The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL – a dream car’s anniversary.
On a path to new horizons.
Open for joie de vivre, elegance, and departure to new destinations: the eagerly awaited Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121) was launched in 1955. The two-seater brought joy and colour to everyday life during the years of the economic miracle. Internationally the 190 SL set standards for a culture of comfortable travel with style and sporty elegance. Together with its “elder sibling”, the 300 SL, it paved the way for the successful Mercedes-Benz SL tradition – culminating in the current R 231. Experts in the industry and the general public alike had been dreaming of this car since the appearance of a prototype version at the International Motor Sports Show in New York in February 1954. When it then appeared in its finished form in March 1955 at the 25th International Motor Show in Geneva, it met with a resounding response.
Technique and design.
The 190 SL, which went into main production in May 1955, was an open-top, two-seater car for comfortable and stylish travel. Karl Wilfert and Walter Häcker designed its body with sporty lines and in a style reminiscent of the 300 SL “Gullwing” (W 198) super sports car. Whereas the Gullwing Coupé was based on a complex space frame, the 190 SL Cabriolet had the shortened floor assembly of the 180 Saloon model (W 120) with self-supporting chassis-body structure.
The 190 SL was powered by the newly developed M 121, a 77 kW (105 hp) 1.9-litre four-cylinder engine with an overhead camshaft.
Unburdened joy of living.
The 190 SL stood for the feeling of being alive in the “Swinging Fifties”, for a colourful joie de vivre and lightness – as also shown by the car’s appearances in light-hearted German films of the time such as “Die Zwillinge vom Zillertal” (The Zillertal Twins, 1957). However, the 190 SL primarily became the dream car of the 1950s due to the strengthening of individual mobility: never before had so many people had the opportunity to realize the dream of having their own car.
In this sense, the 190 SL dream car came at just the right time.
Icon of the economic miracle and precious classic car.
Even though the 190 SL was not based on motor racing technology it likewise cut a sporty figure. 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. 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. This appreciation shown by collectors all over the world is further testament to the unabated excitement generated by the dream car which made its debut in 1955 – some 60 years ago.