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MERCEDES-BENZ 190 SL 1955 - 1963

1961_Mercedes_190_SL_r3qThis car shows the new style hardtop which was introduced in 1959. It's not only far better looking, the panoramic rear window enhanced visibility considerably and allowed much more light into the interior. You can use this link for a more detailed comparison between the two hardtop styles.

A remarkable achievement by a 190 SL fitted with a diesel (!) engine was setting the 24-hour record on the Hockenheim circuit with an average of 124 kph. In 1961 a similar record was set by a 190 SL on the Italian Monza track.
For people who wanted to get the maximum speed out of their 190 SL special compressor sets were available from the American Judson company. An increase in power output of 50% was claimed, which must have made these cars into tyre-burning hot rods.

1962_Mercedes_190_SL_f3q.JPG (72597 bytes)Black seems like an odd color for something as frivolous as a sporty convertible, but it really suits the 190 SL. It makes this car look sleek, luxurious and exotic. Unfortunately the car on the picture seems to have been restored in a haphazard fashion, with all sorts of odd extras like the gradually tinted windscreen window.
The sales of the 190 SL started to drop from 1962 on, but still small improvements were made. Most significant improvement was the new PVC coating inside the front wheel arches which was introduced in May 1962, the first real measure Mercedes took in rust prevention. Some other changes were a new Bosch VJR 4 BR 29T distributor in April 1962 and modified Mahle pistons in May 1962.

1962_Mercedes_190_SL_interior.JPG (71236 bytes)This interior features some uncharacteristic wood trimmings; this was done by stripping the upholstery and polishing and refinishing the wood underneath. The standard clock is missing from the lid of the glove compartment and the seats are in a sorry state. Very unfortunate for such a good looking car.
So what can you expect from a 190 SL you may wonder. It's not a thoroughbred like its 300 SL brother. It is however a well-built and elegant cruiser that offers the pleasures of open top driving in an old fashioned way. The steering is heavy (power steering wasn't available), it needs a lot of gear changing to get optimal performance and in extreme situations its normal understeer behavior changes into controllable oversteer. The mechanics are not extremely complicated, although its double Solex PHH carburetor is very hard to tune, even for specialists. Replacing it with an easier to handle, contemporary double Weber carburetor takes care of that problem, but slightly spoils the originality of the car. The synchronized four speed gearbox works well and its ratios really fit the engine. The single overhead camshaft engine is capable of pretty high revs (up to 6000 rpm, top speed is reached at about 5700 rpm). This car won't excite you with high top speeds and a blistering acceleration, but for those who like nostalgic touring at a modern pace it's a worthwhile option.

1962_Mercedes_190_SL_r3q.JPG (56247 bytes)The 190 SL had a very feminine image in its time, which was particularly stressed by Grace Kelly driving a 190 SL in the successful fifties movie "High Society". It's streamlined bodywork was very fashionable in those days.
After production ended in 1963 the popularity of this car sank rapidly. The new and totally different 230 SL replaced the 190 SL as the roadster in the Mercedes range. For years the 190 SL only had second hand car value or worse. It wasn't until the 1990s and after a lot of these cars were scrapped that interest picked up. Some 25,881 of these cars were produced, so it still isn't rare or exotic.
Nowadays it's going through a revival and values are rising rapidly, particularly in Europe. There are quite a lot of these cars available, mainly restored ones that were originally exported to the USA. It's estimated that about 25% of the 190 SLs available are in excellent original condition, and those can fetch prices of more than four times the original list price (let's say about the same as a well equipped new C-class Mercedes). But most of the 190 SLs are in mediocre and often unoriginal condition, which about cuts the maximum market value in half (or worse).

If you want a concourse condition 190 SL that keeps its value I would advise you to spend the extra money and buy an expert restored car in original model year state (check for the correct details and even more important: for absence of rust!). But if just want this car for its looks and for driving around on sunny days, buying a not so exactly restored car in a good condition at a bargain price is an interesting option. Only very few people will notice the difference...
Please keep in mind that hardtops have become rare and that complete coupé/convertible (including the button-on convertible top cover) models in excellent original condition will fetch the best prices. Parts for the 190 SL are not hard to find, but can be expensive. An exception are the front- and rear fenders, which are hard to find due to the rust problems.

I want to extend my deepest regards to Ron Rapp and all the others who have supplied me with additional information for this tour.

Finish the tour by clicking the arrows pointing right....

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