Alongside its hyper-expensive race-bred sports car – the 300SL – Mercedes-Benz offered the less exotic but no less refined 190 SL. Announced in 1954 and based on the 180 saloon whose all-independently-suspended running gear it used, the 190 SL did not enter production until January 1955, the delay being caused by alterations aimed at strengthening the saloon’s shortened platform to compensate for the open body’s reduced stiffness. “Very few new sports cars have been so eagerly awaited or so long in coming as the moderately priced SL version of the Mercedes-Benz,” observed Road & Track magazine.
Mounted on a detachable sub-frame along with the four-speed manual gearbox, front suspension and steering, the power unit was a 1,897cc overhead-camshaft four – the first such engine ever to feature in a Mercedes-Benz.
Breathing through twin Solex downdraft carburettors, the M121 unit produced 105bhp at 5,700rpm, an output sufficient to propel the 190SL to 100km/h in 13 seconds, and onto a top speed of 170km/h. The fact that the 190’s ride was more boulevard than sporting, and that many contemporary sports cars could out-perform it while costing a good deal less, did nothing to deter buyers. The model was a big hit in the USA, where many of the 26,000-odd vehicles produced between 1955 and 1963 found homes.
The stunning early 190SL on offer today is one of the finest examples we have seen for some time. Chassis 004032 has been subject to a recent restoration and is now finished in the original shade of “Feuerwehr Rot” ( fire engine red) with a cognac leather interior.
With prices of the 190’s older brother now in excess of €1,000,000, this equally attractive 190 SL offers the elegance of 1960s Mercedes-Benz open top motoring at its very best. Must be seen to be appreciated.