1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL

Mercedes-Benz displayed a two-seat roadster concept with a removable hardtop at the 1954 New York Auto Show. When it came to market a year later (in Janaury 1955) it was called the 190SL and was based on the 180 saloon. Production had been delayed due to alterations aimed at strengthening the saloon's shortened platform to compensate for the open body's reduced stiffness. It followed in the footsteps of its older sibling, the 300SL 'Gullwing,' but was a less intense and more affordable version. It used a carbureted 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine, unlike the 300SL's direction-injected 3-liter slant six, and shared a basic engine design, suspension system, and level of craftsmanship and detail that defines Mercedes-Benz.

The mechanical development was led by Fritz Nallinger. It received a detachable subframe, four-speed manual gearbox, four-wheel power-assisted hydraulic drum brakes, and a 1,897cc overhead-camshaft four, the first such engine ever to feature in a Mercedes-Benz. With the help of twin Solex downdraft carburetors, the M121 power unit developed 105 horsepower at 5,7000 RPM, giving the 190SL a zero-to-sixty mph time of 14.5 seconds and a top speed of 171 km/h. The engine was mated to a fully synchronized 4-speed transmission that sent power to the rear swing axles. The front suspension was fully-independent with wishbones. It used the same suspension system as the 300SL resulting in excellent drivability and confident road handling characteristics.

The bodywork was created by Walter Hacker and his design team under Mercedes-Benz design Chief Karl Wilfert. The team members included a young Paul Bracq, who later became the Mercedes-Benz head of design, responsible for the 230/250/280 'Pagoda' SL, top-line 600 series, and other models. Bracq also designed France's TGV high-speed passenger trains and penned other landmark designs for BMW, Citroën, and Peugeot during his prolific career.

The dramatic curves of the 190SL were immediately recognizable as a Mercedes-Benz product, with restrained use of brightwork that was both stylish and elegant. Several styling cues were sourced from the 300SL including the large three-pointed star in the grille and the 'eyebrows' over the wheels.

Sales were strong with 25,881 examples produced before production ended in 1963. Many examples were sent to the United States and although they did not offer the level of performance of sports cars of the era, they more than made up for it in attractive styling, build quality, refinement, and sophistication. Bodystyles included a folding soft-top or a removable hardtop, or both.

Although the idea of options were fairly new int he automotive industry at the time, Mercedes-Benz introduced what is known as an option list. This added tot eh 190SL's appeal to the public for now it could be custom custom-tailored to the individual enthusiast to suit their unique taste and cater to a larger audience. The list of available options included ostentatious color schemes, soft and hardtops, accessories, seats, and the rare sports-racing option.

The 190SL had been conceived by Max Hoffman, the U.S. Mercedes-Benz importer, as a less complicated and less costly version of the 300SL 'Gullwing' Coupe. It had conventional front-opening doors and normal-width sills, providing occupants with greater ease of entry and exit. The 'SL' designation, which it shared with the 300SL, roughly translated into English as 'sports light' and denoted the use of lightweight aluminum for the rear deck lid, doors, and hood of the 190SL. It was marketed by Mercedes-Benz as a grand touring car and was the only open SL choice until the Gullwing was replaced by the 300 SL Roadster in 1957.

While the Mercedes-Benz 300SL was renowned for its clever architecture, beauty, and superb performance excelling on the track as well as the road, the 190SL proved to be even more popular, outselling the 300SL by a factory of eight to one. It offered plenty of capabilities and racing-inspired technologies that were utilized in the 300SL, boasting a smaller engine more applicable to the masses and casual use.


by Daniel Vaughan | May 2020

Related Reading : Mercedes-Benz SL-Class History

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....
Continue Reading >>

1959 Vehicle Profiles

1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL vehicle information

Roadster

The 190 SL resembled the 300 SL both in styling, and engineering. The R121 was offered as a coupe with a removable hardtop and a soft top, or simply as a cabriolet with a retractable soft top. The 190 SL was powered by a new 1.9 liter straight-four s....[continue reading]

1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL vehicle information

Roadster

Chassis Num: 121.042.10-01119
Engine Num: 121921-10-9502497

In addition to its famed 300SL 'Gullwing', Mercedes-Benz in 9155 launched a lower-priced roadster with more modest performance. The car was the 190SL and the German automaker would produce more than 25,000 of them between 1955 and 1963.....[continue reading]

1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL vehicle information

Roadster

Chassis Num: 8502751
Engine Num: 8502773

This 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster with Hard Top was offered for sale at the 2007 Christies auction of 'Exceptional Motor Cars at the Monterey Jet Center.' It is white with red leather interior and black top. It is powered by a four-cylinder, ....[continue reading]

1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL vehicle information

Hardtop Coupe

Chassis Num: 121.040.9502307

In 2011, the car was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company auction held in Pebble Beach, California. It was estimated to sell for $50,000 - $80,000 and offered without reserve. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $143....[continue reading]

1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL vehicle information

Roadster

This 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190SL was delivered in February 1959 at Cardiff by the Sea, California. The car remained with the original owner until 2005 when it was acquired by Rudi Konicek of Rudy & Company for his client Dennis Highinbotham who owns a c....[continue reading]

1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL vehicle information

Roadster

Chassis Num: 121.040.10.9501952
Engine Num: 121.921.10.9501972

The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL was powered by a Type M121 BII 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine producing 120 bhp at 5,700 RPM. They had a double-wishbone front suspension with swing axles at the rear.....[continue reading]

1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL vehicle information

Roadster

This car has been given a restoration and finished in Silver with black leather seats and a proper fitting black canvas soft top. It has the correct Solex carburetors, a 1897cc SOHC four-cylinder engine, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes, and a four-s....[continue reading]

1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL vehicle information

Roadster

Chassis Num: 121.042.10.015341
Engine Num: 121.921.10.015429

This Mercedes-Benz 190 SL is finished in its original color scheme of black over a tan leather interior with a matching tan canvas convertible soft top. Its first owner was reported to be an American woman who held dual citizenship, as well as reside....[continue reading]

Roadster
 
Roadster
Chassis #: 121.042.10-01119 
Roadster
Chassis #: 8502751 
Hardtop Coupe
Chassis #: 121.040.9502307 
Roadster
 
Roadster
Chassis #: 121.040.10.9501952 
Roadster
 
Roadster
Chassis #: 121.042.10.015341 


Concepts by Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz Monthly Sales Volume

November 2019
33,721
October 2019
27,867
September 2019
27,433
August 2019
24,771
July 2019
24,612
May 2019
27,080
April 2019
22,949
March 2019
27,004
January 2019
22,507
Additional Sales Volume Data


Recent Vehicle Additions

Performance and Specification Comparison

Price Comparison

$590-$5,015
1959 190 SL
$5,230-$22,750
1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Price Range: $5,015 - $5,230

$10,420 - $13,700

Model Year Production

#1#2#3Mercedes-Benz
1964Chevrolet (2,318,619)Ford (1,594,053)Toyota (1,068,321)165,532
1963Chevrolet (2,237,201)Ford (1,525,404)Fiat (957,941)11,234
1962Chevrolet (2,061,677)Ford (1,476,031)Fiat (957,941)146,393
1961Ford (1,338,790)Chevrolet (1,318,014)Volkswagen (807,488)137,431
1960Chevrolet (1,653,168)Ford (1,439,370)Toyota (1,068,321)122,684
1959Chevrolet (1,462,140)Ford (1,450,953)Volkswagen (575,407)108,440
1958Chevrolet (1,142,460)Ford (987,945)Volkswagen (451,526)99,209
1957Ford (1,676,449)Chevrolet (1,505,910)Plymouth (726,009)80,899
1956Chevrolet (1,567,117)Ford (1,408,478)Buick (572,024)69,601
1955Chevrolet (1,704,667)Ford (1,451,157)Buick (738,814)63,683
1954Ford (1,165,942)Chevrolet (1,143,561)Plymouth (463,148)63,683

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