SL Evolution, Part 3: For Relaxation, the Mercedes 190 SL Was the Best


The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL roadster (W121, 1955-1963).

With all the symbolic importance of the Mercedes 300 SL, the second iteration of the 1st generation, the 190 SL, was even more popular. It was based on a derivative W121 chassis and was propelled by a 1.9-liter 105hp engine; good enough for relaxed open-top driving. The 190 SL did not even pretend to possess a racing pedigree. It was an elongated and elegant car with an exceptionally long engine bay against a short trunk, and with a retractable soft roof made of fiber.

That car was "intended for a class of customers who want to travel large distances themselves at high cruising speeds in this externally very sporty looking car," as wrote the design engineer Josef Muller. Its body lines were similar to those of the Gullwing version and the 1.9-liter engine with overhead camshaft was good enough for 106 mph. On the hood was one longitudinal and centrally located bulge and the dashboard was different from that of the coupe. It goes without saying that Hoffman didn't encounter any difficulties in moving those 1,000 cars he promised to sell.

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By the end of the model's life in 1963, 25,881 units of the 190 SL were sold along with an additional 1,858 units of the 300 SL Roadster. All in all, over 29,000 first generation SL class units were sold. It was a strong and promising start for the new line.

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