For individuals whose financial means fell short of acquiring the extravagantly priced 300 SL, Mercedes-Benz presented the 190 SL, a less exotic yet equally sophisticated alternative. Unveiled in 1954 and derived from the 180 saloon, utilizing its fully independent suspension system, the 190 SL commenced production in January 1955. The delay was attributed to modifications made to reinforce the shortened platform of the saloon, compensating for the reduced stiffness inherent in the open-body design.
The powerplant, a groundbreaking 1,897cc overhead-camshaft four-cylinder engine, marked the first instance of such technology in a Mercedes-Benz. Paired with a detachable sub-frame housing the four-speed manual gearbox, front suspension, and steering, the M121 engine featured twin Solex downdraft carburettors, delivering 105bhp DIN (120bhp SAE) at 5,700rpm. This power output enabled the 190 SL to accelerate to 100km/h in 14.5 seconds and achieve a top speed of 171km/h.
Equipped with a four-speed, all-synchromesh gearbox, servo-assisted hydraulic drum brakes, and a fully independent suspension system, the 190 SL offered a level of refinement and comfort surpassing that of contemporary British sports cars. The model gained significant popularity in the United States, with just under 26,000 units produced between 1955 and 1963 finding enthusiastic owners.