Max Hoffman was responsible for the sporty two-seat Mercedes-Benz 190SL sports car. The S represented 'Sports' while the L meant Light, or 'Sehr Leicht'. With a curb weight of 2560 pounds, it was hardly 'light' when compared with other vehicles in it class, some 500 through 1000 pounds less. It was however an excellent alternative to the higher-priced Mercedes-Benz 300SL. The gullwing-door 300SL was available only as a coupe while the 190 SL could be purchased as a Roadster with a soft top convertible or with a removable hardtop roof.
In 1954, Mercedes introduced its two-door 190SL at the New York Auto Show. Fifteen months later the production version was displayed at the 1955 Geneva Auto Show. Gone was the air-scoop that had been on the hood, along with other aesthetic aspects.
The 300SL was initially priced at $7,460 while the 190SL was $3998. As a result the 190SL outsold the 300SL by nearly eight to one. In its best year 4,032 190SL's were produced. In its worst year only 104 examples were produced.
Under the hood was an 1897 cc four-cylinder OHC engine that was capable of producing around 105 horsepower. It took 14.5 seconds to go from zero to sixty and had a top speed of nearly 110 mph. Drum brakes were placed on all four corners of the 14 foot, one inch vehicle. Servo brakes were optional until 1956 at which point they became standard.
The engine capacity was taken into account when naming the vehicle. By moving the decimal place once to the left, it created 189.7. The number was then rounded up to 190. So the 190 represents the approximate engine capacity in liters, meaning about 1.9 liters.
The 190SL production run lasted from 1955 through 1963. Most of the body-styles were open roadsters the rest were coupes. In comparison to many other nameplates, this is a very low number, guarantying its exclusivity and rarity in today's standards. It was a beautiful sibling to the prestigious and awe-inspiring gullwing door 300SL.By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2006