In 1954, Mercedes unveiled a captivating two-seat roadster with a removable hardtop at the New York Auto Show. This concept materialized in 1955 as the 190SL, representing a more approachable and less intense sports car in contrast to the groundbreaking 300SL ‘Gullwing’. Despite the 190SL featuring a carbureted 1.9-liter inline 4-cylinder engine, as opposed to the 300SL’s direct-injected 3-liter slant six, both shared a fundamental engine design, suspension system, and a level of detail and craftsmanship that defined the essence of Mercedes-Benz.
The newly introduced engine, sharing identical bore and stroke dimensions with the 300SL, was equipped with dual Solex carburetors, generating 120 horsepower. Paired with a fully synchronized 4-speed transmission transmitting power to the rear swing axles, the 190SL inherited the confident handling and drivability of the 300SL due to the shared suspension systems.
Immediately identifiable as a Mercedes, the 190SL boasted dramatic curves and a tasteful application of brightwork that characterized the era. Drawing inspiration from the 300SL, notable styling elements included the prominent three-pointed star in the grille and the distinctive ‘eyebrows’ over the wheels.
Although the 190SL did not match the performance levels of other sports cars from that era, its impeccable quality and attractive styling contributed to its immense success, with over 25,000 units sold before production ceased in 1963. A significant portion of these models found their way to the United States, where the car’s driving characteristics and elegant design were highly esteemed. The 190SL left an indelible mark on the culture of small roadsters in the 1950s, showcasing the luxurious potential of the platform.