The only 4 cylinder SL built (modern SLK's excluded),
this was a far simpler (and far less expensive) alternative
to the 300SL. The companies promotional literature used at the New
York motor show best describes the vehicle...
new Mercedes Benz 190SL production sports car offers
three hits - Racing Performance, Luxurious Comfort
and Operational Robustness - and no errors, meaning,
no sacrifice of the factory's prime principle: safety.
And now the car of your dreams has become a reality, it
is here and waiting for you. Designed and built for long-distance
driving as well as for short daily rides, this ultra-smart
roadster offers in spite of its sporty character unusually
high riding comfort, dependability, and economy....but
the 190SL also wins by fitting it with a sleek looking
It is turned then into a distinguished Club Coupe,
offering all the comforts of a luxurious sedan...Indeed,
three hits and no errors, a Roadster, a Convertible,
and a Coupe with no flaws whatsoever."
The vehicle helped ensure the
longevity of the "SL" marque by providing a lower cost
alternative to the expensive 300SL. A 1958 price comparison can easily demonstrate this,
with the 300SL Roadster
costing US$10,928, the 190SL
$5232, the Austin-Healey 100-Six
$3389, Jaguar XK150S
$5120 and Chevrolet Corvette $3621. As one commentator
at the time described it;
"The 190SL is just not quite quick enough
or rebellious enough....but it drifted toward a different
image. It was seen as respectable, dripping with quality
and even nippy enough for the boulevard cruiser".
The 190 SL enjoyed a very successful production run. It
appealed, not only to enthusiastic drivers but had become
an icon in the world of fashion and films. As ever Mercedes-Benz
refined the model so that it continually evolved during
Initially only available in silver, the car soon progressed
to the colors of the time, but generally the differences
were subtle. Most of the changes were under the skin resulting
in a much better car in 1963 than had been launched nine
years earlier, such was the rate of development during
The overhead-cam four cylinder engine had a displacement of 1897cc, and was fitted with two Solex horizontal carburetors, making the engine good for 105 horsepower at 5700rpm. Obviously the 190SL was not designed for spirited driving, but it was certainly no slouch, and fitted the role of stylish boulevard cruiser for the well heeled perfectly.
In September 1959 a new style hard top was designed, which provided a larger window area for improved vision. But many lamented the fact that the 190SL was not really a true "Sports Light", being too heavy and underpowered to compete with contemporary sports cars of the day, particularly of the British variety. There was one highlight on the competion calendar, when W. Sulke took out the 1958 Hong Kong rally.