If you've got a Mercedes 190SL for sale, we'll pay you top dollar!
Mercedes 190SL Review (1955 - 1963)
The Mercedes-Benz 190SL has always been in the shadow of the massively expensive 300SL, one of the most revered cars in history. This is so mainly due to two facts – it was produced at the same time and it shared similar design philosophy, albeit with very differing outcomes.
However, comparing the two cars would be really unfair. The 300SL was the ultimate car at the time, it was top notch in every aspect: its design was sleek and timeless, which is evident from the fact that it has aged so well; even today the 300SL looks amazing. It also had an extremely powerful engine based on a racing car. Its predecessor was the W194 – the racing car – but its successor came 56 years later in 2010 in the form of the SLS AMG, although some people do feel that the W113 is the successor to both the 190SL and 300SL. In all fairness, however, it seems a lot closer to the 190SL. The 300SL was the ultimate car – and it came for the ultimate price, much like today.
On the other hand the 190SL was a much cheaper option, but it was by no means a common or unworthy machine. The 190SL was a two-door luxury roadster and Mercedes-Benz does not produce run-of-the-mill two-door luxury roadsters. Although it was no match for the 300SL, it was an amazing car.
The 190SL (also called the W121 B2) featured a roadster body style with FR layout. It was powered by a water-cooled 1.9 l engine – hence the name – with four cylinders and a single overhead camshaft. The power was transferred to the road via a four-speed manual gearbox. Speaking of power, the oversquare engine produced 105 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque at as low as 3200 rpm, which was enough to push the 2,552 lbs car to 62 mph in just over 13 seconds and then reaching top speeds of 106 mph.
The car was built on a monocoque chassis, unlike the tubular frame of the Mercedes 300SL for sale, but most other features were very similar, including the basic styling direction, engineering ideas and of course the Mercedes-Benz attention to detail. Even the suspension consisted of swing axles for the back and double wishbones for the front.
You could even choose between a soft top and hard top, but both versions included the open top option. Another optional feature was a transverse seat for the third passenger.
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Driving & Performance
The 1.9 l engine was no match for the inline 6 of the 300SL, but that car did cost almost three times more. In terms of sheer speed, the 190SL won’t make you stand in awe, but its drivability just might. The car is light and nimble with extremely precise steering, making it an incredibly fun drive. This is further accentuated by the rear-wheel drive. If the suspension was good enough for the 300SL, it is more than enough to provide plenty of fun and safety in the 190SL.
When it comes to its brakes, the 190SL has power assisted drums which have performed exceptionally well on a car of this weight and suspension.
Similarly, the 94.5 in wheelbase made the car very nimble. Whilst the 190SL has never been lightning fast, you will most certainly not be bored driving it. The 190SL is a very competent luxury sports tourer from one of the best, if not the best, manufacturers in the world.Back To Top
Equipment & Comfort
Mercedes-Benz is famous for remarkable comfort of its cars and top notch engineering and the 190SL is a perfect example. As already mentioned, the exterior was a toned down version of the 300SL, sharing many of its features. The interior was also similar. The dashboard is dominated by two instruments showing rpms and speed. Under them, somewhat weirdly placed, but easy to see and read, you can find additional smaller dials showing other vitals.
The steering wheel is absolutely beautiful even by today’s standards, featuring a thin frame with two slightly angled spokes that meet in the middle at the Mercedes-Benz badge. Moreover, the chrome ring in the middle gave it a further touch of class.
The middle of the dashboard is reserved either for the radio, or for the 190SL badge. Above these, on top of the dashboard, sits the rearview mirror and an ashtray. Although this placement of the mirror is not very common, it is actually very practical.
In front of the passenger, there is a generously sized glove compartment with a clock on the lid. The top of the dashboard is covered in leather and there are many color combinations of the interior to choose from, all of them beautiful. The only thing you don’t have a choice in are the stylish chrome accents.
The transmission stick is a minimalistic bar lying on the gearbox tunnel between the seats and it is the only thing there. The leather seats are very comfortable and, bearing in mind the amount of power at your disposal, they provide more than sufficient support even during sharper turns, without compromising comfort. Similar design of the seats was used by Mercedes decades later.
The inside of the doors is also minimalistic. They are covered in leather and feature a simple handle and three chrome pieces used for opening the door, locking the door and sliding the window. All three are positioned towards the front for easier use.
Behind the seats there is ample room for bags and jackets.Back To Top
The 190SL was called the poor man’s 300SL, because it was cheaper to buy, maintain and service, but it was still an up-market car destined to compete with the likes of Porsche, Ferrari and Maserati cars. Today’s price also reflects this, but the 190SL might be far cheaper to maintain than to buy. You can choose between genuine Mercedes-Benz parts, which are often far more expensive, or high-quality parts from other manufacturers which are a lot easier on the wallet. Either way, if you were able to afford a 190SL you should have no problems maintaining it. Furthermore, supply of parts for classic Mercedes-Benz cars has never been a problem, so you need not worry about their availability.
Speaking of prices, just as an example, a valve cover gasket for the 190SL from Mercedes-Benz costs about $48, while you can find a good replacement valve cover gasket for under $10.
Crankshaft timing chain sprocket from Febi costs $33, while its Mercedez-Benz counterpart costs $244. Although the difference is significant, prospective owners of the 190SL shouldn’t be worried. First of all, much like almost all of the MB cars, the 190SL is extremely reliable and durable. Once your 190SL is in good condition, you should have a peril-free relationship. Secondly, even though genuine parts are more expensive, even the most expensive ones rarely reach $500, while most are well within two-digit pricing, and regular maintenance is almost next to nothing.Back To Top
History & Development
The 190SL was produced from 1955 to 1963 in Stuttgart, Germany. It was first shown to the public at the 1954 New York Auto Show as a concept, but it also hit the streets just a year later and in almost the same shape.
This was the case because it was effectively a mixture of two familiar and well-established models. It was based on the W120/W121 platform, familiar from the small sedan that appeared two years before, and plenty of high-tech engineering solutions and ideas from the flagship 300SL. Using the two platforms made the 190SL a well-rounded car from the beginning and called for few changes during its manufacturing years, most of which were purely cosmetic and left the engine, transmission and suspension virtually intact.
For example, the initial sports-racing models featured a Perspex windscreen, harder seats and aluminum doors, while the later versions provided a bit more comfort. Similarly, in 1959 the hard top version got a larger rear window. Apart from bringing general perks of larger glass surface such as more light and better rear visibility, it was also a great design feature which made the 190SL resemble the 300SL even more.
The 190SL was replaced in 1963 when the larger-engined W113 appeared.Back To Top
Facts & Figures
|Body||Hard top convertible, soft top convertible|
|Engines||1,897 ccm SOHC l4 (105 hp)|
|Dimensions and weight|
|Mercedes-Benz 190SL years of production|
|All Models||1955 – 1963|
|Mercedes-Benz 190SL production number|