord. This 1958 Mercedes Benz 190SL built by Gary Combs and the crew at Black Orchid Customs is a great example.  Riding on our patented ShockWave® air suspension, the little Benzo pushes all the right buttons. With classic lines from the ‘50s and traditional custom touches, the car was a big hit at Goodguys Columbus where Black Orchid displayed the car in our booth. We were blown away by the overwhelmingly positive response that the car received throughout the weekend.

In restored condition, these cars currently fetch around $150,000.  They made around 25,000 cars over an eight-year span from 1955 to 1963. So why would anyone hot rod a rare Mercedes Benz classic? This particular example started life as a $1,500 rust bucket that was more “rust” than “bucket.” Beyond its poor condition, the original numbers matching drivetrain was long gone. Most Mercedes restoration shops would have walk away from this car – at a brisk pace. That made it a worthy restomod candidate. Its owner, like a lot of us, wanted a modern, reliable driving experience.

Dayton, OH-based Black Orchid Customs was contracted to restore the bones and then subtly upgrade the mechanicals with modern fuel injection, RideTech ShockWave® suspension, Wilwood four-wheel disc brakes, an Alpine stereo and affordable (but expensive looking) alloy wheels. The build plan retains the stock 190SL engine and trans configuration, but adds Weber electronic fuel injection for better throttle response and drivability.

The car was completely stripped in anticipation of a ground-up restoration. After performing rust repair, Black Orchid straightened the body and shaved the bumpers. With the main structure done, they moved on to restoring the front subframe and tackling the suspension. As you might expect, RideTech does not make bolt-on suspension kits for foreign cars, but we make the best universal fit solutions in the business. Black Orchid made a set of one-off tubular lower control arms to adapt our HQ Series ShockWaves® with single rebound adjustment.  ShockWaves® were also adapted to the original rear independent suspension. In the trunk, you’ll find a RideTech 5 gallon Airpod system with RidePro management. It all hides under a custom-made cover that looks a lot like a piece of luggage.

Black Orchid counts interior work as one of its specialties.  This little 190SL has a simple yet pristine custom interior.  Tricks include a completely hidden Alpine stereo system that lives behind the custom stitched seats.  The black interior nicely matches the dark silver paint job with black powder-coated wheels.  Black Orchid fabbed custom center caps with factory Mercedes Benz crests to give the wheels an expensive vibe.  The car is finished off with another subtle touch in the form of a barely noticeable offset racing stripe that runs the length of the car.

Black Orchid took a timeless classic and transformed it into a modern classic that will never go out of style. Its sporty shape is enhanced when the shockwaves are set at the lowest position, and the ride quality is exceptional at the normal driving position. We love cars of all types as long as they’re cool, and Black Orchid Customs definitely built one cool little 190SL.

Specs:

1958 190SL
  • 1.9 liter four cylinder engine with Weber fuel injection
  • Original 4 speed transmission
  • Original rear axle with ShockWaves® and Wilwood disc brakes.
  • Original front suspension with custom built lower strong arm with ShockWaves® and wilwood brakes adapted to fit .
  • RideTech AirPod system with RideTech RidePro management
  • Griffin Aluminum Radiator
  • House of Kolor custom mix paint with UC35 clear coat
  • Magnaflow  Exhaust
  • Alzor Wheels 17×7.5 with custom center caps
  • Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires
  • 2 Year Build Process

For Black Orchid Customs, click HERE

For Universal ShockWaves®, click HERE

For AirPod systems, click HERE

Black Orchid Customs started with a 1958 190SL that was anything but pristine. The damaged one piece nose had to be must be cut off rather than unbolted.
Black Orchid Customs fabricated lower control arms to accept RideTech HQ Series ShockWaves®. Stock upper control arms are retained.
Adapting ShockWaves® to the factory independent rear suspension was a bit easie than the front suspension. The Wilwood disc brakes look right at home, as well.
The voluminous trunk swallows a five gallon AirPod system with room to spare. Custom carpeting and upholstery is capped off with a neat trick, shown below.
That AirPod system is completely concealed by a one-off cover that resembles a vintage trunk of sorts. Very cool….
A factory 190SL engine has been completely refurbished and detailed. Black Orchid updated it with Weber EFI and Magnaflow Exhaust. A Griffin radiator keeps things cool.
The bespoke leather interior is simple yet pristine. An Alpine sound system in a custom speaker box hides behind the seats.
For an updated look, bumpers have been shaved front and rear. A subtle racing stripe runs the length of the car.
The finished car has a modern stance shown here in RidePro position 1. With the front bumper removed and shaved, the iconic grille really stands out.

For Black Orchid Customs, click HERE

For Universal ShockWaves®, click HERE

For AirPod systems, click HERE

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