1960 MERCEDES-BENZ W121 190SL ROADSTER FULLY RESTORED IN-HOUSE. A CONCOURS WINNING CAR FORMING PART OF A PRIVATE COLLECTION.
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THE MERCEDES-BENZ W121 190SL HISTORY
In 1954, Mercedes displayed a concept version of the 190SL at the New York Auto show alongside the 300SL ‘Gullwing’. This concept came to market in 1955 as the 190SL.
A more approachable, less intense sports car compared to the record-breaking 300SL Gullwing. While the 190SL featured a carburetted 1.9 litre in-line four cylinder engine compared to the 300SL’s direct-injected 3 litre slant six, they shared basic engine design, suspension system, and level of detail and craftsmanship which defined Mercedes-Benz.
The new engine, which shared the same bore and stroke of the 300SL, was paired with dual Solex carburettors and produced just over 100 horsepower. This powerplant was mated with a fully synchronized 4-speed transmission which sent power to the rear swing axle. The 190SL implemented the same suspension systems as the 300SL, albeit with a more stable low pivot point assembly, affording it confident handling and drivability without the tail-happy nature of the 300SL Gullwing.
The 190SL is immediately recognisable as a Mercedes-Benz, featuring dramatic curves and restrained use of brightwork that defined this era. Many styling cues are borrowed from the 300SL, notably the massive three-pointed star in the grille, head lamps, bumpers, dash, early 1955 190SL bucket seats and ‘eyebrows’ over the wheels.
While the 190SL did not quite offer the performance of other sports cars of the era, the impeccable quality and attractive styling made the 190SL a massive success – selling 25,881 units before production ceased in 1963. Many of these models were delivered to the United States, where its driving demeanour and elegant styling were highly valued.
Nevertheless the factory did offer an option for the casual weekend racer: a Rennsport packaged 190SLR, which included options of an aero screen, cut down doors which one could convert and bumpers removed to reduce weight. A Rennsport derived 190SL participated in the Mille Miglia, hence its eligibility today. Other notable achievements include a 1956 Macao Grand Prix victory for Doug Steane, and Mr W. Sulke’s SLR won the 1958 Rally of Hong Kong.
The 190SL is an important part of the culture of small roadsters in the 1950s, as it demonstrated how luxurious the platform could be. Now much sort after and highly collectable due to its unmistakeable ‘Style and Beauty’.
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