60 Years since the inception of Mercedes’ iconic 190 SL

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Mercedes-Benz 190 SL celebrates its 60th Birthday. Internally known under the code W121, the iconic luxury roadster was first shown in prototype form at the 1954 New York Auto Show and has been subsequently produced between May 1955 and February 1963.

The 60 years old Mercedes-Benz 190 SL shared both its styling and engineering characteristics with the more expensive 300SL. Billed as a more affordable alternative, the 190 SL still used the same fully independent suspension (double wishbones at the front and swing axles at the rear) as its sibling. What it did not inherit from the 300 SL was its purpose-built tubular spaceframe. The 190 SL was built on a shortened monocoque R121 platform modified from the W121 small saloon, instead.


Power came from a new 105 HP (77 kW) Type M121 BII 1.9-litre four-cylinder SOHC engine, derived from the 300 SL’s straight six. It featured unchanged 85 mm bore and 4.3 mm reduced 83.6 mm stroke and was fitted with twin-choke dual Solex carburetors. The engine also served its time under the bonnets of the W120 180 and W121 190 models, although in a detuned form.

Mercedes’ 190 SL was priced at DM 16,500/US$ 3,998 in soft-top guise and DM 17,650/$ 4,295 with a removable hardtop. A small a third-passenger transverse seat was optional. Additionally, the 190 SL was offered as a sports-racing model with windowless aluminium doors, a smaller windscreen, and removable bumpers and soft top. Notable successes for the racecar included the class victory achieved by Douglas Steane at the 1956 Macau Grand Prix.


A total of 25,881 vehicles were produced between 1955 and 1963 with almost 40 per cent of all 190 SL models were sold in the USA. Eight years after its commercial debut, the Mercedes-Benz 190SL as well as the 300SL were replaced by the famed Mercedes-Benz 230SL ‘Pagoda’ in 1963.