John Webber
John Webber
2/14/20 8:50 a.m.

Story and Photography by John Webber

On the small-bore grid, it’s the only Mercedes-Benz, parked in a long line of MGs, Porsches, Triumphs, Healeys, Minis, Morgans and more. In fact, after more than a decade of racing this 190SL, owner Doug Radix has never seen another on the track.

Doug says he wanted to race something different and distinctive—something that drew a lot of attention. He got that and more, as the old Benz proved to be pretty competitive and as dependable as an anvil, especially in endurance races. Since 1998, he has filled two logbooks and is working on a third, flinging this unlikely warrior around road courses from Road America to Sebring.

Doug, who lives in Oconomowoc (try saying that after Happy Hour), Wisconsin, knew that four-cylinder Mercedes-Benzes were not prized for their speed and agility. But he didn’t care; he had reliability in mind. “I’ll never be the fastest car on the track,” he says, “but I’ll be around at the end of the race.”

Doug has always been a gearhead—beginning with snowmobiles as a kid and later moving up to cars. When he was 15, he started sweeping floors in a body shop, learning his trade from the ground up. Countless wreck repairs and rebuilds later, he’s still in the business. Today, his auto body enterprise handles collision repairs and restoration of vintage cars and motorcycles, along with repairs on the occasional race car that gets bent at Road America, just a short rollback ride away.

He started driving at vintage track events in the late 1980s when a customer asked him to maintain and help exercise his fleet of high-performance Ford racers—including a couple of GT-40s, Cobras and GT350s. After a taste of high-speed action, Doug came down with the fever and decided to build a racer of his own, although he wanted one a bit slower than a Cobra and cheaper to maintain. 

That’s when he remembered the street-driven 190SL he had restored a few years earlier. While he was rebuilding that Mercedes, he came to admire the car’s styling and the way it was put together. “It was built like a tank—overbuilt, really,” he explains.

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