Looking very similar to its big brother, the legendary 300SL Roadster, the 190SL of 1955-'63 has become an icon in its own right. Prices have more than doubled in the past year, with no apparent ceiling in sight. Entry level for a "driver" 190SL with needs now seems to be around $65K, excellent cars sell for $145-$165K, and concours-quality examples are frequently in $200K+ territory. If you ever desired to own one of these fabulous cars, now's the time to act.
The 190SL is a sporty 1950s Mercedes Roadster that features a timeless, outright sexy body with voluptuous curves and a build quality that is unmatched to this day. Cognoscenti consider it to be one of the most beautiful cars ever designed outside of Italy. There's plenty of space for two adults, and the folding convertible top and roll-up side windows allow year-round use without worries.
The 1960 Mercedes Benz 190SL Roadster featured here, VIN *12104010018177*, is quite special. Before we acquired it in March of 2013, it spent the past 27-1/2 years in single ownership in dry and sunny Prescott, Arizona, where it resided in a climate-controlled garage. We had our German mechanic Helmut attend to the car's technical aspects to made sure it runs and drives as good as it looks.
The SL comes with a clear Certificate of Title, an original Owner's Manual, two sets of keys, a couple of older photos, and a few select maintenance receipts.
We splurged and had a brand new German canvas convertible top installed. Featuring its original chrome trim strip, the black top works beautifully with the ivory exterior and red interior, creating a most desirable color combination.
The 190SL's coachwork is straight and utterly presentable. The repaint in the original ivory color, presumably dating back to the early 1980s, is holding up well. There are no major imperfections to note, like dents, scrapes, or bubbles, just minor signs of normal use. Most importantly, all of the chrome is in very good to excellent condition. Various parts appear to have been refinished recently. Weatherstripping and glass is in very good order throughout.
Our 190SL still rides on date-coded, factory 13-inch steel wheels, complimented by the stock, "dog dish" hub caps and trim rings. Tires are brand new KUMHO radials of the size 185/70-13 all on all four corners.
Instead of the anemic M121 4-cylinder lump of 1,897cc, this particular car has been equipped with a compact, GM 4,3-liter (250cid) six, boasting horsepower to 155 hp. At the same time, the 4-speed transmission was replaced with a 5-speed unit.
The engine is bullet-proof and runs smoothly and quietly, with no ill behavior of any kind. Also notice the dual master brake cylinder, power steering pump, high-output alternator, and genuine Mercedes aluminum air cleaner.
A highly desirable environment to be seen in: Mercedes' charming, stylish cockpit.
The 190SL's dashboard is quite impressive, a genuine feast for the eyes!
The synthesis of body-colored steel, polished alumimum, engine-turned chrome, the padded, lipstick-red dash top, and the optional, signed NARDI alloy steering wheel with wood rim creates an aura of luxury unmatched by today's plastics, digital gimmicks, and LCD screens.
Click on any of the above images for a full-size view
The central gauge cluster contains the two main gauges, featuring Mercedes' classic pinstripe design: the 7,000 RPM tachometer to the left, and the 210km/h speedometer to the right.
Just like the 300SL, there are additional gauges of matching design for oil pressure, water temperature, and fuel level, as well as the famous KIENZLE 48-hour wind-up clock that's located in the glove box door. All switches are heavily chrome plated, some have Bakelite inserts. All of them are stunningly beautiful! Except for the speedo, gauges and switchgear work flawlessly, including the tachometer.
Two rather large and generously upholstered chairs, dressed in lipstick-red MB-Tex, offer an invitation to stay. Seating position is very relaxed, even for big-boned Huns. Seats look to be beautifully preserved, still firm, with no rips, tears, or open seams to report.
The carpeted area behind the seats can hold plenty of luggage or provide a nice space for man's best friend.
Ready for a test drive?
So are we, but before we take off, let's have a look in the trunk.
Carpeted trunk contains the matching spare, Mercedes tool roll with factory tools, an original, ivory-colored steering wheel with horn ring and horn button, and even a second horn ring. Trunk floor is rust free.
Tuesday, April 15, was just another gorgeous spring day in paradise, with blue skies, not a cloud in sight, and just mild enough to enjoy topless motoring to its fullest. We headed to Hobson Heights, one of our favorite San Buenaventura neighborhoods.
Turn the key, push the starter button on the dash, and the engine comes to life instantly, falling into a mellow rumble, ticking along happily at 550rpm. Shift into first, lift the clutch pedal, and off you go. Steering is light yet very responsive, brakes anchor the car with authority. Around town, one can motor along perfectly using just second and third gear, due to all the extra torque.
With 155 horses on tap, the 5-speed transmission, power steering and power brakes, this 190SL drives like a car of much younger vintage, rather like its successor, the 230SL, actually. Freeway cruising in fifth at reasonable rpms is a reality, with the beautifully crafted exhaust system channeling the typical, era-specific Mercedes sound.
If you're more into driving a classic car than looking at it under neon lights, this particular 190SL may just fit the bill perfectly.
We sold this Mercedes 190SL Hot Rod in May of 2014.