In this sense, the 190 SL dream car came at just the right time. The Stuttgart brand’s open-top two-seater set new standards for comfortable travel with a sporty note by delivering a refreshingly new take on the “Gran Turismo” idea. So 60 years ago, the W 121 also laid the foundations for the excellent tradition of the Mercedes-Benz SL model series as sporty, open-top, two-seater touring cars that combined the highest standards of refinement with good everyday practicality – right up to the current SL-Class model series R 231.
Even though the 190 SL was not based on motor racing technology like its “elder sibling” the 300 SL, it still likewise cut a sporty figure. This applied especially to the briefly available racing version with windowless aluminium doors, a smaller windscreen and other modifications. The bumpers and soft top on this variant could be removed for races. Notable successes for the vehicle included the class victory achieved by Douglas Steane at the 1956 Macau Grand Prix.
The strengths of the 190 SL made it an attractive ambassador for the new Mercedes-Benz model series of the 1950s all over the world: almost 80 per cent of all W 121 production (a total of 25,881 vehicles were produced between 1955 and 1963) went for export. The USA was the most important market – almost 40 per cent of all 190 SL models were sold in the USA. Today this automotive icon of the economic miracle years is one of the more valuable classic cars: according to the data gathered by Historic Automobile Group International (HAGI), the 190 SL has increased in value by an average of around ten per cent per year since 1980 and even by over eleven per cent per year since 2004. The Roadster occupies a similarly prominent position in the leading group in the HAGI Mercedes-Benz Classic Index (MBCI).