1959 Mercedes-Benz 190Db Ponton Kombi
with Webasto Sliding Sunroof

owners: Kirk Delman (kdelman@scrippscollege.edu) and Jon Pacini

Claremont, California USA

In 2011 Jon Pacini called me at work and said he just found a Ponton wagon sitting in an avocado orchard in the city of Duarte, California. We raced out there to find a 1959 190Db last driven in 1985, holes in the floorboard, rear tires locked, and the Webasto roof open to the sky. We bought it on the spot.

Over the last eight years, between our day jobs and family responsibilities, we completely disassembled the wagon, soda blasted the body, replaced the floorboards, rebuilt the mechanicals, installed a new wiring harness, painted it throughout, reupholstered the interior (including seats, headliner, carpet, ragtop), and refinished the wood. All parts in the vehicle are either the original or new/used OEM Mercedes-Benz, and all of the materials used are Mercedes-Benz appropriate.

In 2018 we took it on the road and the timing chain on the original engine block failed and caused severe damage to the pistons and cam posts. With great luck, Jon found an original, still in the shipping crate and wrapped in wax paper, brand new 190Db short block from 1959. We had it shipped from Portland, Oregon to Upland, California, and after having the head rebuilt, installed it right away. The new engine is quiet (for a diesel) and simply hums down the road.

According to Bob Gunthorp, who we visited at his home before we started our “preservation”, the custom work on wagons was done by Binz Karosserie Fabrik and our wagon is #1561. The paperwork that we received from Mercedes-Benz Germany included a partial dealer’s address that suggested that it may have been imported by Max Hoffman to his dealership in NYC as a special order vehicle, hence all of the extra appointments on the wagon.

Although there is still some cosmetic work to be done (can it ever be finished?) we have been enjoying driving it around town. With only 711 of these wagons built, we are forever being told from other Mercedes-Benz owners, “I have never seen a wagon like this.” At some point we will look for a buyer, but for now it is being driven and enjoyed.


Created: August 22, 2019 / Jeff Miller
Last Update: August 23, 2019
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