Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mercedes-Benz 190SL: Somewhat Controversial in Its Day

Mercedes-Benz reaped prestige with its 300SL sports cars featuring gull-wing doors.  But they were expensive, so it was decided to introduce a smaller, less-potent and cheaper companion sports car, the 190SL, built 1955-63.

The 190SL sold fairly well, but its 104 horsepower motor and 2,552 pound (1,158 kg) weight resulted in 24.5 pounds per horsepower, more than double the 11.2 PPH for the 300SL.  So the 190SL gained a reputation as a boulevard sports car even though some were raced.

As for styling, let's take a look at some Barrett-Jackson Auctions photos of 1959 190SLs.


Well, not yet.  First we need to see a 190SL prototype first revealed at the 1954 New York auto show.  In the photo above, it's between the 300SL in the foreground and the dark sedan.  Note the "eyebrows" over both wheel openings on the 300SL and that the 190SL has one only above the front wheel opening.

Some publicity material featuring a car like the one shown in New York.

Production 190SLs differed from the prototype.  The hood air scoop has been replaced by a bulge.  Guards have been added to the bumpers.  There is a chromed stone guard at the lower-front of the rear fender.  Another addition is an "eyebrow" over the real wheel opening such as was found on 300SLs.

Two views of the same auction car.  The 190SL's basic style conforms to 1950s sports car practice: long hood, flowing front fenders, distinct rear fenders.  The Mercedes differs from contemporary sports cars such as the Jaguar XK140 and Austin-Healey 100 in that it has a wider, flatter appearance.  The "eyebrow" feature probably has little functional justification, but serves to remind viewers of the far more potent 300SL.  If memory serves, 190SLs never seemed much like real sports cars; they were often seen being driven by well cared-for blondes on the way to tennis or fancy stores.

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