• Matching numbers engine; accompanied by factory Data Card
• Highly desirable early example with factory 300 SL seats
• Finished in correct Silver Gray over black leather upholstery
• Offered with rare optional hardtop; beautifully presented U.S. delivery example
• Includes books and spare assembly
1,897 cc SOHC inline four-cylinder engine, twin Solex sidedraft carburetors, 109 BHP, four-speed manual gearbox, fully independent suspension with front wishbones and coil springs, rear swing-axle with coil springs, and power-assisted four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes; wheelbase: 94.5”
Introduced at the 1954 New York International Motor Sport Show alongside the 300 SL “Gullwing,” the 190 SL was the brainchild of U.S. Mercedes-Benz importer Max Hoffman. Similar in appearance to the 300 SL, yet less complex and costly, the 190 SL’s “Sport Leichtbau” label denoted a sporting character and lightweight aluminum for the hood, doors, and rear decklid. Rigid unitized construction, roll-up windows, and an available aluminum hardtop were other virtues.
Fritz Nallinger led 190 SL engineering using proven mechanical components from the “Ponton” line. Powering the 190 SL was a SOHC 1.9-litre ‘four’ with twin Solex carburetors producing 105 horsepower. Other highlights included a four-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel, power-assisted “Alfin” drum brakes. Full-independent suspension included front wishbones and coil springs with swing axles and a rear compensator spring for predictable handling. Performance was quite good, with the touring-oriented 190 SL delivering 0-60 acceleration in about 13 seconds and top speeds near 110 mph. Walter Hacker and his team designed the 190 SL body under the direction of Mercedes-Benz design head Karl Wilfert. Among the designers was Paul Bracq, who was later Mercedes' head of design responsible for the 230/250/280 SL and 600 models. Mr. Bracq's many design credits also included work for BMW, Citroën, Peugeot, and France’s TGV high-speed trains.
Internally designated ‘W121’, the production-ready 190SL debuted at the 1955 Geneva Auto Show and customer deliveries soon followed. A hit from introduction, the 190 SL earned design awards in Holland, Switzerland, and at France’s Grand Prix d'Elegance. While intended as a stylish grand tourer without racing pretensions, the 190 SL was effective in competition with limited factory support and expertise readily supplied to preferred dealers and private clients. According to marque authorities, an estimated 17 racing versions of the 190 SL were (theoretically) built and none are known to survive. Notable 190 SL racing successes were scored in 1956, including Doug Stearne’s victory at the rainy Macao Grand Prix, where he led the second-place Ferrari Mondial by 2 1/2 laps at the finish. At Casablanca that year, Mercedes-Benz distributor Joseph F. Weckerlé took the under 2.0-litre class win with his 190 SL, proving the surprising potential of the little Mercedes.
Confirming Max Hoffman’s keen sense of American buyers and their specific requirements, the 190 SL outsold the 300 SL – coupe and roadster combined – by a factor of eight to one. In all, Mercedes-Benz produced 25,881 190 SLs from 1955 to 1963. In testament to its excellent design, the success of the 190 SL encouraged Mercedes’ subsequent single-platform policy for its sports cars, one that continues today. Virtually all the era’s top personalities favored the 190 SL; among them were screen icons Grace Kelly, Gina Lollobrigida, Ingrid Bergman, and Yul Brynner. The rakish Continental flair of the 190 SL has virtually assured its high-profile movie, TV, and music-video use ever since it was new, with dozens of screen credits ranging from the 1956 film High Society with Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra, The Doors’ 1971 L.A. Woman concept video, 1970s TV hits Starsky and Hutch and the Rockford Files, plus many more international appearances. Recent celebrity owners of the 190 SL include legendary former Beatle Ringo Starr and Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow.
Completed on February 8, 1956, this early production 1956 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL was imported new to the United States via New York Harbor. According to the factory Data Card, it was factory-finished in Silver Gray paint over black leather, the striking combination it continues to feature today. Original options and amenities include sealed beam headlamps, instruments in English, a Blaupunkt radio, and unusual factory-fitted 300 SL seats. As offered, the 190 SL exhibits an older, high quality repaint that remains quite nice and the interior shows very well with the seating surfaces recently reupholstered. The engine compartment is tidy in presentation and the matching numbers SOHC engine retains the original Solex carburetors, unlike many other examples found today equipped with non-standard Mikuni units. In addition to the Mercedes-Benz Data Card, this wonderful 1956 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL is accompanied at auction by it’s black factory hardtop and owner’s manual. Highly sought-after by marque enthusiasts, this handsome early production roadster is an excellent example for luxurious drives, featuring unbeatable Mercedes-Benz panache and all-weather versatility.
1956 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster