Mercedes W121 190SL 1955 – 1963

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster, 1955

In a way that resembled the construction of the 300 SL model, which had been put together from existing structural components, another sports-type car was developed on the basis of the 180 model.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL der Baureihe W 121

In contrast to the famous wing-door coupé, the roadster 190 SL was not designed to be a true sports car, but an elegant and sporty two-seated GT car.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL der Baureihe W 121

The body, designed by Karl Wilfert and Walter Häcker had stylistically been derived from that of its older brother. The shortened framework of the 180 model served as chassis; a sophisticated space frame like that of the 300 SL was not required, because of its less extreme driving performance.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster, 1955

The single joint cross shaft axle of the 220 a model ensured a high standard of driving safety, a fact that met with much praise among the press and motoring public.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster, 1955

Front axle suspension including the sub-frame concept had been taken over from the 180 / 180 D Types. The 190 SL was powered by a new 1.9-liter four-cylinder unit with overhead camshaft which spawned a whole engine family and was also incorporated in derated form into the pontoon-type saloon 190.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL-Roadster

As in the saloons 180 D – 220 a, the engine rested on the sub-frame only at its front; from January 1956, however, a modified sub-frame was used, which featured two additional supports for the engine and, in slightly modified form, was also built into the new Types 190 und 220 S.

Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster, 1955

The 190 SL was presented to the public eye together with the 300 SL at the “International Motor Sports Show”, which took place in February 1954 in New York.

Advertising Mercedes-Benz: "Frist Car on the Road. From the first gasoline-driven cars of the world ...., Mercedes-Benz 190 SL

While the 300 SL was almost ready for serial production, the 190 SL model was still a prototype, which had neither been tested technically, nor was it stylistically refined to an adequate level.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL, 1955-63; Zeichnung aus dem Prospektblatt von 1956

Both aspects had been carefully revised, so that serial production did not start until January 1995 (preseries) and May 1995 (main series) respectively.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL der Baureihe W 121.

The final version was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1955 for the first time with marked changes to its exterior: The most significant change was that the model now came without the stylised air inlet device on the bonnet. There were lancets above the rear wheel arches as well as modified bumpers and indicators or reflector lights.

6. bis 14. Februar 1954. International Motor Sports Show in New York. Vorstellung der Mercedes-Benz Sportwagen Typen 190 SL und 300 SL.

The 190 SL came in trhee different version: as roadster with a hood, but without a hardtop, as a coupé with removable hardtop, optionally with or without a hood.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster aus dem Jahre 1955

Another version, which was presented in the first brochures, a 190 SL with more pronounced sports-car characteristics with light-metal sports-car doors and a small plexiglass wind screen was no longer advertised after spring 1956.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster mit Coupédach aus dem Jahre 1955

A car with the sports-type accessories mentioned above, would have been rated as a serial sports car in competitions and would have had absolutely no chance.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster mit Coupédach aus dem Jahre 1955

Because of the decision of FIA that a Gran Turismo, too, had to have a roof which could be closed completely, a condition, which the revised version of the SL clearly would not have fulfilled, a rating as a GT-car was out of the question.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster mit Coupédach aus dem Jahre 1955

Of the numerous improvements in detail, which were untertaken on the 190 SL during its time of production, some can be clearly distinguished from outside: In March 1956 broad chrome trims were fixed to the upper door rim and in June of the same year the 190 SL was fitted with the bigger taillights of the 220 a, 219 and 220 S models. In July 1957, illumination of the rear number plates was transferred to the bumper guards, so that the new broader number plates could be mounted easily.

Armaturen des Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster. Ausführung ab 1958.

Thus the rear bumper guards, which before had been serially fitted on the US-models only, now became part of the basic equipment but were at the front bumpers still only available at an extra cost.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster der Baureihe W 121, 1955 - 1963.

From October 1959 the coupés were equipped with a new hardtop with enlarged rear window, guaranteeing much better vision.

Mercedes-Benz Typ SLK 200 Kompressor der Baureihe 170, Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL der Baureihe 121

Last but not least, the boot lid lock was changed in 1960; at the same time, the bow-type handle was replaced by a recessed door handle, which was also attached to the 180 Db – 190 b models.

Mercedes-Benz Typ SLK 200 Kompressor der Baureihe 170, Merceds-Benz Typ 190 SL der Baureihe 121

Production numbers demonstrate, how successful the 190 SL really was in its time: Between May 1955 and February 1963, as much as 25,881 cars were built in Sindelfingen, the majority of which were destined for the US market.

Mercedes-Benz Typ SLK 200 Kompressor der Baureihe 170 und Typ 190 SL der Baureihe W 121

Zeitgenössisches Werbefoto des 190 SL aus den 1950er-Jahren auf der Ferieninsel Sylt in der Nachmittagssonne. Der 190 SL findet schnell sein status- und designbewusstes Publikum als eleganter und zuverlässiger Traumwagen, der finanziell erreichbar bleibt.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster, Baureihe 121.

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