Sporting elegance, safety and comfort – with these qualities the 190 SL conquered a whole new circle of enthusiastic fans of dynamic driving. Mercedes-Benz unveiled the prototype of the 190 SL (W 121) at the International Motor Sports Show in New York in February 1954, alongside the production version of the 300 SL “Gullwing”. Although the two-seater roadster with folding soft top stirred passions, it was to undergo a further thorough revision by the Mercedes-Benz designers – known at the time as stylists.
In March 1955, a full year after the New York premiere, the production version went on display at the Geneva Motor Show. Like its elder brother, the spectacular 300 SL “Gullwing”, the 190 SL rapidly became one of the most coveted dream cars of its day. Although less powerful than the 300 SL, it generated no less excitement and opened up the SL legend to a wider circle of customers. By 1963 sales had totalled 25,881 units.
The 105 hp (77 kW) 1.9-litre 4-cylinder engine gave a top speed of 170 km/h, more than adequate for the road conditions of the day.
And even long-distance drives were enjoyable thanks to the comfortable suspension. The handsome sports car for all occasions was particularly popular among female drivers, who appreciated not only the sporting elegance of its design, but also the open-air feeling that came as standard. With its easy-to-operate soft top and optionally available coupé hardtop, the 190 SL was the first SL to combine the possibility of open-top driving with absolute all-weather capability.
The 300 SL “Gullwing” was the first production passenger car with four-stroke engine to be equipped with the revolutionary direct fuel injection system. This innovation boosted both engine output and efficiency and would remain a special feature of the car for a long time to come. Fuel injection in the 300 SL involved a mechanically controlled six-plunger injection pump.